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News Release

May 31, 2006

Working Women More Influenced by Family Pressures, Says Prof

Even though Statistics Canada reports that more women of working age have jobs than ever before, there is still a gender gap when it comes to work and family matters, say University of Guelph researchers. Psychology professor Karen Korabik and researcher Allyson McElwain have found that when men and women have the same family responsibilities, are pursuing identical careers and work the same number of hours, family demands tend to interfere more with women’s careers than with men’s.

“Because men often see themselves as the primary breadwinner, they will put up huge boundaries around their work so their family life doesn’t interfere with their work responsibilities,” said Korabik, of U of G’s Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being. “Women who make as much money as men still tend to be the ones to leave work if their child is sick or to get phone calls from their kids while at the office.”

Korabik and McElwain, who published their findings in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, surveyed 1,600 people for their study and matched 160 women to 160 men with similar work and family responsibilities.

Family demands were measured by the participants’ number of children and the ages of their children. “Literature has shown that people who have more children, particularly more preschool children, have higher family demands,” said Korabik.

The men included in the study had similar family demands as the women, but that doesn’t mean that they let their families interfere with work, said Korabik. “We found that women reported higher family interference with work than men despite having equal children. This could be a result of the women taking on more family responsibilities.”

Because people are expected to be at their jobs a set number of hours and get a certain amount of work done, people arrange their family life around work in most instances, said Korabik. “People will put up boundaries around their work, but family boundaries have become more permeable. This results in parents missing their child’s soccer games or bringing work home so that when they are home, they aren’t spending time with their families.” Women with families who are committed to their careers aren’t necessarily asking to work fewer hours, said Korabik. “But they’d often like to have more flexibility in choosing their hours and have the ability to work from different locations at times.”

Surprisingly, the women and men surveyed from across Canada holding full-time positions in financial, telecommunications, accounting and engineering professions felt equal satisfaction with their families and careers. “Despite women reporting more work interference with family, their levels of satisfaction with their family, job and life were similar,” said Korabik.

By understanding how family pressures may differ for men and women, companies can design organizational programs and initiatives to better meet their employees’ needs, said Korabik. “It’s obvious that the redistribution of household roles between men and women hasn’t occurred, so maybe organizations need to have policies in place that cater to women who have heavier demands from their families.”

Karen Korabik
Department of Psychology
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 53188 /

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