Rivers and Barnett

(WOMENSENEWS)–In the very near future, women will outnumber men in the labor force, meaning that more women are juggling work and family.

As of November 2008, women held 49 percent of the country’s jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics–and that number is expected to rise.

At the same time, thanks to a raging recession, women are more worried than ever that their husbands’ or partners’ jobs might be at risk.

Could this mean women that will be more reticent to negotiate who does the housework and the child care?

Men have long worried that being too involved with their families will cost them at work. The ambitious male bosses are supposed to love the guy who’s the last one out the office door at night and who volunteers to work on weekends.

An overburdened working woman might bite her lip instead of speaking out, because if her partner takes on more at home, maybe he will be more vulnerable at work. This fear could put women behind the 8-ball, feeling increased stress and fearful of negotiating for a better deal at home.

So now is the time to examine the findings of a 2008 study called "Can a Manager Have a Life and a Career?"

No Penalty at Work

Professors Karen S. Lyness of Baruch College, City University of New York, and Michael K. Judiesch of Manhattan College studied 9,627 managers in 33 countries and found that those who were "high on work-life balance"–in other words, very involved with their families–did not suffer in their jobs. In fact, they scored higher in career advancement potential than peers who were primarily work-oriented. The full findings were reported in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

That study was echoed by another last year that appeared in the Journal of Marriage and the Family. It found that men’s household labor was unrelated to their earnings. The man who pitched in big time at home was just as likely to do well financially as the couch potato.

A couple of key factors may be at work in these findings.

First, society has come to see balancing work and family successfully as a positive value.

Second, in an increasingly globalized economy that demands multitasking and the ability to work well under pressure, the "juggler" may be developing skills neglected by the nose-to-the-grindstone worker.

Whatever the reason, it’s a plus–not a minus–for male workers if they are seen as involved with home and family.

Both male and female managers can stop worrying that their devotion to their families will cost them a promotion. A woman can negotiate with her husband for a better deal at home without worrying that she will hurt his job prospects.

Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett and are authors of "Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children and Our Jobs" (Basic Books 2004). Barnett is senior scientist at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University and Rivers is a professor of journalism at Boston University.

For more information:

As Layoffs Surge, Women May Pass Men in Job Force

Girls on the Run

Abstract of "Can a Manager Have a Life and a Career?"

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Statistics

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