Entitled to a sustainable career? Motherhood in science, engineering and technology

Herman, Clem and Lewis, Suzan (2012). Entitled to a sustainable career? Motherhood in science, engineering and technology. Journal of Social Issues, 68(4) pp. 767–789.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2012.01775.x


Sustaining careers and motherhood is particularly challenging in highly masculinised science, engineering and technology (SET) sectors. We explore this issue using a social comparison theory perspective, drawing on interviews with professional engineers and scientists from four companies, located in Italy, France and the Netherlands. We examine how decisions to reduce working hours are influenced by perceived ideological, normative and policy contexts. Despite contextual differences in opportunities and perceived entitlements and supports for family-friendly working hours, we found that sense of entitlement to do so without forfeiting career progression is limited across all the contexts. This attests to the enduring power of gendered organizational assumptions about ideal SET careers. Nevertheless we present examples of three women who achieved senior roles despite working reduced hours and discuss combinations of conditions which may facilitate sustainable careers and caring roles.

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