Research Spotlight: Professional Women's Identity Work Across Career and Family Transitions

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Research Spotlight: Professional Women's Identity Work Across Career and Family Transitions
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Research Spotlight Series

Professional Women's Identity Work Across Career and Family Transitions

An Interview with Christine Bataille

By Carrie Oelberger

Research Spotlight Series: A Project of the Committee to Connect Research, Policy and Practice

Over the past few decades, women have made major strides in the paid workforce. However, despite being ambitious, career-focused, and progressing at work, women continue to struggle with the competing demands of pursuing professional careers and raising families (Hewlett, 2002; Slaughter, 2012). Women's careers continue to diverge from those of men, with women much more likely to have periods of part-time work or being out of the workforce than their male counterparts. Some believe that professional women are opting-out of their high-powered careers in order to prioritize motherhood (Anderson, Vinnicombe, & Singh, 2010; Volpe & Murphy, 2011), or scaling back their career ambitions by reducing their work hours once they become mothers (Moen & Sweet, 2004). Although most women continue to pursue full-time careers even after they become mothers, the media continues to tell them that it is not possible to be both a successful professional and a good mother (e.g., Slaughter, 2012; Wallis, 2004)

Christine Bataille, an assistant professor at Ithaca College School of Business, applies an identity perspective to help shed light on how women make decisions about who they want to be as professionals and mothers. Specifically, she explores how professional/managerial women craft and enact their professional and motherhood identities by studying identity work (Sveningsson & Alvesson, 2003) in the stories they tell about the major turning points in their lives. Bataille focuses on three particularly significant life transitions: 1) student to young professional, 2) childless woman to mother, and 3) professional with no childcare responsibilities to one faced with how to navigate career and family demands simultaneously. 

Read Dr. Oelberger's full interview with Dr. Bataille here.