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26. Runte, M., and Mills, A. J. (2004) Paying the Toll: A Feminist Post-structural Critique of the Discourse Bridging Work and Family , Culture and Organization, 10(3): 237-249

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26. Runte, M., and Mills, A. J. (2004) "Paying the Toll: A Feminist Post-structural Critique of the Discourse Bridging Work and Family", Culture and Organization, 10(3): 237-249
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   Culture and Organization  , September 2004, Vol. 10(3), pp. 237–249  ISSN 1475-9551 print; ISSN 1477-2760 online © 2004 Taylor & Francis LtdDOI: 10.1080/14759550412331297165  Paying the Toll: A Feminist Post-structural Critique of the Discourse Bridging Workand Family  MARY RUNTÉ  a,  *  ,†  and ALBERT J. MILLS  b,‡   a  Faculty of Management, University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge AB, Canada T1K 3M4; b  Frank H. Sobey Faculty of Commerce, Saint Mary’s University, 903 Robie Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 3C3   TaylorandFrancisLtdGSCO041021.sgm10.1080/14759550412331297165CultureandOrganization0000-0000(print)/0000-0000(online)OriginalArticle2004Taylor&FrancisLtd103000000September2004MaryRuntéFacultyofManagementUniversityofLethbridge4401UniversityDriveLethbridgeCanadaT1K3M4mary.runte@uleth.ca   On the surface, the modern workplace and home life appear to stand in sharp contrast to one another. Theworkplace seems to epitomize the modern concern with bounded time and the necessity of effective ‘usetime’ (e.g., efficiency, effort, organizational commitment, speed-up). Home life, on the other hand, is charac-terized by idealized images of emotionality and relief from the pressures of work. Yet numerous reportedexperiences of working people seem to belie this supposed duality. For many, home life is experienced as anappendage of the workplace, with its demands on time-effort balance. Nonetheless, we continue to act as if there are two separate spheres of life that can ultimately be balanced and reconciled. This has been reinforcedover the years by a growing discourse of work-family conflict. Deconstruction of the discourse suggests thatfar from unraveling the ‘problem’ its characterization as a ‘work-family’ conflict serves to privilege the domi-nant themes of use-time and speed.   Key words:   Work-family Conflict; Work-family Balance; Work-life; Feminist Post-structuralist; Discourse  INTRODUCTION  Over the last two decades, researchers have drawn attention to the intersection of work andfamily (e.g., Gotlieb, Kelloway, and Barnham, 1998; Gutek, Searle, and Klepa, 1991;Hepburn and Barling, 1996; Kanter, 1977), arguing that there is a reciprocal relationshipbetween the two spheres of social life that often result in conflict and tension (Frone, Russell,and Cooper, 1992; Gutek, Searle, and Klepa, 1991). The tensions have come to be character-ized as work-family conflict   in a body of research focused on identifying and resolving thecauses of the conflict. Drawing on the work of Weedon (1993), we argue that discussionaround the idea of a work-family conflict serves as a powerful discourse in which work isprivileged over home-life. In this paper, we explore the ‘intricate network of discourses, thesites where they are articulated and the institutionally legitimized forms of knowledge towhich they look for their justification’ (Weedon, 1993: 126).On the surface the modern workplace and home-life appear to stand in sharp contrast toone another. The workplace seems to epitomize the modern concern with bounded time andthe necessity of effective ‘use time’ (e.g., efficiency, effort, organizational commitment,  *Corresponding author†E-mail: mary.runte@uleth.ca‡E-mail: albert.mills@smu.ca  GSCO041021.fm Page 237 Tuesday, September 7, 2004 10:13 PM   238M. RUNTÉ AND A. J. MILLS  speed-up). Home-life, on the other hand, is characterized by idealized images of the affectivedomain and relief from the pressures of work. Yet the reported experiences of workingpeople seem to belie this supposed duality. For many, home life is experienced as an append-age of the workplace, highly constrained by the workplace’s demands for time-effort balance.This lived reality is seldom reflected, however, in a discourse that continues to conceptualizetwo distinctly separate spheres of life.The antecedents of work-family conflict as a form of inter-role conflict are well docu-mented in the mainstream human resource management literature and assume a fundamen-tal incompatibility between the role expectations of each domain. Paradoxically, althoughthe dominant discourse (as revealed in the mainstream management literature) assumes theinevitability of conflict between these supposedly separate spheres, the focus tends to be onseeking means to reconcile and balance the individual’s commitment to each domain.Overlooked in the literature, however, is the role of discourse as both an antecedent to, andheuristic for making sense of, these outcomes. Deconstruction of the discourse suggeststhat far from unraveling the ‘problem’, its characterization as a ‘work-family’ conflict hasserved to privilege the work domain and its dominant themes of use-time, speed, and prior-itization. This paper incorporates an analysis of the discourses that dominate theextant literature on the interaction and intersections of the domains of work and family(Bradshaw, 1996; Calás and Smircich, 1996; Foucault, 1972; Weedon, 1993). We call intoquestion the knowledge claims of these texts and reveal how the dominant discourse of work-family conflict presents as inherently neutral, processes that actually serve to privi-lege the existing power relationships. It will be argued, for example, that the discourse onwork-family conflict has arisen, not only in response to significant speedups within thework domain and the re-emergence of a long-hours work culture, but as a result of thecorresponding speedups within the family domain dictated by the home’s relationship to,and dependence on, the expectations of the work domain. The historical context and tenetsof the mainstream discourse of work-family conflict will be examined. Operating withinstructures that accept the discourse as ‘truths’, women and men must negotiate the ‘hege-monic assumptions and the social practices which they guarantee’ (Weedon, 1993: 126). Inbridging between the domains of work and family, tolls are exacted based on historicallydefined gender roles and the prescribed and unquestioned (but questionable) nature of thedominant discourse.  THE DISPARATE DOMAINS  Prior to the Industrial Revolution the primary form of economic activity involved extendedfamilies working the land on which they also lived: the concepts of ‘work’ and ‘home’ wereintertwined and had very different meanings from how they are currently understood(Anderson and Zinsser, 1988). The centering of economic activity, in the Western world,within ‘manufactories’ and away from dwelling places was the basis of a schism between‘work’ and ‘home’. This emerging discourse of the public/private spheres developed in partout of the demise of the barter system and the rise of wage labour. The term ‘work’ took onnew meaning as paid activity undertaken at a ‘work place’. The notions of ‘domesticity’,‘home’, and ‘family’ were contained within the changing work spaces but were also devel-oped and evolved through the exclusion of women from a variety of workplaces throughdirect violence and legal action; legal prohibitions against child labour and the developmentof schools, which were organized in such a way that they placed competing demands onworking parents; and the emergence of a ‘domestic idyll’ whereby the ‘non-working wife’became a symbol of male economic status (c.f. Ryan, 1979; Strumingher, 1979; Weeks  GSCO041021.fm Page 238 Tuesday, September 7, 2004 10:13 PM   PAYING THE TOLL 239  1990). Increasingly over time, the workplace became associated with men and masculinity,in direct contrast to the ‘domestic sphere’ that was equated with women and femininity. Forall of the 19th and much of the 20th centuries, the male employee was expected to have aprimary commitment to paid employment, while the female was expected to have only atemporary association with the workplace prior to marriage and children or due to economicnecessity (Anderson and Zinsser, 1988).Thus, the maintenance of the domains was achieved by the exclusion of females from thework domain and by limiting the involvement of males in the family domain.  Discourses of Inclusion and Exclusion  The exclusion of women from large areas of the workforce was achieved in two distinctways. On the one hand, there was the existence of a number of direct barriers to femaleemployment, including employers who were unwilling to hire women, husbands unwilling to‘allow’ their wives to work, and legislation that prohibited female labour from certain catego-ries of work. On the other hand, there was the existence of a powerful and growing discourseof valuing women’s role as housewife and mother, alongside an equally powerful discoursewhich valued men’s role as the ‘breadwinner’. Each discourse came with a particular lexicon(e.g., ‘work’, ‘home’, ‘employee’, mother’) and set of reference points (e.g., work as a publicplace where men go; home as an idealized place that women tend and men return to) thatlinked them together. While prohibitions served to exclude women from the workplace,emphasis on the domestic idyll served to rationalize the process through a discourse of inclu-sion, whereby women were encouraged to literally feel at home being outside of the work-place (Weeks, 1990). This speaks to what Betty Friedan (1963) was to label ‘the femininemystique’.Feminist scholars have pointed out that ‘home life’ was far from the ideal represented byany so-called domestic idyll; poverty and harsh conditions often ensured that householdswere dark, depressing places where women were kept under various forms of patriarchaldomination (French, 1985; Lerner, 1986). Marxist feminist scholarship contends that farfrom being a separate sphere, domestic life was but an adjunct to work life, with womenperforming domestic labour, both in terms of housework and the reproduction of the labourforce (c.f. Kuhn and Wolpe, 1978). Despite these real problems, it is nonetheless clear thatthe discourse of domesticity engaged meaning for large numbers of women as a form of ‘valuing’ an area of social life in which women were central, that is, as a separate sphere(Weeks, 1990).Although it is clear that increasing numbers of women objected to various aspects of domestic life, the domestic idyll remained relatively unchallenged throughout much of thefirst half of the twentieth century. First-wave feminists, for example, tended to focus onpolitical rights and legal rights within marriage, even, for the most part, suspendingcampaigning to support the war effort of their various governments during World War I(Pugh, 1992).Apart from the era of the Second World War and its immediate aftermath (Horowitz,1998), it was not until the 1960s, and the advent of second wave feminism that challenges tothe public/domestic divide in North America became widespread and meaningful to largenumbers of women (and some men) (Rowbotham, 1999). Coupled with changes in the struc-ture of the workforce, these challenges led to the establishment of workplace equity legisla-tion in many North American jurisdictions and the opening up of a range of jobs to women.In Europe, labour force participation by women also increased in the later half of the half of the twentieth century, although disparity of income and responsibility for familial responsi-bility remain (c.f. Olsen, 2001; Rubery, Smith, and Fagan; 1999).  GSCO041021.fm Page 239 Tuesday, September 7, 2004 10:13 PM   240M. RUNTÉ AND A. J. MILLS  BUILDING A TOLL BRIDGE BETWEEN WORK AND HOMEFrom Home to Work  Increasingly, the last half of the twentieth century has witnessed a broadening of thediscourse of work to include an increased role for women and mothers. Pre-1970, women’snegotiation of social structural constraints and opportunities steered them away from home-making towards paid employment, or led them to embrace homemaking and reject employ-ment (Gerson, 1985). Increasingly however, paralleling the movement of women intomanagement and other career positions, many women have attempted to engage concurrentlyin both mother-work and market-work. As increasing numbers of women joined the ‘work-force’ throughout the last century, public discourse was engaged both with the role of womenand with the nature of work (Weeks, 1990). This resulted in broader notions of womanhoodand work, but left the idea of separate work/domestic domains relatively untouched. Signifi-cantly, it was not until a substantial number of women had joined and became a permanentpart of the workforce that the notion of work-family conflict began to appear in the researchliterature.  From Work to Home  The discourse of family is concurrently broadening to include an increased role for fathers.The social expectations of fathers have shifted over the past three decades. The ‘new father’now is expected to be an equal parenting partner of the mother (Goldscheider and Waite,1991). Despite changing expectations, research shows that in North America, although thelevel of paternal involvement has increased, this increase has primarily occurred on week-ends; fathers continue to devote significantly less time than mothers to the rearing of theirchildren regardless of mothers’ engagement to market employment (Acock and Demo, 1994;Yeung et al.  , 2001). The emergence of the ‘new father’ role only on weekends, the presenta-tion of maternal responsibility (blame) for child development, and the disproportionate timespent by fathers with children suggests that the discourse of family has not shifted to includethe father as ‘an equal partner’ (Goldscheider and Waite, 1991). It is women who navigatebetween parental and employee roles. It is therefore women who pay the ‘toll’ for crossingthe boundary between work and family.  SPEEDING ACROSS THE TOLL BRIDGE  The dominant discourse, as represented in mainstream management research, has marshaledconsiderable empirical evidence in support of the position that the interaction of the domainsof work and family generates conflict. This research is premised, however, on role expecta-tions as defined within the dominant discourses, and is therefore ultimately reinforcing of thestatus quo. Inherent in this discourse is the assumption that such conflict is the inevitableresult of competition for the limited resource of the employee’s time and commitment. Timeexpended on role performance in one domain, it is argued, necessarily depletes time availablefor the demands of the other domain, hence the number of hours worked each week has asignificant effect on reports of work-family conflict, particularly for mothers (c.f. Voydanoff,1988). Time commitment by fathers to the family domain, as previously discussed, has notsignificantly escalated; the expectation of the family discourse is that women will continue tobe responsible for other domestic responsibilities regardless of hours of market work(Armstrong and Armstrong, 1990; Hochschild, 1997).  GSCO041021.fm Page 240 Tuesday, September 7, 2004 10:13 PM   PAYING THE TOLL241  The relationship between hours worked and perception of work-family conflict alsoreflects women’s subject position within the dominant discourse of family and the stressinherent in violating the role of the ‘good mother’. To maintain the myth of the ‘goodmother’, the female must satisfy either her work commitment or her family commitment infewer hours, or sacrifice sleep. These ‘speed-up’ options will be considered and the tolls paidby women to maintain this illusory balance discussed.  Speeding to Work  The dominant discourse defining the scope of work is still rooted in the notion that onlyfinancially remunerated activities constitute ‘work’. Parent-work is not embraced by thisdiscourse. Hence, breaks in paid market-employment for the fulfillment of parental respon-sibilities are considered ‘gaps’ in one’s employment history, for which a wage penalty maybe exacted because of an alleged deterioration in one’s human capital (c.f. Miree andFrieze, 1999). Although the discourse presents as inherently gender neutral, as it is prima-rily women who maintain responsibility for familial ‘work’ when engaged in market‘work’, the designation ‘employee’ is a proxy for ‘female employee’, or more particularly,‘working mother’.The discourse of work accepts as a given the incompatibility of the work and familyspheres. Also unquestioned is the assumption that, as employees maneuver between thedomains of work and family, the organization’s needs are superordinate to the needs of thefamily. The relationship between employment practices and the deleterious organizationaloutcomes of work-family conflict is increasing becoming the focus of employer’s personnelpractices (Osterman, 1995). A broad range of benefits embracing leave provisions, flexiblework scheduling, and child care support have been proposed as strategies to facilitate themovement of employees between the domains of work and family (e.g., Waldfogel, 1998).Osterman (1995) cautions that the increase in the provision of these benefits serve as ‘onesided and uneven commitment that is in the narrow interest of employers’. Such programs areestablished to maximize organizational productivity. The measure of successful mobilitybetween the domains is that these endeavors to support familial responsibilities promote, orat least do not compromise, the work organization’s goals. Criteria for program success aspresented in mainstream literature include: reduced absenteeism, decreased turnover, andincreased productivity (Miller, 1984; Dex and Scheibl, 2001). The implications of theseprograms for familial outcomes is not perceived as relevant to the discourse and so remainsunexamined.Perlow (1998) suggests that it is the behavioural structuring of the workplace, thediscourse of what constitutes work, that is creating heightened work-family conflict. Work-family programs have limited benefit because employees are reluctant to access them. Thebarriers to successful adoption of such programs are centered on the assumption that thereis a direct relationship between presence at the workplace and contribution to the organiza-tion’s goals. Work is to be visible to supervisors and must always be an employee’s toppriority. Deviation from these norms will result in retarded career growth and remunera-tion. Employees working flexible shifts, for example, may be perceived by supervisors andpeers as failing to meet the behavioural expectations of the workplace because commit-ment continues to be measured by physical presence. With this type of workplace organi-zation, Perlow (1998) suggests that it is impossible for these types of work/familyprograms to be effective or for organizations to maximize the benefit from maintainingthese workers. Perlow’s solution is to restructure the way work is carried out, and thebehavioural expectations inherent in the completion of work tasks and the associatedrewards.AQ1  GSCO041021.fm Page 241 Tuesday, September 7, 2004 10:13 PM
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