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Family, not financial, needs drive women’s work decisions

Thursday, October 13, 2011  
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Public consideration about women and work is wrongly centered on financial need, rather than family need, new research by a Pennsylvania State University educator reveals.

As women respond to pressure to be selfless mothers -- whether they say they work to earn money "to support their children" or they report staying home "to take care of their family" -- most are citing family need, not financial pressure, as driving their employment decisions, according to "For the Family? How Class and Gender Shape Women’s Work,” by Sarah Damaske, assistant professor of labor studies and employment relations at Penn State.

Indeed, financial resources make it easier for women to remain at work, not easier to leave it, she noted.

Equality at home and in the workplace requires a new political commitment to reduce work/family conflict, create a changed work environment, develop family-friendly policies, raise the minimum wage, provide a national daycare system and ensure equal opportunities across race, class and gender, she concluded.

"New work/family policies that include healthcare, childcare and time-off allowances would bolster women's employment, benefiting both women and their families and the long-term prospects of our national economy,” Damaske said.

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