Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Women part-timers in male professions: An empirical exploration of marginality in work and family
by Leo, Elaine Stahl, Ph.D., American University, 1987, 502; 8805461
Abstract (Summary)

Part-time professional women, a population neglected in occupational and dual-career family research, are the focus of this interview study which explores the empirical usefulness of "marginality" as a multi-level sensitizing concept for viewing their lives. Following Turner (1964), they are deemed objective marginals as incongruent status occupants. The term "multiple marginals," an expansion of the classic concept, describes the women's simultaneous occupancy of several traditionally incongruent pairs of status positions: woman in male occupation, part-timer in male profession, and part-timer in homemaking.

Since both career and family were highly salient to most of the women, they met an initial criterion for experiencing their objective marginality. They reported high marital and fairly high family life satisfaction. Their professional husbands worked full time but reportedly shared responsibility equitably for traditionally female as well as male household tasks. The women's job satisfaction level was comparable with national norms, but they were less satisfied with their work careers than with their jobs. Many experienced considerable job-family role strain despite their part-time work schedules. Many experienced particular role strain as part-timers in male professions, but all steadfastly maintained professional self-images despite perceiving little support for these from full-time colleagues.

Most perceived themselves to experience marginality as part-time professionals; fewer perceived themselves to be socially marginal as part-time homemakers, but vestiges of full-time homemaker role accomplishment ideals were still apparent in expectations many held up for themselves. Initial evidence based primarily on cross-tabulations of extent of perceived marginality with other study variables and secondarily on personality trait self-reports indicates that the marginality concept may have potential but that its conceptualization and measurement need refinement.

All of the women used individualized arrays of strategies to cope with role conflicts. Prevalence of use of different coping strategies varied in some respects from prevalencies found in Gray's (1983) study of women employed full time in male professions. Most of the women considered their choice of part-time employment the best compromise for maintaining careers while rearing children.

Indexing (document details)
School: American University
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 49/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Families & family life, Personal relationships, Sociology
Publication Number: 8805461
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