Are work–life policies fair for a woman’s career? An Italian qualitative study of the backlash phenomenon - Rennes School of Business Access content directly
Journal Articles Gender in Management Year : 2022

Are work–life policies fair for a woman’s career? An Italian qualitative study of the backlash phenomenon

Abstract

Purpose Work–family balance practices available in several work organizations to help employees with children to manage the demands of work and family life can have a negative impact on employees with family commitments, on childless employees and on the organization itself, as Perrigino et al. show in their theoretical review. This is the work–family backlash phenomenon expressed by the four mechanisms of stigma, spillover, inequity and strategic. Even if the stigma mechanism towards working women with children was widely explored, no study until now considered the four backlash mechanisms jointly, in the Italian context. The purpose of this paper is offering a first empirical exploration of these mechanisms in Italian work organizations. Design/methodology/approach For this study, 15 Italian career women with different care burdens were interviewed, and the four mechanisms were analysed from the perspective of women with and without children, and of organizations. Findings Analysis has shown that the backlash phenomenon can trigger a vicious cycle of perceived inequity that leads to job dissatisfaction and low work motivation. Management responsiveness and fairness in dealing with employees’ needs are central to promoting well-being by effectively balancing career paths with personal needs, especially in a cultural context where most responsibility for family needs is still left to women and few public supports are available. Originality/value This study, in spite of some limitations, offers a first contribution to the analysis of the different facets of the work–family backlash in the Italian context and suggests several possible research and practical developments.

Domains

Gender studies
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Dates and versions

hal-04049004 , version 1 (28-03-2023)

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Lara Bertola, Lara Colombo, Angela Fedi, Mara Martini. Are work–life policies fair for a woman’s career? An Italian qualitative study of the backlash phenomenon. Gender in Management, 2022, 38 (1), pp.1-16. ⟨10.1108/GM-12-2021-0366⟩. ⟨hal-04049004⟩
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