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Examining the Conflict between Work & Family – TGS Dean’s Lecture presentation

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The second of The Graduate School‘s 2011 Dean’s Lecture Series presentations is by Sociology professor, Dr Krista Lynn Minnotte. Dr Minnotte will speak on Wednesday at noon in the East Asia Room of the Chester Fritz Library – all are welcome!

We asked Dr Minnotte to share some thoughts prior to her talk:

Your Dean’s Lecture Series presentation will focus on the work-family relationship and the stresses that relationship bears. Could you describe your research in this area?

My research in this area broadly focuses on examining predictors of work-family conflicts, outcomes of such conflicts, solutions to work-family conflicts, and access to such solutions.  I use data from both large national datasets and smaller, localized datasets.  National datasets are useful because they are representative of the US as a whole, whereas localized datasets allow me to look at dyadic relationships in a much more nuanced manner. 

What impact does this imbalance have on the family unit?

Work-family conflict has numerous impacts on the people who encounter it—including decreased self-reported physical and mental health, along with decreased life, job, family, and marital satisfaction. These are just a few of the negative outcomes that have been connected to work-family conflict. 

Have you noticed more conflict among some workers than others?

Scholars often used to assume that those in upper-middle class jobs experienced the most conflict, and there is some evidence to support this idea.  At the same time, though, these individuals are more likely to have access to resources that allow for a smoother navigation of work and family.  I think that all workers experience work-family conflict, and we need more research exploring how people from different social class backgrounds might experience different types of conflicts and how the impacts of these conflicts may differ based on the resources a worker has access to. 

Are there some workforces that are leading the charge to bring that balance?

Large corporations are often more likely to offer a myriad of family-friendly benefits as a way of recruiting individuals for upper-middle class jobs.  There is some evidence to suggest that workers often don’t feel comfortable using such policies for fear of how others will evaluate them.  In other words, just because policies exist on the books doesn’t mean workers are necessarily using them.  Companies need to work at changing the workplace culture to make it one that values balance between work and non-work domains.

Recently the NSF and the White House announced policy changes that would hopefully make it easier for women scientists to start a family. Could you comment on those proposed changes?

The examination of the under-representation of women in what is referred to as the STEM fields in academia (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is also part of my research program.  I know NSF has put substantial resources into trying to address the fact that the number of women obtaining doctorate degrees in these fields is not commensurate with their representation in tenure-track academic positions.  I was part of a research project in which we interviewed STEM faculty members (at another university) about their sources of job dissatisfaction.  Work-family conflicts were a major theme in the women’s interviews, whereas not one male faculty member mentioned this as a factor interfering with their job satisfaction.  The proposed policy changes sound like a step in the right direction. 

Dr Krista Lynn Minnotte will present her research on Wednesday at noon.

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Written by School of Graduate Studies

October 24, 2011 at 8:02 am

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