The Thing Driving Women From Many High-Paying Careers

Moms suffer more than anyone else from working overtime in jobs predominately filled with men, new research shows. The Indiana University (IU) study revealed that working mothers are more likely than other employees to leave jobs in male-dominated fields because of the long hours they are expected to work.

"Mothers were 52 percent more likely than other women to leave their jobs if they were working a 50-hour week or more, but only in occupations dominated by men," said Youngjoo Cha, the study's author and an assistant professor of sociology at IU Bloomington. "Many of these are lucrative fields, such as law, medicine, finance and engineering."

Cha believes the study's results show how overwork contributes to occupational segregation and stalled efforts to narrow the gender gap in white-collar workplaces. She noted that many of the mothers who leave these jobs exit the job market entirely because of the lack of suitable part-time positions in these fields.

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The study analyzed data collected from the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation. It included 382 occupations, 173 of which were considered male-dominated, where men made up at least 70 percent of the workforce.

Overall, the research shows that long working hours were more common in male-dominated fields than in balanced fields or female-dominated jobs.

Based on the study's results, Cha advocates labor policies that can reduce work-family conflicts and benefit women, men, families and firms. She recommended promoting workplace policies that minimize the expectation for overwork, such as setting the maximum allowable work hours, prohibiting compulsory overtime, expanding the coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime provisions and granting employees the right to work part-time hours without losing benefits.

The study, "Overwork and the Persistence of Gender Segregation in Occupations," was recently published in the journal Gender & Society.

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