Women, work and inequality: questioning the notion of work-life balance
This paper adopts a discourse analytic position with regard to talk about tacking inequality at work through work-life balance policies. This is examined from the point of view of looking at how this is essentialized for women as an identity ‘problem’ to be overcome in terms of working towards & achieving an optimum balance. This is framed in terms of pursuing a demanding career versus a personal life centered on the home & family. This kind of dichotomy allows for different aspects of the self to be pit against each other: the professional career-orientated aspect and the personal relationship aspect. This is presented as a psychological tension that is played out in terms of the search for a balance between the two. This equilibrium is presented as an optimum state in which the juxtaposition of work & domestic life is presented as requiring a solution. This dichotomy is examined as constructed in such a manner that maintains the status quo for women given the huge social & cultural imperative placed on women to have children & take time out of employment to look after them. This is discussed in terms of the ideological effects that ensue in which women who wish to pursue a career are considered as going against their supposedly natural caring inclination. The paper concludes by challenging the whole notion of work-life balance as a counter-productive discourse, which may well reinforce the very inequalities for women that it seeks to redress.