Gender Equality and Work-Life Balance: Glass Handcuffs and Working Men in the U.S., 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Gender Equality and Work-Life Balance

Glass Handcuffs and Working Men in the U.S., 1st Edition

By Sarah Blithe


224 pages

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Pressure to achieve work-life "balance" has recently become a significant part of the cultural fabric of working life in United States. A very few privileged employees tout their ability to find balance between their careers and the rest of their lives, but most employees face considerable organizational and economic constraints which hamper their ability to maintain a reasonable "balance" between paid work and other life aspects—and it is not only women who struggle. Increasingly men find it difficult to "do it all." Women have long noted the near impossibility of balancing multiple roles, but it is only recently that men have been encouraged to see themselves beyond their breadwinner selves.

Gender Equality and Work-Life Balance describes the work-life practices of men in the United States. The purpose is to increase gender equality at work for all employees. With a focus on leave policy inequalities, this book argues that men experience a phenomenon called "the glass handcuffs," which prevents them from leaving work to participate fully in their families, homes, and other life events, highlighting the cultural, institutional, organizational, and occupational conditions which make gender equality in work-life policy usage difficult. This social justice book ultimately draws conclusions about how to minimize inequalities at work.

Gender Equality and Work-Life Balance is unique as it laces together some theoretical concepts which have little previous association, including entrepreneurialism; leave policy, occupational identity, and the economic necessities of families. This book will therefore be of particular interest to researches and academics alike in the disciplines of Gender studies, Human Resource Management, Employment Relations, Sociology and Cultural Studies.


Winner of National Communication Association’s Organizational Communication Book of the Year Award, 2017.

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures Foreword PrefacePart I: Overview 1. Outlining the Glass Handcuffs Phenomenon Part II: Historical Context for the Glass Handcuffs Phenomenon 2. Organizational Inequality 3. Situating Leaves of Absence Policies Part III: Causes for the Glass Handcuffs 4. "But I was a Programmer Before I was a Dad": Occupational Uniqueness and Occupational Identity 5. "It is my responsibility to find the right balance": Entrepreneurialism as a constraint 6. It’s Kind of a Man Thing: Gendered expectations about work and home 7. "Who needs time off?" Resisting and mitigating leaves of absence 8. Economic dependence Part IV: Finding the Key: Why Understanding the Glass Handcuffs Matters 9. Impacts of the Glass Handcuffs 10. Conclusions Appendices A. Studying Men: Methods and Standpoint Theory B. Interview Guide C. Data Analysis References Index

About the Author

Sarah Jane Blithe is Assistant Professor Communication Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, USA

About the Series

Routledge Research in Employment Relations

Aspects of the employment relationship are central to numerous courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Drawing from insights from industrial relations, human resource management and industrial sociology, this series provides an alternative source of research-based materials and texts, reviewing key developments in employment research. Books published in this series are works of high academic merit, drawn from a wide range of academic studies in the social sciences.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Organizational Behavior
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies