Job-Family Satisfaction and Work-Family Conflict among Female Married Professionals in Hong Kong: A Dichotomy of Attitude and Outlook

Article excerpt

This study draws on the current status of Hong Kong professional women and the difficulties and conflicts they encounter in combining home and work roles. It examines their feelings towards their personal and professional lives. Data were obtained by means of in-depth interviews with female married professionals with children in Hong Kong (N=50). General job/family satisfaction questions were asked to ascertain their satisfaction levels with job and family. A large majority of the respondents, somewhat surprisingly, indicated they were 'satisfied' with both job and family life, despite the fact that combining the two made for an 'intense' lifestyle, suggesting that they accepted their traditional social roles. This article argues that Hong Kong managers should become more aware of both the psychological stresses on their female employees and the nature of the balancing act between life and work that they have to perform, so as to gain competitive advantage by attracting and retaining qualified women in the workforce.

INTRODUCTION

Much of the discussion about women and paid work in the recent decades of rapid change has focused on their experiences of levels of life stress as a result of their multiple roles. Research shows overwhelming evidence that women continue to bear primary responsibilities for home and child care in spite of their labour market participation (Pleck, 1985; Carlson and Perrewe, 1999).

There is a general consensus among researchers that many married professional women experience significant levels of work-family conflict (Aryee and Luk, 1996; Becker and Moen, 1999; Duxbury and Higgins, 1991; Greenhaus et al., 1989; Gutek et al., 1991). It has long been known, however, that perceived control over a work situation alleviates some work-family stress. The spouse and age of child or children can also be moderating factors (Brown, 2000; Hanson and Sloane, 1992; Holahna and Gilbert, 1979; Kelly and Voydanoff, 1985; Voydaboff, 1988).

Women are not necessarily at risk of stress-related ailments. Hanson and Sloane (l992) found that women enjoy paid work and are better off both economically and psychologically. Many make adaptations by defining success in terms of becoming experts in their field, for example, rather than attempting to climb corporate hierarchies (Sturges, 1999). There are indications that senior female professionals experience lower stress levels and exhibit better health than their more junior counterparts (Beatty, 1996). Thus, stress levels may be a function of career choice and age.

This article will investigate whether it is possible to feel a general level of satisfaction with both job and family in the face of significant work-family conflict. By 'satisfaction' is meant a feeling of contentment or fulfilment. This concept has not yet been explored within an Asian context. Women in Hong Kong have great exposure to Western ideas through increasing technology and media access; yet, cultural values and attitudes towards women remain traditional (Shaffer et al., 2000). According to traditional Chinese thinking, women are viewed primarily as caretakers of the family and are treated as second-class citizens and inferior to men (Lai, 1995; Tsui, l993). Married managerial women in Hong Kong appear to encounter a lot of work-family problems in the Chinese socio-cultural environment. Their increased participation in the workplace has not resulted in changes in their family role (Aryee et al., 1999). Rather, the taking-up of paid employment by women seems to have led to a considerable expansion in their role, since their husbands continue to limit their own participation in childcare and household chores (Pearson, 1990). Although one might predict that married professional women suffer significant work-family conflict (or feelings of inadequacy and/or guilt), it can also be anticipated that they enjoy their paid role and accept their traditional roles by surviving through the incongruencies between their strong Confucian values and their participation in the labour force. …