For the Family? How Class and Gender Shape Women's Work

By Sarah Damaske | Go to book overview

4
WORKING STEADILY
Good Work and Family Support Across Classes

WHILE WOMEN HAVE participated in the workforce in growing numbers over the past century, their steady employment is a relatively new phenomenon.1 Many researchers point to men’s declining wages (and women’s need to work) as a key component of this changing phenomenon, but labor shortages, occupational growth, the women’s movement, and a growing acceptance of women’s employment also played key roles.2 In the wake of these changes, sociologist Anita Garey writes that popular discussions about why women work “dichotomously categorize women as either those who have to work for economic reasons or those who choose to work for reasons of self-fulfillment.”3 As we saw in chapter 1, this categorization is tied to assumptions about social class; working-class women need work, while middle-class women choose work. This categorization creates a class distinction about the voluntary (middle-class) or involuntary (working-class) nature of women’s work.4 It also suggests that middle-class work is more rewarding and that working-class work is less desirable or less sought after.5

Sociologists have suggested that the meaning of work varies greatly by class. For the working class, “a good job is a means to a good living, but achievement in a specialized vocation is not the measure of a person’s worth, not even for a man.”6 For the middle class, the “devotion-to-work schema” demands a “single-minded, emotional intensity that fuses personal and professional goals and inspires [one] to meet these

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For the Family? How Class and Gender Shape Women's Work
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Tables/Figures ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - The Need and Choice Myths 3
  • 1 - Expectations about Work 21
  • 2 - The Shape of Women’s Work Pathways 23
  • 3 - A "Major Career Woman" 41
  • 2 - Work Pathways 65
  • 4 - Working Steadily Good Work and Family Support across Classes 67
  • 5 - Pulling Back Divergent Routes to Similar Pathways 93
  • 6 - A Life Interrupted Cumulative Disadvantages Disrupt Plans 120
  • 3 - Negotiating Expectations 143
  • 7 - For the Family How Women Account for Work Decisions 145
  • 8 - Having It All Egalitarian Dreams Deferred 163
  • Appendix 173
  • Notes 181
  • References 201
  • Index 215
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