Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Timothy R. Kuhn
Karen Lee Ashcraft
The intersections of work and nonwork fuel Discourses that beget biases, inequalities, and complications. Discourses of balance and entrepreneurialism are particularly laden with inequalities and contribute to both structural inequalities and biases that inform the everyday practices of individuals. This study explores the ways men in technical occupations invoke these Discourses when making decisions about when and whether to take leaves of absence. Technical occupations are well known to be particularly rife with inequities and simultaneously face a shortage of workers. As such, increasing equality in these occupations would both improve the lives of those working in technical jobs and would allow technical organizations to recruit and retain more workers. I believe that the everyday work-life practices of men in organizations both draw upon and reify the troublesome Discourses of balance and entrepreneurialism.
The findings of the interviews and textual analysis conducted in this dissertation revealed that men in technical occupations view their occupational identities as a "natural" and passionate part of their person, and that they believe they have the opportunity, through their work, to save or change the world. Further, the data revealed that the uniqueness of technical culture complicates leave-taking, that gendered roles and expectations preclude men from taking leaves of absence, and leaves of absence are mitigated by virtual work, vacation time, or quitting for many men in technical occupations. Finally, the data suggested that while most men feel they are "balanced," the concept of balance itself is understood in this context as burnout avoidance or completely irrelevant because work and life are so integrated for these men.
Contributions from this study include both theoretical and practical implications, including expanding connections between the Discourse of entrepreneurialism and work-life "choices" and implicating occupational identities as particularly relevant for understanding work-life policies and practices. Moreover, the tensions at the intersections of the Discourses and everyday practice result in a unique form gender inequality where men are linked to their work, unable to take leaves of absence. To explain this situation, I present the metaphor of the glass handcuff, which suggests that invisible mechanisms (e.g., entrepreneurialism and occupational identity) lock men into the public, making it difficult for these men to participate fully in the home and also creating biases for women and other caretakers in workplaces. To conclusion, I argue that because the current state of leave policy in the United States is gendered, raced, classed, and ableist, broad reform in leave policy is necessary.
Blithe, Sarah J., "Investigating the Glass Handcuff: Gendered Discourses, Occupational Identities, and the Leave-taking Practices of Men in Technical Occupations" (2012). Communication Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 29.