Macquarie University
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Work and babies: the impact of parenthood on women's work engagement and careers

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posted on 2022-03-28, 20:57 authored by Cecelia Elizabeth Herbert
This thesis aims to explore the impact of parenthood on the work engagement and career factors for Australian women. Three studies explore factors that influence a woman's engagement with professional work after having a child, and compare career aspirations and progression of women and men parents and non - parents. Study 1 used focus groups to identify the significant elements involved in women returning to the workforce after having a child. Results directed the development of subsequent survey questions for the second study. Study 2 analysed survey data from 1185 mothers with children under the age of five years. Women who returned to the workforce reported higher levels of anxiety than those who did not, regardless of the amount of work they engaged in. The match between preferred and actual work status predicted greater emotional wellbeing, as did greater levels of social support. The strong preference for part - time work in the sample highlight s how this can influence a woman's mental health and is crucial to engaging female talent in the workforce. Study 3 examined career factors of 129 1 participants who were both male and female and parents and non - parents . The aim of this third study was to examine the variables that may explain the gender gaps in career attainment (pay and role level), aspiration and satisfaction for parents and non - parents. Results identified a significant overall gender gap in salary, role level, and desired career aspiration , but only for those who were parents . These differences were not present for men and women without children. When examining the variance in these scores for pay, role level and aspiration, results showed that gender alone was not a significant predictor of the gender gap in when ot her variables were considered. This research provides insight into the factor iv associated with the gender gaps in career variables, particularly when it comes to parenthood. The results show that while constructs such as social role identity, masculinity and core self evaluation are related to career variables , the idea that men and women differ on these factors is discounted. Gender gaps in pay, role level and aspiration were found only between those who are parents, with the gendered segregation of domestic and professional work engagement being shown as driver s of this gap for this sample.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Thesis overview and outline -- Chapter 2: Workplace gender equality in Australia -- Chapter 3: The impact of parenthood on women's career -- Chapter 4: Work and babies study one -- Chapter 5: Work and babies study two -- Chapter 6: Work and babies study three -- Chapter 7: Conclusion and contribution.


Theoretical thesis. Includes bibliographical references

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Allan Bull

Additional Supervisor 1

Barbara Griffin


Copyright Cecelia Elizabeth Herbert 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (vi, 208 pages)

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