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Competing Devotions Career and Family among Women Executives

by Mary Blair-Loy

Competing Devotions Career and Family among Women Executives Synopsis

The wrenching decision facing successful women choosing between demanding careers and intensive family lives has been the subject of many articles and books, most of which propose strategies for resolving the dilemma. Competing Devotions focuses on broader social and cultural forces that create women's identities and shape their understanding of what makes life worth living. Mary Blair-Loy examines the career paths of women financial executives who have tried various approaches to balancing career and family. The professional level these women have attained requires a huge commitment of time, energy, and emotion that seems natural to employers and clients, who assume that a career deserves single-minded allegiance. Meanwhile, these women must confront the cultural model of family that defines marriage and motherhood as a woman's primary vocation. This ideal promises women creativity, intimacy, and financial stability in caring for a family. It defines children as fragile and assumes that men lack the selflessness and patience that children's primary caregivers need. This ideal is taken for granted in much of contemporary society. The power of these assumptions is enormous but not absolute. Competing Devotions identifies women executives who try to reshape these ideas. These mavericks, who face great resistance but are aided by new ideological and material resources that come with historical change, may eventually redefine both the nuclear family and the capitalist firm in ways that reduce work-family conflict.

Competing Devotions Career and Family among Women Executives Press Reviews

Blair-Loy's comparison of the two groups [of work-committed and family-committed] women is an imaginative and beautifully constructed study that bristles with insight...Rather than serving up the standard menu of neat public policy fixes to achieve work-family 'balance,' Competing Devotions offers a compelling explanation as to why even such long overdue reforms as paid family leave legislation and the proliferation of 'family friendly' corporate benefits are not likely to do much to resolve the work-family conundrum without a far more fundamental set of social changes. Both corporate elite careers and motherhood, Blair-Loy argues, have deep moral and cultural underpinnings. Both are governed by what she calls 'schemas of devotion' that demand total commitment to one's 'calling,' whether it be to the corporation or the child(ren)...These morally laden schemas are so powerful that they often trump economic rationality. -- Ruth Milkman Women's Review of Books 20041201 The work-devotion and family-devotion schemas are not simply used as rationalizations; they are gendered frameworks that others use to interpret behavior. As cultural models, they serve to define 'economic rationality'...Blair-Loy skillfully illustrates the patterns that emerge when we view individual lives in the context of their historical moment and social location. Competing Devotions is an insightful examination of work and family among elite executive women. -- Anita Ilta Garey American Journal of Sociology This book will be of significant interest to students of work and organizations, those who are concerned with work-family conflict and accommodation, and those students of cultural sociology who wish to read a testimonial on how important cultural schemas are in constructing social lives. Here the schemas are work and family. But the findings may potentially generalize to other cultural schemas that can have a powerful grip on us as we negotiate our lives, regardless of whether we innovate at the boundaries of competing devotions or not. -- Toby L. Parcel Administrative Science Quarterly This work is a welcome addition to the growing body of sociological studies of working women. A significant contribution of this book is that it lends a qualitative consideration to a topic too often evaluated by quantitative measures. -- Susan R. Cody NWSA Journal 20070401

Book Information

ISBN: 9780674018167
Publication date: 6th January 2006
Author: Mary Blair-Loy
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Format: Paperback / softback
Pagination: 288 pages
Categories: Sociology: work & labour,

About Mary Blair-Loy

Mary Blair-Loy is Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego.

More About Mary Blair-Loy

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