260349 Women, career, and family : Policies and personal experiences in the US and abroad

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 : 8:50 AM - 9:10 AM

Rachel Vanderkruik, MSc , Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Ashley Winning, MPH , Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Background: Relatively recent increases in female labor force participation rates have created new demands for women in their attempt to balance motherhood and work. Policies affect women's ability to achieve this balance; influencing not only the economic and overall well-being of the mother, but also the health of the developing child. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with career women in Boston, MA (n=8) and expatriate career women in the Netherlands (n=9). Interviews included questions about relevant policies, timing of pregnancy and career, impact of childbirth on work, flexible work arrangements, partnership roles at home, childcare, and maternal experiences of stress/guilt. NVivo was used for qualitative data analysis. Results: A review of workforce and childcare-related policies revealed dramatic differences across various developed countries. Analysis of the qualitative data is not yet complete; however, several themes have already emerged in the comparison of women's work/family experiences in US vs. non-US countries. US women frequently spoke of a desire for assistance with the transition from maternity-leave to work, and for greater support for childcare and breastfeeding upon return to work. They endorsed frequent feelings of stress and guilt. Compared to US-women, expatriate women living in the Netherlands reported greater acceptance and use of flexible work arrangements. Conclusions: This study provides valuable insight into the personal experiences of working mothers living in the US and abroad, regarding how their country's policies and support systems shape their experience balancing career and family demands, and the types of changes that are needed moving forward.

Learning Areas:
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
-Compare the parental leave and child care policies of developed countries. -Describe the potential impact of parental leave and child care policies on the health and well-being of mothers and children. -Discuss the impact of policies and support systems on motherís personal experiences balancing work and family life. -Identify the potential benefits (both for families and for businesses) of adopting flexible work arrangements and other supportive programs.

Keywords: Policy/Policy Development, Well-Being

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I completed my MSc from Harvard School of Public Health with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health, and have research experience in reproductive and perinatal psychiatry topics. Previous experience includes an internship with the WHO in the Department of Reproductive Health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.