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Balancing academia and family life: the gendered strains and struggles between the UK and China compared

Ren, Xiaoni and Caudle, Darren 2020. Balancing academia and family life: the gendered strains and struggles between the UK and China compared. Gender in Management: An International Journal 35 (2) , pp. 141-165. 10.1108/GM-06-2019-0093

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Abstract

Purpose – This paper aims to explore and compare academics’ experiences of managing work-life balance (WLB) in the British and Chinese contexts. We have three specific purposes. Firstly, to investigate whether there are marked gender differences in either context, given female and male academics’ work is considered fully comparable. Secondly, to examine contextual factors contributing to gender differences that influence and shape decisions in WLB and career paths. Thirdly, to explore the gendered consequences and implications. Design/Methodology/Approach – A cross-national and multilevel analytical approach to WLB was chosen to unpick and explore gender and contextual differences and their influence on individual academics’ coping strategies. To reflect the exploratory nature of uncovering individual experience and perceptions we used in-depth, semistructured interviews. Thirty-seven academics participated in the study, comprised of eighteen participants from six universities in the UK and nineteen participants from six universities in China. Findings – This study reveals gendered differences in both the British and Chinese contexts in three main aspects: sourcing support; managing emotions; and, making choices, but more distinct differences in the latter context. Most significantly, it highlights that individual academics’ capacity in cultivating and employing coping strategies was shaped simultaneously by muti-layed factors at the country level, the HE institutional level and the individual academics’ level. Originality/values – Very few cross-cultural WLB studies explore gender differences. This cross-national comparative study is of particular value in making the ‘invisible visible’ in terms of the gendered nature of choices and decisions within the context of WLB. The study has significant implications for female academics exercising individual scope in carving out a career, and for academic managers and institutions, in terms of support, structure and policy.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Publisher: Emerald
ISSN: 1754-2413
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 9 April 2020
Date of Acceptance: 15 January 2020
Last Modified: 08 May 2020 07:15
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/130908

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