Understanding and overcoming challenges faced by working mothers: A theoretical and empirical review


Working mothers face different sets of challenges with regards to social identity, stigmatization, and discrimination within each stage of the employment cycle, from differential hiring practices, unequal career advancement opportunities, ineffective retention efforts, and inaccessible work-family supportive policies (Jones et al. in The Psychology for Business Success. Praeger, Westport, CT, 2013). Not only do these inequalities have negative effects on women, but they can also have a detrimental impact on organizations as a whole. In this chapter, we review several theoretical and empirical studies pertaining to the challenges faced by women throughout their work-motherhood transitions. We then offer strategies that organizations, mothers, and allies can use to effectively improve the workplace experiences of pregnant women and mothers. This chapter will specifically contribute to the existing literature by drawing on identity management and ally research from other domains to suggest additional strategies that female targets and supportive coworkers can engage into help remediate these negative workplace outcomes. Finally, we highlight future research directions aimed at testing the effectiveness of these and other remediation strategies, as well as the methodological challenges and solutions to those challenges associated with this important research domain. We call upon researchers to develop more theory-driven, empirically tested intervention strategies that utilize all participants in this fight to end gender inequality in the workplace.

Publication Title

Research Perspectives on Work and the Transition to Motherhood