Research Output

Work-life balancing strategies used by women managers in British ‘modern’ universities.

  The “work-life balance” literature is mainly concerned with the provision and up-take of flexible employment patterns. The purpose of this qualitative study of women managers' coping strategies for reconciling work with their other roles and responsibilities is to provide a complementary perspective.
Semi-structured extended interviews were carried out with 16 women managers of academic or “support” departments in eight UK post-1992 universities, about their working practices and how they sought to integrate work with other These women reported high workloads, requiring long working hours, which consumed time and energy otherwise available for other relationships and commitments and their own leisure. Various strategies were adopted to manage the situation, including establishing rigid boundaries between work and non-work, and shifting these boundaries in favour of work when necessary. Temporal, spatial and symbolic distinctions were used to contain work. Women without dependent children were more likely to be able to redefine boundaries when necessary to favour work.
As a small and possibly unrepresentative sample of UK women managers in higher education, the study could usefully be extended through comparisons with male peers, and with women managers in other sectors. (It is the preliminary phase of a comparative study of women employed in universities in the UK and Japan.) However, the findings broadly replicate other studies.
Practical implications – There are policy implications for universities, which need feedback from staff about the impact of equal opportunities initiatives to inform further progress.
This study provides qualitative information on women working in non-traditional key posts in higher education, who are well-placed to challenge organisational cultures and act as role models.


Woodward, D. (2007). Work-life balancing strategies used by women managers in British ‘modern’ universities. Equal Opportunities International. 26, 6-17. doi:10.1108/02610150710726507. ISSN 0261-0159


Hours of work; Managers; United Kingdom; Universities; Women; Working patterns;

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