Politics of Parenthood

The Politics of Parenthood and its Impact on Women’s Employment. Case Studies in Switzerland and Canada

Dr. Justyna Sempruch, PhD

Laufzeit: 2004 bis 2007
SNF-funded Habilitation Project 2004-2007 conducted in a collaboration with The Association of Research on Mothering, York University and The Centre for Women’s Studies and Gender Relations, University of British Columbia, Canada

The EU-funded research projects ‘Working and Mothering: Social Practices and Social Policies’ (1998-2002) and ‘The Impact of Women’s Studies Training on Women’s Employment in Europe’ (2001-2003) confirmed that parental responsibilities at the beginning of the twenty-first century are still clearly gendered in most of the European countries. Whereas the major research on ‘work-family balance’ has focused on the Scandinavian models and their implications on the policies within the European Union, research needs to be undertaken to include other Western economies, currently under the enormous challenge to implement policies on gender equality in relation to ‘work-family’ balance. In seeking to address the above issues, this project comparatively explores major concerns facing Switzerland and Canada in relation to women’s career-oriented employment.

The thesis of this project is that prevailing political and juridical instruments of power impede employability of highly trained women who become mothers. The crucial issue addressed here is the impact of the implicit external systems (such as that of child care politics) and the internal socio-cultural models (such as that of ‘natural’ heterosexuality, masculinity and femininity) on the reduction of parenting responsibilities to ‘motherhood’ and ‘biological-driven’ sacrifices and duties. This double impact, institutionalization and cultural construction of parental roles, is analyzed as equally affecting the politics of parenthood. The traditional roles of mothers as ‘care-givers’ and fathers as ‘providers’ serve in this project as a departure for an analysis of how these roles are regulated by the politics of care-giving, how they have been shifting, and how they differ across heterogeneous cultures of Switzerland and Canada.