An examination of the care and career experiences of mid-life women who combine formal employment and informal caring of dependent adults
This thesis is based on the care and career experiences of mid-life (ages 45 – 65) women engaging in paid employment alongside informal caring of dependent adults. It was carried out within the context of a growing ‘social care crisis’ in the wake of depleting social and healthcare resources and government policies encouraging people to ‘care for their own’, alongside policies to boost the employment of older workers. Calendar interviews with 30 mid-life women with experience of caring and paid employment in Leicester and Leicestershire were conducted between June and December 2016. This research took place within the interpretive paradigm, with the aim of hearing from women about their experiences in their own voices. The study draws upon three intersecting areas of literature and theory around concepts of work, careers and caring, to make sense of the women’s experiences. As a result, the study reveals key themes: the negative and positive impacts of caring on formal career trajectories; changing perspectives on concepts of work and the notion of care as ‘work’; understandings of career, and the emergence of care as an ‘unexpected career’, which helps in conceptualising women’s careers. The study contributes empirically by generating further knowledge and understanding of caring and career, particularly as there are limited existing qualitative studies in this area. Through analysis of the careers of participants, a typology of women’s formal careers affected by caring and a typology of informal caring careers were developed, providing frameworks for the study of women’s careers. The thesis identifies the notion of women’s polymorphic careers, demonstrated through the development of a new model of women’s formal and informal caring careers. It also offers recommendations for both policy and practice. This includes greater support from local and national government, provision of information and training to carers. It is also important for workplaces to understand the moral and business case for supporting working carers, having clear policies which are structured, with consistent support but also flexible enough to be personalised to individual circumstances. Furthermore, line managers should be given training, support and time to engage with their employees and to understand all aspects of their development. Finally, the thesis concludes with areas for possible future research incorporating further longitudinal study, different participant groups, and applying the model to different contexts.
- PhD