UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Care and the corporation : how organizational contexts shape the forms and consequences of fathers' caregiving Stecy-Hildebrandt, Natasha


Fathers have increased their involvement in child care in recent years, in the context of dual-earner households and intensive parenting pressures. Yet, their involvement remains low relative to mothers. One reason for this continued gendered division of care is the context of paid work. Borrowing from Acker’s (1990) theoretical framework, workplaces can be viewed as gendered, characterized by ideal worker logic and the presumption of uninterrupted worker availability and commitment. While we know much about how mothers experience the competing pressures of work and care, we know less about the experiences of fathers and how they manage their care in gendered organizations. To that end, I examined fathers’ experiences in two contrasting workplaces, Manuco and Comco, representing opposite ends of ‘family-friendliness’. Manuco is a blue-collar, manufacturing environment, while Comco is a family-friendly, white-collar firm. I adopted a comparative case study approach, conducting over seventy worker interviews across these two organizations and examining relevant workplace documents to understand how fathers manage their care at work. At both these organizations, and despite their stark differences, fathers’ care was limited to the margins in and around work time. Yet the mechanisms for this differed in important ways. Manuco relied on a culture of normative work time, informed by gender and class, that framed understandings of and possibilities for fathers’ care. Normative work time underpinned Manuco’s rigid rules around time, managerial responses to workers’ flexibility requests, men’s own limited conception of their care needs, and the culture around caregiving on the factory floor. Comco, on the other hand, was characterized by a culture of care, providing workers with family-friendly policies and practices that, in theory, made space for workers’ non-work lives. Yet, Comco’s high commitment context and managers’ and coworkers’ subtly gendered reactions to fathers’ care, meant that care was still sidelined. Despite their contrasts, these organizations both exemplify the gendered dismissal of fathers’ care, in particular, and the broader devaluing of care characteristic of gendered organizations.

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