In every country around the world, women (even full-time working women) spend more time on average on household responsibilities than men. A 2016 Statistics Canada report found that women still do 50% more unpaid work at home than men, and that women reported being less satisfied with their work-life balance. Research shows that gender norms contribute not only to greater expectations of women at home but also impact their ability to take advantage of family-friendly policies at work.

Below, we’ve curated a collection of our best research and insights on this subject.

Work-life balance is defined as the ability of a worker to balance the time allocated for work, with the time allocated for other parts of their life, such as leisure activities, family, volunteering, healthcare, social gatherings, etc. These various demands on time can often come into conflict, such that people feel that they are unable to attend to all of their responsibilities.

Concerns around dealing with work-life conflicts grow as the proportion of dual-earner couples increases, and the challenges of single-parent households becomes more apparent. With this change in economic participation, an evolution in professional and familial roles has also emerged for both men and women. However, there are still many gendered stereotypes and expectations that prevent peoples of all genders from successfully achieving balance, partly due to family leave policies that are shaped by expectations of traditionally gendered family arrangements.

The conflict in achieving work-life balance remains a thorny issue for employees and employers alike. Peoples of all genders continue to struggle to achieve balance and may change jobs and careers in order to accommodate the needs of work and family—with implications for the gender wage gap and for the dearth of women in leadership. The debate centers around several questions: What is the definition of work-life balance? Does it differ across genders? What is the responsibility of organizations and governments to support work-life balance through policies and practice?

The damaging effect of gendered views of work-life balance

The damaging effects of gendered views on work-life balance

This study explores how men and women think about work-life balance and how these narratives impact family-friendly policies in the workplace. Specifically looking at STEM workers in the oil and gas industry, the study identifies how employees express their desire for work-life balance, and how those desires are articulated, or not, to their employers. The study finds significant differences in how men and women conceptualize balance but also finds that both men and women are unmotivated to push their employers for policy changes, albeit for different reasons. As a result, current policies intended to support work-life balance for men and women, such as flex-time arrangements, may only support the careers of men with traditionally gendered family arrangements.

Meet a Fellow: Rachael Goodman on work-life balance

In this video, Postdoctoral Fellow, Rachael Goodman talks about her research in India and how she’s using it to reframe the conversation around work-life balance by showing that it is not so much about individual efforts to “have it all,” as it is about families redistributing responsibilities for work at home.

Group of South Asian youth