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Achieving work/life balance

Women academics from the UK have greater problems achieving work/life balance than their counterparts working in Australia. This is the finding of a undergraduate study by Anna Beninger of the London School of Economics presented on 14th April 2010, at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Sixty women academics from the UK, Australia, and the US from a wide range of disciplines participated in the study. These women were interviewed to explore the challenges they face balancing work and non-work responsibilities. They also provided information on the number of hours spent working, caring for dependents and doing household tasks. The division of domestic labour was also examined, as well as the impact of institutional and wider government policies on work/life balance. Comparisons were made between the responses from women working in the UK and the other countries.

Academic women from the UK were found to embrace the dominant 'live-to-work' ideology of this country, leading them to prioritise work demands over other life domains such as childcare and domestic tasks. The more desirable work/life balance promoted by institutional and governmental policies in Australia was found to reduce stress and minimise guilt among academic women, specifically with respect to childcare. This tended to improve overall life satisfaction.

Ms Beninger said: "The UK's progressive work/life policies adopted from the European Union make finding balance easier than in the US with its extremely limited support for women working outside the home. However, the UK's intense work-focused culture discourages many people from using these policies for fear of discrimination. Thus, UK women academics are not as satisfied with their work/life balance as Australian women".

British Psychological Society