cover of book

Competing Devotions
Harvard University Press, 2003
Cloth: 978-0-674-01089-5 | Paper: 978-0-674-01816-7 | eISBN: 978-0-674-02159-4
Library of Congress Classification HD4904.25.B57 2003
Dewey Decimal Classification 305.43658

The wrenching decision facing successful women who must choose between demanding careers and intensive family lives has been the subject of many articles and books, most of which propose strategies for resolving the dilemma. Competing Devotions focuses on broader social and cultural forces that create women's identities and shape their understanding of what makes life worth living. Mary Blair-Loy examines the career paths of women financial executives who have tried various approaches to balancing career and family. These mavericks, who face great resistance but are aided by new ideological and material resources that come with historical change, may eventually redefine both the nuclear family and the capitalist firm in ways that reduce work-family conflict.

Table of Contents:

1 The Devotion to Work Schema
2 The Devotion to Family Schema
3 Reinventing Schemas: Creating Part-Time Careers
4 Reinventing Schemas: Family Life among Full-Time Executive Women
5 Turning Points
6 Implications

Appendix: Methods and Data

Many professional women intuit that male colleagues whose spouse handle for them the details of everyday life are favored in the workplace. Blair-Loy confirms this intuition and shows us how it happens. She captures how the cultural schemas of "family devotion" and "work devotion" contribute to the reproduction of gender inequality, and how meeting the demands of a husband's job and other people's needs push professional women to progressively abandon their work to take care of others. Her analysis also gives us hope by comparing the fate of pre and post-baby boomers. This is both an important scholarly contribution and a book that will help readers think differently about their lives. It should be required reading for professional women who aspire to maintain multidimensional lives.
--Mich'le Lamont, author of The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigration

This is a fascinating book with an important message. Blair-Loy's findings are surprising. She challenges conventional viewpoints. She is on to something really new when she writes about not only the interplay between cultural norms and individual actions (and institutional structures) but on the cultural schemas that evoke deep emotional resonances. An outstanding book.
--Cynthia Fuchs-Epstein, author of Deceptive Distinctions: Sex, Gender and the Social Order

Mary Blair-Loy's book transcends old debates about work and family by examining the women who have beaten the odds and risen to the top. Her detailed examination of careers and strategies perfectly complements her subtle analysis of the schemas and visions these women have for their lives. Blair-Loy has given us not only a splendid view into a little known world, but also a new way of understanding the dynamic interplay of work and family. Looking beyond the static conflict we have studied so much, she shows how creative women put traditional schemas of family and work into a mutual transformation to build for themselves a new and more livable world.
--Andrew Abbott, author of Time Matters

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