Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 15–36 | Cite as

Part-Time Work and the Gender Division of Labor

  • Gretchen Webber
  • Christine Williams


In response to the incompatible demands of work and motherhood, many mothers seek out part-time work schedules. Although many mothers consider this option “the best of both worlds,” scholars are divided about whether part-time work is in women’s best interest because it is linked to the gender division of labor in the home, and hence, to gender inequality. In this paper, we investigate the mostly unintended consequences of part-time work on the gender division of labor within the household. Drawing on 54 in-depth interviews with mothers who voluntarily work part-time, we explore how mothers experience household work and child care arrangements when they work part-time. Three factors emerged as most important in understanding how part-time work can shape mothers’ experiences of the gender division of labor: pathway to part-time work, work location, and work schedule. Depending on these factors, part-time work may be experienced as either enhancing or undermining of the gender division of labor, and thus, as promoting or undermining gender equality in their families.


Part-time work Division of household labor Motherhood Gender equality 



We would like to thank Julie Reid, Kathleen Gerson, Debra Umberson, Susan Marshall, and Art Sakamoto for their insightful comments on earlier versions of this article. We also appreciate the feedback from the anonymous reviewers of Qualitative Sociology, and especially thank Javier Auyero who provided valuable and thoughtful notes on different drafts of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyMiddle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboroUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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