Work-Family Conflict: a Case Study of Women in Pakistani Banks
Despite a plethora of empirical evidence on the work-family interface in 'the West‘, very little research has been carried out on the experiences of women in the context of Pakistan. Gender inequalities persist in the Pakistani labour market and women‘s employment is skewed towards agriculture and 'respectable‘ professions, such as academia and medicine. However, following the privatisation of the banking industry, women have been gaining visibility in this profession despite societal pressures to either conform to the homemaker role or remain in 'women‘s work‘. What makes the Pakistani context unique is the interplay between gender, culture, religion, class and family structure. This affects reconciliation of work and family roles among working women. This thesis contributes to an understanding of the experiences of working women in a gendered, patriarchal, Muslim society. It offers an indigenous conceptualisation of the contours, causes, consequences and coping strategies (Four C‘s) of work-family conflict (WFC) among women working in Pakistani banks through a multi-layered, feminist, intersectional approach that gives voice to women. The study foregrounds women‘s experiences at the individual-level; however, it also considers the broader structures such as the extended family system, the male-dominated banking industry and the contradiction of Islamic teachings with the societal norms regarding women‘s paid employment. Consequently, the conceptual model of Four C‘s of WFC offers a systematic and coherent categorisation of the causes, consequences and coping strategies of WFC in a context-sensitive, multi-level, intersectional, feminist approach framework. Such indigenous manifestations of WFC in the Pakistani context can inform research in similar contexts. Based on a mixed method approach the fieldwork collected empirical evidence through 280 scoping questionnaires and 47 in-depth, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews in four different banks in Punjab province of Pakistan. The study reveals the most extreme, yet masked, forms of oppression and the subtleties of agency in the context of religious, patriarchal and cultural understandings of 'work‘ that also impact the salience of other social categories, e.g. class and family structure. In the main, the findings suggest a gendered culture of silence in Pakistan in which women working in Pakistani banks lack opportunities to vocalise their subjugated positions in the work and family spheres. More specifically, the thesis points to the fact that these women are subject to, sometimes conflicting, organisational and societal pressures to conform to the respective images of 'ideal worker‘ and 'good woman‘ simultaneously. This, of course, has implications for the intensity. In doing so the study extends the existing WFC theoretical framework to include and consider not just the Four C‘s of WFC but the intensity, duration and types experienced by women in particular contexts. However, the research also revealed that women in Pakistani banks are not passive victims, but active agents, making context dependent constrained choices to prevent or cope with WFC. For policymakers, the findings suggest the need for the formulation of context-specific initiatives to address work-family issues in patriarchal Muslim societies.