Work Over the Gendered Life Course

Abstract

This chapter demonstrates the close relationship between the social organization of work/career paths and the lock-step (and gendered) life course, with both institutionalized in the middle of the last century. Both the changing nature of work and the changing nature of the workforce are producing structural lag, as public and business policies developed in the twentieth century suffer from institutional inertia, failing to keep pace with the changes redefining the risks and realities of work – and life – in the twenty-first century. The chapter draws on key life course themes to provide a historical overview of the institutionalization of the work life course, demonstrate the importance of time and timing in the social organization of work and of the life course, and the fact that both work and the life course are embedded within multilayered (economic, technological, demographic, cultural) changes. It also addresses the constrained agency of individuals and families as well as business, community, and government leaders in reformulating work to better fit the needs of today’s, not yesterday’s, workers. Three processes – socialization, allocation, and strategic selections – are both barriers and portals to redesigning work. Outdated taken-for-granted assumptions limit both advances in scholarship and innovations in work, career, and life course policies and possibilities.

Keywords

Careers Paid work Lock-step Gendered life course Career mystique Social time 

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Life Course Center and Department of SociologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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