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Daily RC Article 25

Working Women

Paragraph 1

The labor force is often organized as if workers had no family responsibilities. Preschool-age children need full-time care; children in primary school need care after school and during school vacations. Although day-care services can resolve some scheduling conflicts between home and office, workers cannot always find or afford suitable care. Even when they obtain such care, parents must still cope with emergencies, such as illnesses, that keep children at home. Moreover, children need more than tending; they also need meaningful time with their parents. Conventional full-time workdays, especially when combined with unavoidable household duties, are too inflexible for parents with primary child-care responsibility.

Paragraph 2

Although a small but increasing number of working men are single parents, those barriers against successful participation in the labor market that are related to primary child-care responsibilities mainly disadvantage women. Even in families where both parents work, cultural pressures are traditionally much greater on mothers than on fathers to bear the primary child-rearing responsibilities.

Paragraph 3

In reconciling child-rearing responsibilities with participation in the labor market, many working mothers are forced to make compromises. For example, approximately one-third of all working mothers are employed only part-time, even though part-time jobs are dramatically underpaid and often less desirable in comparison to full-time employment. Even though part-time work is usually available only in occupations offering minimal employee responsibility and little opportunity for advancement or self-enrichment, such employment does allow many women the time and flexibility to fulfill their family duties, but only at the expense of the advantages associated with full-time employment.

Paragraph 4

Moreover, even mothers with full-time employment must compromise opportunities in order to adjust to barriers against parents in the labor market. Many choose jobs entailing little challenge or responsibility or those offering flexible scheduling, often available only in poorly paid positions, while other working mothers, although willing and able to assume as much responsibility as people without children, find that their need to spend regular and predictable time with their children inevitably causes them to lose career opportunities to those without such demands. Thus, women in education are more likely to become teachers than school administrators,  whose more conventional full-time work schedules do not correspond to the schedules of school-age children, while female lawyers are more likely to practice law in trusts and estates, where they can control their work schedules, than in litigation, where they cannot. Nonprofessional women are concentrated in secretarial work and department store sales, where their absences can be covered easily by substitutes and where they can enter and leave the work force with little loss, since the jobs offer so little personal gain. Indeed, as long as the labor market remains hostile to parents, and family roles continue to be allocated on the basis of gender, women will be seriously disadvantaged in that labor market.

Topic and Scope:

Working parents in the labor force; specifically, the problems that working mothers face in a world that seems hostile to their goals and responsibilities.

Purpose and Main Idea:

The author’s purpose is to describe the conditions in the workplace that disadvantage working parents, especially women. The main idea surfaces in its full form at the end: If the job market continues to be inflexible, and thus hostile toward parents, and if women still have to bear most of the burden of child care, then women will continue to be disadvantaged in the labor market.

Paragraph Structure:

Paragraph 1 describes how the labor force is structured in such a way that workers’ family responsibilities are ignored. Examples are given that demonstrate how regular full-time workdays, combined with everyday chores, don’t allow the flexibility needed by parents who are responsible for child care. The topic is evident, but the specific focus on women’s difficulties is yet to come.

Paragraph 2 introduces the notion that among working parents, women suffer the disadvantages of the workplace more than men. There’s also a second point made here that further complicates the plight of the working mother—women are under greater cultural pressure to take responsibility for child care than men.  paragraph s 3 and 4 spell out in greater detail the specific problems of working mothers.

Paragraph 3 focuses on the disadvantages of part-time work, while paragraph 4 outlines the problems of mothers who work full-time. The final sentence of the passage is a reflection of the first sentence, but with a particular emphasis on the problems of women. If workplace conditions and cultural standards don’t change, women will continue to be seriously disadvantaged in the labor market.

 The Big Picture:

  • Always keep your eye out for the author’s main idea, no matter where in the passage it may appear. Don’t always expect the main idea to jump out of the first  paragraph ; in some passages, the main idea doesn’t fully emerge until the end. This is the case here: The first three paragraphs establish the topic and scope, and offer many examples that support the author’s own skepticism that emerges fully in the last sentence.
  • Very often, the scope of the passage will be clearly defined by the end of the first paragraph, but that’s not always the case. Remain open to slight shifts, particularly, a narrowing of the scope as the passage develops. In  paragraph 1, the scope seems to include “working parents,” but  paragraph 2 suggests that the author is concerned mainly with the case of women. The examples presented in the last two paragraphs bear this out.

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