University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 17 Apr 2015 (In)Significant Others: The Role of the Spouse in Women and Men Managers’ Careers in Finland (Heikkinen)

Start date: Apr 17, 2015 12:00 PM

End date: Apr 17, 2015 03:00 PM

Location: Mattilanniemi, Agora, Auditorio 2

Suvi Heikkinen.
Suvi Heikkinen.
M.Sc. (Econ) Suvi Heikkinen defends her doctoral dissertation in Management ”(In) Significant Others: The Role of the Spouse in Women and Men Managers` Careers in Finland". Opponent Professor Päivi Eriksson (University of Eastern Finland) and custos Professor Anna-Maija Lämsä (University of Jyväskylä). The event is in Finnish.

This thesis examines work-family integration for women and men managers by focusing on the constructions of career-spouse dynamics in the Finnish socio-cultural context. There are two research objectives in the study. First, the study focuses on the role of a spouse in women and men managers’ careers as well as spousal support during their careers as constructed in their narratives. Second, the study focuses on how women and men managers portray and produce gender relations in their narratives. The study follows a narrative approach and the research material consists of 58 (29 women/29 men) managers’ narratives. This thesis consists of an introductory essay and four empirical studies.

The study is based on the premise that work and family domains are not separate for managers but rather are associated and interrelated in many ways. The question of what is meant by family is often ignored in organization and management studies, and family is often considered to be a static unit, which fails to acknowledge that it has different members and that they may have different roles at different times. From the perspective of managers’ careers, the family is seen more often as a hindrance for women and as an advancement for men.

To expand this one-sided view in a socio-cultural context of relatively high gender equality as Finland, I have two propositions based on my results. Firstly, work-family integration is a phenomenon in which the interdependencies of work and family are shifting, and should not be understood as the same throughout career and life; therefore a career is embedded in both women and men managers’ broader context of life. My results showed that spouse is understood as a prominent but not a static component of a manager’s career by both women and men. Secondly, family works as an important site of doing gender, and how gender is done in the family has an influence on the career construction. More specific, it is understood as bearing an influence on how gender relations flow within the family. This can be seen then having implications for careers and how work-family integration is organized by managers. More attempts are needed to understand the family and its different members as intertwined with managers’ careers.

Keywords: manager, career, family, spouse, work-family integration, gender, doing gender, narratives, Finland

The dissertation is published in the series of Jyväskylä Studies in Business and Economics, number 158, 91 p., Jyväskylä 2015, ISBN 978-951-39-6150-3, ISBN 978-951-39-6151-0 (PDF). It is available at the University Library’s Publications Unit, tel. +358 40 805 3825,


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Suvi Heikkinen