Anticipated parenthood and employment:The interplay of family and professional life of young adults

Lay summary

As recent studies show impressively, the occupational trajectories of a large majority of young adults in Switzerland lead to gender-typical professions. The horizontal gender segregation of labour is much more pronounced in Switzerland than in other countries. By focussing on professions that conform with existing gender stereotypes, women and men fall short of realising their abilities and talents. In consequence, Switzerland loses a great share of their potential skills and abilities. Furthermore, the marked segregation of the professional world also aggravates the shortage of skilled workers in a number of technical and social professions.

The gendering of occupational pathways is maintained by a complex interplay of numerous mechanisms: gendered institutions, persisting traditional gender norms (particularly with regards to family and professional life) and subjective considerations all intertwine and mutually reinforce each other.

 The results of our own recently finished research project within the National Research Programme 60 show that family plans are key to understanding the gendering of occupational trajectories - both for young women and men. Family plans influence the career trajectories of young adults already at a time when starting a family in practice is not yet on the agenda for many of them. At the same time, family plans themselves are intertwined with and shaped by career plans. We expect that this interrelation is key for understanding the persistence of occupational gender segregation. The proposed project therefore analyses, how the anticipation of future family duties and professional life influence one another.

We conduct 60 problem-centred interviews with women and men aged about 30 who are working in gender-typical, -neutral or -untypical occupations. In our analysis, we want to reconstruct the self-conceptions of the young adults after they have been working in their respective professional fields for a few years.