Women Who Opt Out

The Debate over Working Mothers and Work-Family Balance

224 pages

April, 2012

ISBN: 9780814743133



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Bernie D. Jones is Associate Professor of Law at the Suffolk University Law School and author of Fathers of Conscience: Mixed Race Inheritance in the Antebellum South.

All books by Bernie D. Jones

In a much-publicized and much-maligned 2003 New York Times article, “The Opt-Out Revolution,” the journalist Lisa Belkin made the controversial argument that highly educated women who enter the workplace tend to leave upon marrying and having children. Women Who Opt Out is a collection of original essays by the leading scholars in the field of work and family research, which takes a multi-disciplinary approach in questioning the basic thesis of “the opt-out revolution.” The contributors illustrate that the desire to balance both work and family demands continues to be a point of unresolved concern for families and employers alike and women’s equity within the workforce still falls behind. Ultimately, they persuasively make the case that most women who leave the workplace are being pushed out by a work environment that is hostile to women, hostile to children, and hostile to the demands of family caregiving, and that small changes in outdated workplace policies regarding scheduling, flexibility, telecommuting and mandatory overtime can lead to important benefits for workers and employers alike.

Contributors: Kerstin Aumann, Jamie Dolkas, Ellen Galinsky, Lisa Ackerly Hernandez, Susan J. Lambert, Joya Misra, Maureen Perry-Jenkins, Peggie R. Smith, Pamela Stone, and Joan C. Williams.
Listen to Bernie D. Jones on WPYR Radio: Mothers and the delicate work-family balance


  • “Finally, a book that reaches beyond the headlines to place the ‘opt out’ controversy in its proper place! From ‘opting out’ to ‘opting in’ to ‘being kept out,’ this stellar collection provides a much-needed overview of the diverse obstacles facing women – and men – of all classes, life stages, and social backgrounds. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the conundrums and inequalities created by the national and global crisis of work and care.”

    —Kathleen Gerson, author of The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family

  • “In clear and compelling prose, the essays in this superb collection offer an important corrective to the notion that women freely choose to leave employment. The authors demonstrate instead how significant constraints shape women’s relationships to the labor force and how these constraints vary for women in different social class positions.”

    —Margaret K. Nelson, Author of Parenting Out of Control: Anxious Parents in Uncertain Times

  • "This timely book is a significant contribution to the sociology of family and work and gender roles...highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above."