Reflections of career, perceptions of maternity leave: a pilot study using narrative analysis.
McDougall, Basia Halina
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Maternity leave is linked to role-conflict and gender discrimination in the workplace. Decisions on working life at this time are unavoidable; it is a natural time for self reflection. It is a time when work and career are perceived to be suspended. A pilot study using narrative analysis, adopting an inductive approach, privileged women’s voices and uncovered a common theme of ‘conflict’, reinforcing findings of previous research. However, in contrast to the negative interpretations presented in the literature, women also told stories of positive skills development during their maternity leave. Secondly, women did not adhere to the strict organisational and legal parameters of maternity leave. The conclusion considers the incongruence of ‘career breaks’ and the positive development showcased by these women during their maternity leave. The value of narrative analysis lies in its ability to explore the juxtaposition between the notion of ‘career’ from an employer’s perspective and the value of maternity leave from a woman’s perspective.