Defining Female Achievement: Gender, Class, and Work in Contemporary Korea
AbstractUnderstanding how women transition to adulthood and make decisions about family, employment, and parenting have long been central questions in gender and family scholarship. Korea offers a particularly compelling context in which to study these issues: Korea has the highest female educational attainment levels in the world, yet also has a relatively low labor force participation rate among married mothers. Based on interviews with 100 mothers with young children, three empirical chapters dig into the “black box” of how culture is created and disrupted at the micro-level. Each chapter unpacks one micro-level process: developing career aspirations, making work decisions, and engaging in childrearing. Findings show that in Korean culture, regardless of their level of education, mothers are pressured to constantly provide legitimate reasons why they deserve to work and are expected to spend endless time and energy ensuring their children’s well-being and academic achievement. In such a context, ideas about who should work as a mother and how a mother should approach childrearing are constantly challenged, negotiated, and reproduced. At the heart of these phenomena, I argue, families – across multiple generations – play a significant role not just in reproducing but also in challenging social norms. Especially in the lives of married mothers, intergenerational bonds – especially between women – become a critical relationship and resource. Consequently, I argue that the influence of natal families begins in the early childhood stage through divergent childrearing approaches but also continues to differentially shape adult children’s aspirations and employment.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:40049991
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