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School of Business | Department of Management Studies | Organization and Management | 2015
Thesis number: 13951
Gender perspective on work-life balance policies: A comparison between German and Finnish companies
Author: Koukkula, Hanna
Title: Gender perspective on work-life balance policies: A comparison between German and Finnish companies
Year: 2015  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management Studies
Academic subject: Organization and Management
Index terms: organisaatio; organization; johtaminen; management; työ; work; työelämä; working life; sukupuoli; gender; yhteiskunta; society; Saksa; Germany; Suomi; Finland
Pages: 80
Key terms: work-life balance; work-life balance policies; gender; discourse; society
Work-life balance (WLB) policies can be seen as social discourses that construct and evolve constantly within different places and time. The prevailing norms and values of a society have a significant influence on the social practice impacting on people's assumptions, most prominently the work and family concept and in particular those concerning gender relations and order. Indeed, gender is a crucial concept in the examination of the WLB discourse. Theory suggests viewing gender as something that is actively "done", as opposed to gender only being property of an individual. In daily social interaction we produce and reproduce gendered meanings and differences, which are then realized in organizational policies. This thesis pursues to gain insight into how companies "do" gender in their WLB policies through the lens of two different societal contexts, Germany and Finland.

The empirical research in this thesis is set forth as a detailed content analysis examining the webpages of four long-lived German and Finnish industrial organizations: Volkswagen, Bayer, Neste Oil and UPM Kymmene. By examining publically available website material and annual reports of the companies, I investigate what issues firms currently raise up, discuss and emphasize concerning WLB and how the gender meanings reflect in the policies in in different societal contexts. The empirical research consist of two parts. First I conduct a content analysis on each individual company and identify separately their approach and emerging themes. In the second part of the study I analyze the four companies side by side searching for similarities and differences of the views of the different companies and societies. The findings are divided under three key themes, which emerged constantly from the material of the individual companies.

The findings of the study showed further support to the previous research that WLB policies, as for their part, reinforce and distribute gender differences and inequalities in organizations and in the society as a whole. The cross-societal comparison confirmed that the discourse contains different gender meanings in different societal contexts. Especially the investigated German companies appeared to nurture the traditional role division between men and women in the society by drawing a clear division between the public and private life spheres. In the German context the investigated companies targeted WLB provisions especially to women putting female employees into a special position at the workplace. Hence, the WLB policies demonstrated to reinforce the traditional gender order and constraints in this societal context. Gender distinctions appeared less visibly in the policies of the investigated Finnish companies, which tend to treat the concept in gender-neutral terms and without reference to the family context.
Master's theses are stored at Learning Centre in Otaniemi.