Seminar: Robin Ely, Harvard Business School


Bronfman Building Room 245, 1001 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 1G5, CA

The Work-Family Narrative as a Social Defense

Robin Ely
Harvard Business School

Date: February 7, 2013
Time: 10:30 am - 12:00 pm
Location: Room 245


Based on a case study of a professional service firm seeking to promote women into its partnership, we draw on the concept of "social defense" to explain why firms may be reluctant to consider explanations for women’s stalled advancement that fail to place work-family conflict front-and-center.  In this case, we suggest that such defenses operated to deflect attention away from emotionally-disturbing considerations regarding individuals' resolution of work-family conflict. The result of leaving intact and unquestioned the narrative of women's family lives as the obstacle to women’s advancement, however, reinforced women’s reliance on  accommodations that in fact were career limiting and also left unaddressed the non-family-related obstacles that frequently derailed their career progress.

For more information, please contact Linda Foster at: linda.foster [at]