Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Christy Glass


Christy Glass


Marisela Martinez-Cola


Guadalupe Marquez-Velarde


This research aims to improve our understanding of professional mothers and the strategies they develop to navigate bias and sustain their careers. Previous research has shown that women with children face a motherhood bias that results in negative career outcomes such as reduced wages, fewer high-quality assignments, and decreased chances for promotion and leadership opportunities. This research investigates how professional mothers respond to that bias by analyzing interviews with forty-seven women in the field of law about their professional experiences: their experiences before and after having children; the challenges they face navigating their careers and families; and the strategies they’ve developed to maintain their careers and home lives. We find that the strategies mothers develop fit into two categories. Category one involves downplaying their status as mothers in hopes of reducing negative career consequences. Category two involves downshifting their careers in order to maximize flexibility in their work and at home. Each strategy relies on specific resources and results in tradeoffs of career advancement, career rewards, and well-being. The findings help us understand how workplace policies and practices can best support professional mothers.



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