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*Women's and Gender Studies Subject Guide: Topic: Women in the Workforce


Topic: Women in the Workforce

Quick Tips:

Define Your Terms

'Work life balance', for example, is deservedly a popular subtopic, but how do we define that term in a research context? What does work life balance actually look like, and what aspects are you focusing on? Flexible schedules? Telecommuting? Employer daycare? This is one of those concepts that can become unwieldy as it expands in scope, so corralling it with a set of parameters will help you focus your research.

Keep up with the News

Businesses and other employers are modifying their policies and practices continually, and you want your research to reflect current realities for working women. Double-check a variety of news outlets to see if there have been any developments in legislation, policy, or new events you would want to reference in your research.

Consider the Big Picture

Are there systemic factors effecting this issue? What does your research point to as 'big picture' factors? Power dynamics? Cultural expectations? Organizational structures? You can then take those 'big picture' factors and tie them back to the specific context or example from your research.

Topic Breakdown

Taking the research interest that's in your mind and translating it into keyword searches can be challenging. Below is a sample breakdown of the process:

Research Question: ''How can employers facilitate work-life balance for women employees?"

We want to break this idea into key terms, and supplement those terms with synonyms and related concepts found during our background research. 

Sample Key Terms: 'work-life balance' is an obvious and viable search term, but also think of specific aspects of the concept--what does work-life balance look like? 'flexible schedule', 'flextime', 'telecommute', 'phased retirement', 'paid leave', 'four-day workweek', etc. Also consider key terms for related issues, such as 'childcare', 'parent care',  'job satisfaction', 'burnout', 'productivity', etc. 

Putting it All Together: These keywords are the building blocks of several searches on the same topic, as we'll want to try variations of our search to pull the best selection.

Sample search strings: ''work-life balance'' AND women    or  "flexible schedule" AND family

See how one of the sample search strings plays out in the library's ProQuest Central database. We would want to do several additional variations on other aspects of the topic to get a full picture.

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Suggested Search Terms

Continue to build a word bank of search terms related to your specific focus, but here are some suggested terms:

working women


gender gap

equal pay

doctrine of separate spheres

motherhood penalty

sex discrimination

work-life balance

flexible schedule