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Work-life, diversity and intersectionality: a critical review and research agenda

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Work-life issues have important implications at both organizational and individual levels. This paper provides a critical review of the work-life literature from 1990 onwards through the lens of diversity, with a particular focus on disparities of power induced by methodological and conceptual framings of work and life. The review seeks to answer the following questions: What are the gaps and omissions in the work-life research? How may they be overcome? To answer these questions, the review scrutinizes blind spots in the treatment of life, diversity and power in work-life research in both positivist and critical scholarship. In order to transcend the blind spots in positivist and critical work-life research, the review argues the case for an intersectional approach which captures the changing realities of family and workforce through the lens of diversity and intersectionality. The theoretical contribution is threefold: first, the review demonstrates that contemporary framing of life in the work-life literature should be expanded to cover aspects of life beyond domestic life. Second, the review explains why and how other strands of diversity than gender also manifest as salient causes of difference in experiences of the work-life interface. Third, the review reveals that social and historical context has more explanatory power in work-life dynamics than the micro-individual level of explanations. Work-life literature should capture the dynamism in these contexts. The paper also provides a set of useful recommendations to capture and operationalize methodological and theoretical changes required in the work-life literature.

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