Working mothers face challenges in pursuing their career aspirations due to work–family conflict. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has posed added challenges for working mothers by increasing care demands while also causing numerous health, economic and social disruptions. In this paper, we examine the impact of COVID-19 on Korean working mothers’ career aspirations. We employ a longitudinal qualitative design by analysing 64 in-depth interviews with 32 mothers of young children in South Korea. By interviewing the same women before (2019) and during the COVID-19 pandemic (2020), we are able to document how working mothers’ career aspirations were impacted by COVID-19. Findings show that all working mothers in the sample experienced increased care demands due to COVID-19. However, the influence of COVID-19 on working mothers’ career aspirations hinged on gendered beliefs related to childcare responsibility. When working mothers believed or were subjected to beliefs that mothers should be the primary caregiver for children (gendered care belief), their career aspirations were tempered or relinquished. On the other hand, those who believed that mothers should not be held solely responsible for childcare (gender egalitarian care belief) continued to pursue their career aspirations or experienced career advancements during COVID-19. Findings suggest that beliefs related to care responsibilities play an important role in working mothers’ pursuit of their career aspirations, and potentially their future careers.
Ahmed, D., Buheji, M. and Fardan, S.M. (2020) Re-emphasising the future family role in ‘care economy’ as a result of Covid-19 pandemic spillovers, American Journal of Economics, 10(6): 332–8. doi: 10.5923/j.economics.20201006.03
Aspers, P. and Corte, U. (2019) What is qualitative in qualitative research, Qualitative Sociology, 42(2): 139–60. doi: 10.1007/s11133-019-9413-7
Bass, B.C. (2015) Preparing for parenthood? Gender, aspirations, and the reproduction of labor market inequality, Gender & Society, 29(3): 362–85. doi: 10.1177/0891243214546936
Bianchi, S.M. and Milkie, M.A. (2010) Work and family research in the first decade of the 21st century, Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(3): 705–25. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00726.x
Bianchi, S.M., Sayer, L.C., Milkie, M.A. and Robinson, J.P. (2012) Housework: who did, does or will do it, and how much does it matter?, Social Forces, 91(1): 55–63. doi: 10.1093/sf/sos120
Blavatnik School of Government (2021) COVID-19 government response tracker, University of Oxford, https://www.bsg.ox.ac.uk/research/research-projects/covid-19-government-response-tracker.
Brinton, M.C. and Oh, E. (2019) Babies, work, or both? Highly educated women’s employment and fertility in East Asia, American Journal of Sociology, 125(1): 105–40. doi: 10.1086/704369
Choi, S., Byoun, S.J. and Kim, E.H. (2020) Unwed single mothers in South Korea: increased vulnerabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, International Social Work, 63(5): 676–80. doi: 10.1177/0020872820941040
Christopher, K. (2012) Extensive mothering: employed mothers’ constructions of the good mother, Gender & Society, 26(1): 73–96. doi: 10.1177/0891243211427700
Collins, C. (2019) Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Collins, C., Landivar, L.C., Ruppanner, L. and Scarborough, W.J. (2021) COVID‐19 and the gender gap in work hours, Gender, Work & Organization, 28(S1): 101–12. doi: 10.1111/gwao.12506
Correll, S.J. (2004) Constraints into preferences: gender, status, and emerging career aspirations, American Sociological Review, 69(1): 93–113. doi: 10.1177/000312240406900106
Craig, L. and Churchill, B. (2021) Dual‐earner parent couples’ work and care during COVID‐19, Gender, Work & Organization, 28(S1): 66–79. doi: 10.1111/gwao.12497
Daminger, A. (2020) De-gendered processes, gendered outcomes: how egalitarian couples make sense of Non-egalitarian household practices, American Sociological Review, 85(5): 806–29. doi: 10.1177/0003122420950208
Davis, S.N. and Greenstein, T.N. (2009) Gender ideology: components, predictors, and consequences, Annual Review of Sociology, 35: 87–105. doi: 10.1146/annurev-soc-070308-115920
Dow, D.M. (2016) Integrated motherhood: beyond hegemonic ideologies of motherhood, Journal of Marriage and Family, 78(1): 180–96. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12264
Goo, Y. and Chang, W. (2018) Highly educated women ‘Becoming Working Mothers’ from Cultural Historical Activity Theoretical (CHAT) perspective, The Women’s Studies, 98(3): 5–34. https://www.kwdi.re.kr/publications/journalView.do?p=2&idx=116731, [in Korean].
Greenhaus, J.H. and Powell, G.N. (2006) When work and family are allies: a theory of work–family enrichment, Academy of Management Review, 31(1): 72–92. doi: 10.5465/amr.2006.19379625
Grunow, D., Begall, K. and Buchler, S. (2018) Gender ideologies in Europe: a multidimensional framework, Journal of Marriage and Family, 80(1): 42–60. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12453
Hays, S. (1996) The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Heggeness, M.L. (2020) Estimating the immediate impact of the COVID-19 shock on parental attachment to the labor market and the double bind of mothers, Review of Economics of the Household, 18(4): 1053–78. doi: 10.1007/s11150-020-09514-x
Hermanowicz, J.C. (2013) The longitudinal qualitative interview, Qualitative Sociology, 36(2): 189–208. doi: 10.1007/s11133-013-9247-7
KICCE (Korea Institute of Child Care and Education) (2020) Report of the Survey on Childcare Changes and Coping Against COVID-19, Jincheon: KICCE, https://www.kihasa.re.kr/web/publication/research/view.do?pageIndex=4&keyField=&key=&menuId=44&tid=71&bid=12&division=001&ano=2520, [in Korean].
Kim, M. (2020) The Influence of COVID-19 on Women’s Paid Labor and Care Labor within Family, Discussion on Improving and Diagnosing Female Labor Reality, Beyond the COVID-19 Crisis, Towards Gender Equality Labor, Busan, South Korea: Korean Women Workers Association and Korean Women’s Trade Union. http://busangdam.inochong.org/bbs/board.php?bo_table=etc&wr_id=319&page=10, [in Korean].
Kim, E.H.W. and Cheung, A.K.L. (2019) The gendered division of household labor over parenthood transitions: a longitudinal study in South Korea, Population Research and Policy Review, 38(4): 459–82. doi: 10.1007/s11113-018-09508-9
Kim, E.J. and Parish, S. (2020) Family-supportive workplace policies and benefits and fertility intentions in South Korea, Community, Work & Family, 25(4): 464–91. doi: 10.1080/13668803.2020.1779032
Kim, Y.H., O’Brien, K.M. and Kim, H. (2016) Measuring career aspirations across cultures, Journal of Career Assessment, 24(3): 573–85. doi: 10.1177/1069072715599538
Ko, K., Kang, Y. and Choi, J. (2022) Patterns of paternal involvement of Korean fathers: a Person-Centered approach, Journal of Family Issues, 43(9): 2505–28. doi: 10.1177/0192513X211030936
Kok, J. (2002) The challenge of strategy: a comment, International Review of Social History, 47(3): 465–85. doi: 10.1017/S0020859002000743
Krapf, S. (2009) Childcare and Family Ideology in Sweden, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research Working Paper 2009-044, Rostock: Max Planck Institute.
Lee, J. and Cheon, B.Y. (2009) Career aspirations of women in corporate management: the case of South Korea, Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, 15(3): 60–80.
Lee, J., Chin, M. and Sung, M. (2020) How has COVID-19 changed family life and Well-being in Korea?, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 51(3/4): 301–13. doi: 10.3138/jcfs.51.3-4.006
Lee, S., Kim, E.J., Park, J.S., Byeon, S.J., Oh, M.A., Lee, S.R. and Lee, J.H. (2019) 2018 Report on Korea National Fertility and Family Health and Welfare Survey, Policy Report 2019-01, Sejong: Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, https://repository.kihasa.re.kr/bitstream/201002/35814/1/Policy%20Report%202019-01.pdf.
Lovejoy, M. and Stone, P. (2012) Opting back in: the influence of time at home on professional women’s career redirection after opting out, Gender, Work & Organization, 19(6): 631–53. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0432.2010.00550.x
Moen, P. (2011) From ‘work–family’ to the ‘gendered life course’ and ‘fit’: five challenges to the field, Community, Work & Family, 14(1): 81–96. doi: 10.1080/13668803.2010.532661
Moen, P. (2015) An institutional/organizational turn: getting to work–life quality and gender equality, Work and Occupations, 42(2): 174–82. doi: 10.1177/0730888414568085
Moen, P. and Wethington, E. (1992) The concept of family adaptive strategies, Annual Review of Sociology, 18: 233–51. doi: 10.1146/annurev.so.18.080192.001313
Nam, Y. (2022) Childcare Ideologies: A Longitudinal Qualitative Study of Working Mothers in South Korea, PhD dissertation, West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Graduate School.
Neo, L.S., Colette Tan, J.Y. and Yi Chew, T.W. (2022) The influence of COVID-19 on women’s perceptions of work–family conflict in Singapore, Social Sciences, 11(2): 73, doi: 10.3390/socsci11020073.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) (2019) Rejuvenating Korea: Policies for a Changing Society, Paris: OECD Publishing.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) (2020) OECD Family Database, http://www.oecd.org/els/family/database.htm.
Oh, E. (2018) Who deserves to work? How women develop expectations of child care support in Korea, Gender & Society, 32(4): 493–515. doi: 10.1177/0891243218772495
Reichelt, M., Makovi, K. and Sargsyan, A. (2021) The impact of COVID-19 on gender inequality in the labor market and gender-role attitudes, European Societies, 23(S1): S228–S245. doi: 10.1080/14616696.2020.1823010
Ridgeway, C.L. (2011) Framed by Gender: How Gender Inequality Persists in the Modern World, New York: Oxford University Press.
Ridgeway, C.L. and Kricheli-Katz, T. (2013) Intersecting cultural beliefs in social relations: gender, race, and class binds and freedoms, Gender & Society, 27(3): 294–318. doi: 10.1177/0891243213479445
Ruppanner, L., Tan, X., Carson, A. and Ratcliff, S. (2021a) Emotional and financial health during COVID‐19: the role of housework, employment and childcare in Australia and the United States, Gender, Work & Organization, 28(5): 1937–55. doi: 10.1111/gwao.12727
Ruppanner, L., Tan, X., Scarborough, W., Landivar, L.C. and Collins, C. (2021b) Shifting inequalities? Parents’ sleep, anxiety, and calm during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia and the United States, Men and Masculinities, 1–8.
Shockley, K.M., Clark, M.A., Dodd, H. and King, E.B. (2021) Work–family strategies during COVID-19: examining gender dynamics among dual-earner couples with young children, Journal of Applied Psychology, 106(1): 15–28. doi: 10.1037/apl0000857
Shockley, K.M., Shen, W., DeNunzio, M.M., Arvan, M.L. and Knudsen, E.A. (2017) Disentangling the relationship between gender and work–family conflict: an integration of theoretical perspectives using meta-analytic methods disentangling the relationship between gender and work–family conflict: an integration of theoretical perspective, Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(12): 1601–35. doi: 10.1037/apl0000246
Statistics Korea (2023) The Opinion and Reality of the Division of Domestic Labor, Daejeon: Statistics Korea. https://www.index.go.kr/unity/potal/main/EachDtlPageDetail.do?idx_cd=3029, [in Korean].
Stone, P. (2007) Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home, Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Tavory, I. and Timmermans, S. (2014) Abductive Analysis: Theorizing Qualitative Research, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Tayler, C., Korintus, M., Flanagan-Rochon, K., Weekenborg, M. and Bennett, J. (2004) Early Childhood Education and Care Policy in the Republic of Korea, OECD Country Note, https://www.oecd.org/korea/33689774.pdf.
Timmermans, S. and Tavory, I. (2012) Theory construction in qualitative research from grounded theory to abductive analysis, Sociological Theory, 30(3): 167–86. doi: 10.1177/0735275112457914
UN Women (2020) How COVID-19 impacts women and girls, https://interactive.unwomen.org/multimedia/explainer/covid19/en/index.html.
Wolf, J. (2011) Is Breast Best? Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood, New York: New York University Press.
World Economic Forum (2021) Global Gender Gap Report 2021, Geneva: World Economic Forum.
Yoon, S.Y. (2016) Is gender inequality a barrier to realizing fertility intentions? Fertility aspirations and realizations in South Korea, Asian Population Studies, 12(2): 203–19. doi: 10.1080/17441730.2016.1163873
|May 2022 onwards||Past Year||Past 30 Days|
|Full Text Views||168||168||85|