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Business professor wins Academy of Management award

A division of the Academy of Management has honored Jamie Ladge, assistant professor of management and organizational development at Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration, for her research paper on the swirl of expectations new mothers face when re-entering the workforce.

Ladge’s paper, “Becoming a Working Mother: Identity, Efficacy and Re-socialization Following Re-entry,” was selected by the Academy of Management’s Gender and Diversity in Organization division as the best paper based on a dissertation in the division’s area of focus.

First-time mothers who return to work full time go through a period of transition, said Ladge, and question how effective they can be as mothers and working professionals. To study what emerges from this self-evaluation, Ladge interviewed 40 first-time mothers upon their re-entry into the workforce and analyzed what factors at work shaped their identities as new working mothers.

“While women have come a long way in advancing in the corporate world, having a baby still very much signals to others a potential lack of commitment and change in work-related expectations,” said Ladge. “These expectations, which are not always overt, can shape how they come to define themselves as mothers and professionals.”

For example, Ladge said, a mother’s self-perceptions can be strongly affected by comments from peers about coming back to work full time instead of part time and their observations about the difficulty of leaving a baby at home.

Based on her research, Ladge hopes that additional work can be done that will lead to a better understanding of women’s career attitudes, behaviors and intentions, and how they are affected after they become a mother.

“A mother’s re-entry into the work force marks the beginning of a life-long struggle for balance,” said Ladge. “Organizational leaders have long been challenged with retaining mothers and have created many programs and benefits to allow them to manage work and family, but they also need to be cognizant of less formal, subtle messages that are sent and the influence they can ultimately have on women’s career attitudes and behaviors.”

In addition to the Academy of Management award, Ladge recently received an Alfred P. Sloan Work Family Career Development grant for 2009–2010, which will enable her to continue and expand upon her research on work and family.

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