Sigtona Halrynjo

Institute for Social Research, Oslo, Norway

Sigtona Halrynjo is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo, Norway. She previously worked as a researcher at the Work Research Institute in Oslo. She uses multiple methods to study the explicit and implicit “rules of career” and their consequences for men and women – with and without children. She has published nationally and internationally on gender, childcare and career and on work-family conflict in high-commitment professions. Her ongoing projects are "CORE - Center for Research on Gender Equality"; "New Theoretical Perspectives on the Nordic Model of Work-Family Reconciliations"; and "Effects of Gender Balance in Corporate Boards on Gender Equality in Top Management and Business Life."

The source of her 2010 doctoral dissertation was the research project “Gender, Participation and Achievement in Working life and Family life – Childcare as Excluding Mechanism?” financed by the Norwegian Research Council, as well as the Norwegian Association of Lawyers and the Norwegian Bar Association. The data collected within that research project – co-conducted by Halrynjo and colleague Selma Therese Lyng – consist of:

  • survey data including 3924 male and female respondents aged 29-50, drawn from a random selection of lawyers, MBAs and graduate engineers. This survey includes data on respondents’ career and parental trajectories, allowing for analysing developments and long-term consequences of work-family interplay.
  • in-depth interviews with male and female elite professionals representing different career trajectories, positions and work-family adaptations, as well as management representatives from the largest and most prestigious corporate law firms in Norway.

This sample of professionals living in a well-developed, family-friendly welfare state is particularly apt to explore the processes and mechanisms upholding the statistically gendered pattern of traditional work-family adaptations entailing that even highly career dedicated women – in contrast to men – reduce their work commitment after childbirth. Challenging the adequacy of established explanations emphasizing constraints vs. individual preferences, publications by Halrynjo and Lyng on these data examine the circumstances, mechanisms and steps in a seemingly individual process of making the shift in commitment from a promising career to a family-friendly job. Moreover, these analyses demonstrate how generous parental leave arrangements designed to enhance gender equality and work-family balance by simply reducing practical constraints may have limited – or even counterproductive – impact within high-commitment occupations where the ‘irreplaceability’ of workers is taken for granted. The findings indicate that unless the culturally (re)produced discourses, demands and expectations of both work and family are exposed and challenged, even intentionally gender neutral work-family policies will continue to facilitate mothers’ career withdrawals, expressed as modified individual preferences.