If the inaugural conference of the Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN) last week is any indication, global work and family scholarship is thriving. Excitement was palpable at this gathering of over 750 interdisciplinary scholars who met to discuss the latest work and family research. Topics were varied and focused on gender, caregiving, mothers, fathers, flexibility, low wage workers, unions, health and wellbeing, immigrants, couples, parenting, the economy, families with special needs and military families. And presenters examined methods, theory, teaching, training, publishing, media outreach, policy, and practice from a multi-disciplinary perspective.
I attended many interesting sessions, but let me tell you about a few. Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth and Barbara Pocock had a friendly debate over terminology -- is it work-family or work-life? Shelley defines "family" in the most inclusive way and advocates for work-family, but Barbara noted that people tend to view "family" as a married couple with children. Those who don't fit this narrow definition may feel excluded from the work-family definition. That's why Barbara is advocating for the term work-life. The presenters challenged session attendees to create a new name for the field that was inclusionary and easily understandable -- we couldn't figure it out!
I chaired a session, Researcher 2.0. How to Use Blogging and Social Media to Increase Your Impact, Nourish Your Scholarship and Become a Thought Leader. We had a lively discussion about why and how intellectuals should get started with blogging and other social media. Thanks to the information of Nanette Fondas and CV Harquail, attendees were inspired to take this leap.
I'm fascinated by the impact of technology on our work and family lives, so I attended the session, Technology and the Work-Family Interface. In fact, I recently gave a presentation on this topic to practitioners at the AWLP Work-Life Summit. One intriguing finding shared by Noelle Chesley is that information and communications technology increases productivity, but it also increases distress.
One of the most exciting features of the conference was the international audience with attendees representing more than 30 countries including Chile, Finland, Pakistan, Ghana, China, Japan, Kenya, Italy, Portugal, India, Spain, Singapore, Australia and Nigeria.
So yes, the WFRN inaugural conference confirms that work and family research is being conducted all over the world, and that the WFRN is the venue for sharing this information with the interdisciplinary community. The feedback was unanimous that this conference is a much needed event to promote collaboration among the global scholars who research work and family issues.
The WFRN is an international membership organization of interdisciplinary work and family scholars, featuring a cutting edge website for online collaboration and a conference every other year to facilitate networking and personal connections. For more about WFRN, see a previous Huffington Post blog.