Emergency Management Women Refuse To Respond














How Work-life Conflict Causes Challenges for Women

Serving in Emergency Response Roles




Linda J. Gonzalez

Doctor of Philosophy Criminal Justice – Emergency Management










Prospectus: How Work-life Conflict Causes Challenges for Women

Serving in Emergency Response Roles

Problem Statement

The family make-up and dynamic has changed significantly over the past two decades, and more women are serving as the primary earner in the household. Medved (2016, p. 236) notes 40% of U.S women, a 30% increase from 1960, are primary breadwinners in families with children (as cited in Wang, Parker & Taylor, 2013). Additionally, more women are in occupations previously dominated by males such as Emergency Medical Services (EMS), firefighting, and the police force. Defined as occupations with less than 25% women, men dominated careers include Emergency Medical Services (EMS), firefighting, and the police force (Du Plessus, O’Sullivan & Rentschler, 2014). While this shift brings along certain obvious challenges such as discrimination and sexual harassment, Dresden (2018) thought the problems facing women are more pronounced when it comes to work-life conflict (as cited in Helfgott, Gunnison, Murtagh, & Navejar, 2018, p. 240).

Women in roles that require their presence during emergencies or disasters are finding that their support needs are different than their male counterparts, adding to, having to battle attitudes of those that are less understanding of the new family dynamic. Agocs, Langan, and Sanders (2015) argue that police mothers, based on the little research that does exist, navigate “challenges because of social expectations that inevitably come into play once their “mother” identity is known” (Agocs, Langan & Sanders, 2015, p. 266). This shows a general expectation on women to choose between work and family.

Several works of literature have investigated the challenges of work-life balance amongst female employees in different employment sectors, but very few have addressed the roles of women that respond to emergencies and their challenges. Henly and Lambert (2014) state that over the years some of these challenges have seen the output of female employees in the emergency response roles deteriorate and many more women shy from this profession with few termed as incompetent or unreliable. The need to address the problems facing women in emergency response roles is necessary to see more women embrace these careers. When the work ground is made neutral for both genders, Sheikh, Ashiq, Mehar, Hasan and Khalid (2018) argue that competing grounds are fair and quality of output maintained across genders. The study further shows that support from employers could benefit from a little more compassion of the new family dynamic.


The purpose of this study is to improve the understanding of the familial challenges facing women employed as emergency response personnel. To address this gap, this study will use a qualitative approach, focusing on in-depth interviews with female emergency responders. The finding of this study would be invaluable for policy development and administrative protocol that required emergency services planning.


In an attempt to be equally represented in the labor market as their counterparts, today women are venturing in fields that have still not been made favorable for them to work in (Knörr, H., 2011, p. 101). Existing work policies fall short in recognizing that women will experience challenges while employed as emergency response personnel and if familial concerns exist as well. The emergency response roles come with challenges that affect both male and female employees. Unfortunately, the weight of female problems outweighs those of the males (Messing and Östlin, 2006). These differences and difficulties create a work environment that automatically decreases the quality of output of the women employees. Women want to work in these roles responding to emergencies or disasters but the uncertainty of work schedules or the negative attitude from employers deters them into a different career (Beaty and Davis, 2012, p. 624). Policy makers and administrators, however, are not aware of this issue as they prefer to address the work-life balance of employees in general as opposed to focusing on those that address the type and nature of a female emergency responding personnel.

This study will support professional practice, contributing to a field of research where little is known, focusing on familial challenges of women in emergency response jobs. The aim of addressing challenges unique to this profession that over the years has seen female employees leave the career fields that they wanted to be in. The findings of this study will hopefully highlight areas administrators and policymakers should focus on in increasing performance of the female employees in this profession. The goal of the study results is to show an area where further contributions can be made for change to see women employed in emergency response roles to not choose between their obligated duties to the public and their families.


1. Sheikh et al. (2018) studied incompatibility between the demands of a family to a working person and the needs of work creating pressure.

2. Henly and Lambert (2014) saw the population of women in the labor market in the USA has increased by 25% since 2008 and recognized that women were serving in multiple roles in their family and in their career and experiencing time-based strife which included excessive family responsibilities, inflexible work schedule and more extended working hours or strain-based strife including the absence of spouse support, role ambiguity and role conflict and behavior based conflict namely, exceptions for a human, emotional and warm relationship.

3. Agocs et al. (2015) annotated police women have a harder time with the job and is not made easier once their motherhood status is revealed. The article also acknowledged that research is conducted on different types of work schedules that are special but do not place police work in that category. Interviews with other policewomen and their experiences were offered in the article.

4. Beaty and Davis (2012) researched the various reasons why women chose not to work as city managers or other government officials. They also compared the difference and similarities of their male counterparts working the same roles.

5. Messing and Östlin (2006) equate gender inequality and health concerns. In order for women to balance the workforce and their home life, they do so at their health due to the immense balancing act that needs to happen.


The most logical trajectory for this study would be phenomenological research, offering an explanation to concerns affecting women that work in emergency response roles while acting as head of their household. The aim for participants is women who share difficulties and experiences within their family role and their employment (Patton, 2015, p. 118). As the information gathered evolves, the issues will change and the true factors that are leading to work-life conflict will become obvious (Gubrium, Holstein, Marvasti, and McKinney, 2012, p. 86). Patton (2015) presumed this method will best find that shared experience and how they each process that shared experience. Because the responses to the interview questions are expected to be similar, that shared problem should also result in a post research experience that can be shared with others (p. 115). The shared experience, or essence of the shared experience, must exist in a phenomenological approach in order for it to be understood within the group (Patton, 2015, p. 116). If the experience is not similar, then how participants perceive the interview questions differ.

Beaty and Davis (2012) studied the reasons why women were venturing away from city manager positions. One of those reasons was noted to be lack of set scheduling and childcare. With the absence of overnight or odd hour childcare, needing to be on location for an emergency during off hours is virtually impossible. Whereas Wang, Parker, and Taylor (2013) note that more women are becoming the breadwinners in the family. They studied a growing trend that more women were becoming the main or sole financial provider of the home and the public is conflicted (Wang et al., 2013).

The general framework will identify the underlying factors for some challenges and their consequences. The framework will strengthen the need for and ways of reducing or altogether eliminating the challenge of being a woman, head of her household that works in a job, requiring her to be on scene as a responder of natural disasters. All these will be guided by the end goal of increasing the quality of output for female employees as well as their morale. As an additional benefit, the findings and recommendations of the study hope to improve the population of women in this profession as the working environment will be made conducive for them. The research framework will be based on the causes of work-life conflict challenges for women serving in emergency response roles, their effects and measure, and policies to put in place that will motivate women in this profession and increase the quality of their output.

Research Questions

1. What are the perceived underlying causes of work-life conflict for women serving in emergency response roles?

2. How can these underlying causes of work-life conflict for women serving in emergency response roles be eliminated or minimized?

Nature of the Study

This research will be a qualitative study as it aims in gaining a better understanding the familial challenges for women serving in emergency response roles. Hopefully, the study is used to make informed recommendations that will show women in this profession a balance between family and work life is possible. The appropriate methodology for this study will be the use of structured, but relaxed interviews (Gubrium et at., 2012, p. 197). The rationale for discussions is to draw in-depth analysis and information on the opinions, feelings, and perceptions women responders with regards to the challenges in the work environment and their family balance. In a previous study investigating willingness of first responders to work during disasters, focus groups and interviews were used (Smith, 2015, p. 3). The reason given for the use of their methodology was to promote relaxation and build a relationship. The information gathered will be collected from a group of women whom share the same challenges. Because of the shared experiences the interviewed women have experienced, this study is phenomenological. The focus will be on how the experience is described. The challenge will be to eliminate personal involvement (Patton, 2015, p. 575). The need to remove own prejudices and viewpoints is crucial for an objective study.

Possible Types and Sources of Data

1. Interviews will be used to collect primary data, which will be first-hand data from women serving as emergency response personnel. A criterion for participation is that a subject must have familial challenges. Possible pools of participants can be found at International Association of Emergency Managers, along with various police, EMS and fire associations, local military installations, and other disaster responding organizations.

2. Gather data from employers that have supported their women employees when they experience familial challenges. This data can also be drawn from the same listed organizations. Determine the reasoning behind and the steps needed to be taken in order to support a female employee that is considered an essential responder to emergencies and experience familial difficulties. Data will be gathered from same style of interviews as primary data.

3. The final source of data is existing works of literature on the same. The study will rely on tested theories that support the findings of primary data. In cases where results from the two sources will contradict each other, the data from the primary source will hopefully be accepted since this is an area that very little is known and real-time testimony is preferred.



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Agocs, T., Langan, D., & Sanders, C. B. (2015). Police mothers at home: Police work and

danger-protection parenting practices. Gender & Society29(2), 265-289.

Beaty, L., & Davis, T. J. (2012). Gender disparity in professional city management: Making the

Case for enhancing leadership curriculum. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 18(4),


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