Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Business (Research)


School of Business

First Advisor

Rose Leahy

Second Advisor

Dr. Margaret Linehan


The increased participation of women in the workforce has been one of the major changes in the labour force in recent years. The nature of Ireland’s workforce has changed radically in the past twenty years and women, whether for personal or financial reasons, are now an established part of the workforce. Despite the rapid increase in female participation in the paid labour-force, considerable evidence has been gathered that documents a dearth of women in executive level positions not just in Ireland, but internationally.

Many studies have highlighted issues women face in progressing to senior level management. There is, however, very limited empirical research conducted with female managers based on their return to the workplace following maternity leave. In particular, there is an absence of Irish research regarding the issues faced by this cohort of female managers.

The results of the interviews conducted for this research study illustrate those female managers returning to the workplace following maternity leave face obstacles regarding childcare, organisational flexibility, networking and mentoring. Consistent and recurring themes emerging from the interviews were the strong feelings of guilt experienced by all twenty managers on their return to work and the choices made by the female managers regarding their home life and career.

The various choices open to female managers following maternity leave was considered by all of the managers interviewed as a serious issue to contend with. The research findings, therefore, suggest that personal choice is a much more influential factor in female career advancement than many of the overt and covert organisational barriers which have previously been cited as preventing women from reaching the higher echelons in organisations. The findings also highlight that as individual managers, they have the primary responsibility for managing their career development and progression rather than expecting career advancement as a norm in organisations.

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