For example, sex role theory suggests that men and women are expected to fulfill different roles in society; men are expected to be the breadwinners whilst women assume the role of nurturing housekeepers. Gender frame theory expands on this notion by suggesting that an individual’s gender (including accompanying social expectations) is an underlying identity that affects an individual’s other identities. If we apply these theories to the context of women workaholics, society dictates that a working woman not only must perform highly at work but also maintain her obligation to her family. These identities - working woman and mother - are not mutually exclusive. Instead, these identities affect one another in a unique way that can influence the way women workaholics interpret their workplace commitment. In other words, the way we have measured workaholism in the past, may not be taking the entire picture into account, especially when it comes to the experience of women.
In a study conducted by Beiler-May and her research team, the measurement of workaholism was tested to see if it indeed contained gender bias. Their sample consisted of 887 adults who currently worked at least 20 hours per week and were either married, had children, or were married with children. Using the nine-item compulsive tendencies subscale of the Work Addiction Risk Test (WART) participants were asked to respond on a 4-point scale ranging from 1 (never true) to 4 (always true). Using item response theory (IRT) and differential item functioning (DIF), the researchers found that when using the WART as a measurement tool, men and women with the same level of workaholism did indeed respond differently to the questions. The results indicated that women reported multi-tasking more frequently than men whereas men were more likely to endorse a greater focus on work than women. Additionally, even though men in the sample worked more hours per week, they scored lower on general workaholic tendencies. Women were shown to have the same workaholic tendencies but they did not manifest themselves into additional hours. In the context of societal expectations, this finding made sense as women are traditionally unable to stay later due to their obligation to their children which leads to an attempt to get more done in less time (i.e. multi-tasking).
As the number of workaholism studies grows, this study offers an opportunity to assess the quality and validity of accompanying measurement tools. Ultimately, with studies like this one and those that follow after comes a more complete picture of how workaholism can be represented and understood.