A divi­sion of the Academy of Man­age­ment has hon­ored Jamie Ladge, assis­tant pro­fessor of man­age­ment and orga­ni­za­tional devel­op­ment at North­eastern University’s Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion, for her research paper on the swirl of expec­ta­tions new mothers face when re-​​entering the workforce.

Ladge’s paper, “Becoming a Working Mother: Iden­tity, Effi­cacy and Re-​​socialization Fol­lowing Re-​​entry,” was selected by the Academy of Management’s Gender and Diver­sity in Orga­ni­za­tion divi­sion as the best paper based on a dis­ser­ta­tion in the division’s area of focus.

First-​​time mothers who return to work full time go through a period of tran­si­tion, said Ladge, and ques­tion how effec­tive they can be as mothers and working pro­fes­sionals. To study what emerges from this self-​​evaluation, Ladge inter­viewed 40 first-​​time mothers upon their re-​​entry into the work­force and ana­lyzed what fac­tors at work shaped their iden­ti­ties as new working mothers.

While women have come a long way in advancing in the cor­po­rate world, having a baby still very much sig­nals to others a poten­tial lack of com­mit­ment and change in work-​​related expec­ta­tions,” said Ladge. “These expec­ta­tions, which are not always overt, can shape how they come to define them­selves as mothers and professionals.”

For example, Ladge said, a mother’s self-​​perceptions can be strongly affected by com­ments from peers about coming back to work full time instead of part time and their obser­va­tions about the dif­fi­culty of leaving a baby at home.

Based on her research, Ladge hopes that addi­tional work can be done that will lead to a better under­standing of women’s career atti­tudes, behav­iors and inten­tions, and how they are affected after they become a mother.

A mother’s re-​​entry into the work force marks the begin­ning of a life-​​long struggle for bal­ance,” said Ladge. “Orga­ni­za­tional leaders have long been chal­lenged with retaining mothers and have cre­ated many pro­grams and ben­e­fits to allow them to manage work and family, but they also need to be cog­nizant of less formal, subtle mes­sages that are sent and the influ­ence they can ulti­mately have on women’s career atti­tudes and behaviors.”

In addi­tion to the Academy of Man­age­ment award, Ladge recently received an Alfred P. Sloan Work Family Career Devel­op­ment grant for 2009–2010, which will enable her to con­tinue and expand upon her research on work and family.