Phd Candidate
Utrecht University

Three PhD candidates will be embedded in Dr. Mara Yerkes’ European Research Council (ERC)-Consolidator project CAPABLE, which investigates the role of national and local policies across Europe in shaping men and women’s real opportunities for work-life balance.

Any inquiries about the position or the project may be addressed to the principal investigator: Dr. Mara Yerkes (

The CAPABLE project

Significant work-family policy advancements designed to help men and women more equally combine employment with other spheres of life have been made in recent decades, yet gender inequality persists. Improving gender equality in work-life balance is therefore high on policy agendas throughout Europe. Decades of research in this area have produced key insights but work-family theories fail to sufficiently explain the tenacity of this inequality. To understand why these inequalities have not been overcome necessitates a multi-dimensional approach that captures differences in capabilities – what individuals are effectively able to achieve – and how they are embedded in diverse community and social contexts.

This large-scale research project (CAPABLE) will develop andapply complex models derived from Sen’s (1992) capability approach to generate fundamentally new knowledge on how work-life balance policies impact an individual’s capability to achieve work-life balance in Europe by incorporating the understudied dimension of community. Integrating locality, local relationships and local policies offers new ways of theorising work-family issues, such as gender inequality. The CAPABLE project does this by shifting the focus from outcomes – like gender (in)equality in paid work, or work-family conflict – towards processes that lead to these outcomes.

The central question in this project is: To what extent do work-life balance policies enhance men and women’s capabilities to achieve work-life balance? CAPABLE will progress scientific and policy frontiers using innovative, mixed-methods approaches at multiple policy levels to analyse: 1. the availability, accessibility and design of work-family policies; 2. what these policies mean for men and women’s capabilities to achieve work-life balance given their embeddedness in individual, community and social contexts; 3. whether work-life policies enhance individual wellbeing; and 4. what policy tools are needed for developing sustainable work-life balance policies that enhance gender equal work-life capabilities.

This research project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The principal investigator is Associate Professor Dr. Mara A. Yerkes. The research team consists of the principal investigator, a postdoctoral researcher, 3 PhD candidates, and support staff.