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Academic Motherhood

Academic Motherhood: How Faculty Manage Work and Family

Kelly Ward
Lisa Wolf-Wendel
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 276
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  • Book Info
    Academic Motherhood
    Book Description:

    Academic Motherhoodtells the story of over one hundred women who are both professors and mothers and examines how they navigated their professional lives at different career stages. Kelly Ward and Lisa Wolf-Wendel base their findings on a longitudinal study that asks how women faculty on the tenure track manage work and family in their early careers (pre-tenure) when their children are young (under the age of five), and then again in mid-career (post-tenure) when their children are older. The women studied work in a range of institutional settings-research universities, comprehensive universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges-and in a variety of disciplines, including the sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences.Much of the existing literature on balancing work and family presents a pessimistic view and offers cautionary tales of what to avoid and how to avoid it. In contrast, the goal ofAcademic Motherhoodis to help tenure track faculty and the institutions at which they are employed "make it work." Writing for administrators, prospective and current faculty as well as scholars, Ward and Wolf-Wendel bring an element of hope and optimism to the topic of work and family in academe. They provide insight and policy recommendations that support faculty with children and offer mechanisms for problem-solving at personal, departmental, institutional, and national levels.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5321-4
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Motherhood and an Academic Career: A NEGOTIABLE ROAD
    (pp. 1-12)

    Academic women courageous (or foolish) enough to mention to their colleagues an interest in children and family are often met with a barrage of bad news, the received wisdom of the challenges of a journey fraught with difficulties. The general narrative suggests that both faculty life and parenthood are all consuming and irreconcilable, and that only a fool would attempt to balance a tenure-track academic career with the desire for children and a family life. Any encouragement usually falls in the form of a warning: You can have a faculty career and a family, so long as you time everything...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Origins of the Study
    (pp. 13-27)

    Before providing more detail about our research study and presenting the findings from the interviews, we thought it would be helpful to present more information about our lives as academics and mothers to provide perspective and background information. We have both spent our careers dedicated to informing practice and theory related to faculty careers and also to creating equitable and just environments for women and people from historically underrepresented groups. We also both became tenure-track professors and mothers along the way, leading us to question some of the traditional notions about faculty life. It is with these perspectives that we...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Understanding the Existing Narratives and Counternarratives
    (pp. 28-46)

    There is a “narrative of constraint,” reinforced in the research literature and in academic lore, which suggests that tenure-track faculty life is not compatible with outside pursuits, like motherhood. The label was introduced by KerryAnn O’Meara and her colleagues, Aimee LaPointe Terosky and Anna Neumann (2008), who pointed out that the tone of existing research imposes internal and external constriction, control, and limits on how people view academic work. Although their monograph maintains that there are important experiences that counter the narrative of constraint, when one reads the academic literature on the topic of work and family (in all domains,...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Managing Work and Family in the Early Career
    (pp. 47-62)

    This chapter explores the interface between work and family from the perspective of early-career faculty—women on the tenure track who are also mothers of young children. Specifically, we examine how faculty women negotiate the demands of earning tenure and the demands of motherhood, looking at junior faculty perceptions of work/family conflict and compatibility. We examine these perceptions to provide insight into academic life, in general, and for new faculty members as mothers, in particular. The respondents come from research universities, comprehensive/regional institutions, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges. Institutional type differences are explored in chapter 7; here we focus...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Mid-Career Perspectives on Work and Family
    (pp. 63-87)

    We use Andrea’s experience as a way to represent the overall findings of the mid-career faculty interviews from the second phase of the study. To be sure, not every person we interviewed found the level of equanimity that Andrea expresses, but overall, faculty women in the study, even those who have encountered major difficulties in their careers or personal lives, find that at this stage in their personal and professional lives, with more experience as both professors and parents, they are generally happy and settled in their multiple roles.

    A major impetus for adopting a longitudinal perspective in this project...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Role of Disciplinary and Departmental Contexts
    (pp. 88-109)

    Throughout this book, as throughout the early and mid-career interviews, we were struck by the commonality of experience among the faculty women in the study regardless of where they worked and what discipline they were in. Academic mothers had more in common as a group than they had differences. That said, there are some issues that emerge from the data that require additional consideration and analysis. In particular, we want to address how different disciplines shape the faculty experience for women who are parents.

    Knowing that disciplines are the “lifeblood” of an institution (Clark 1983), when we created the sample...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Institutional Type Differences
    (pp. 110-148)

    Generally speaking, research related to academic life, work, and family has failed to consider organizational perspectives. The vast majority of research on academics and motherhood is based on the experiences of faculty at research universities. But the experience of women faculty who combine work and family is likely to vary according to their work context. The design of this study was thus based on the premise that the type of institutions where faculty members work shapes the experience of academics who are also mothers (cf. Wolf-Wendel & Ward 2006). Accordingly, we included women from different types of institutions, including research universities,...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Social Capital and Dual Careers
    (pp. 149-164)

    As discussed in chapters 6 and 7, the academic profession as experienced by women with children is shaped by the cultures and expectations of particular disciplines and institutions. There is another important layer that shapes how individuals experience their academic positions—that of their marital status and social class. Based on a review of the literature and our own research and experience, we knew that being part of a dual-career couple influences how women pursue their academic jobs and also how they approach having children and family involvement. We also found from our research that the ways women pursue their...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Leaving the Tenure Track
    (pp. 165-178)

    What about people who did not get tenure? What about those who left the tenure track? Did people leave academia all together? Although it is hard to identify the specific number of women who did not get tenure, or who are no longer on the tenure track due to attrition between the early- and mid-career phases of the study, we are able to comment on the experiences of those faculty that we interviewed in the mid-career phase of the study who were no longer on the tenure track, either voluntarily or involuntarily. It is on these women and their experiences...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Policy Perspectives
    (pp. 179-211)

    Sarah’s experience with work and family policy is unfortunately very common among early-career faculty. As new faculty members on the tenure track, assistant professors are reticent to ask for much, and asking for leave seems unduly burdensome for faculty colleagues, especially in small departments when everyone is already working hard. The lore of the tenure track is “full steam ahead” so people, especially when they are early in their careers and uncertain about so many things, are timid and unsure of what accommodation is available and how to ask for it. Department chairs, even well-meaning ones, often wait to be...

  14. CHAPTER 11 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Parting Thoughts
    (pp. 212-246)

    The findings from this project suggest that family plays a role in how people develop in their academic careers, just as careers play a role in how people evolve in their family. The intent of this project, and subsequently this book, is to show that these paths can be integrated in ways that are meaningful and gratifying. There is no need to either work as a tenure-track faculty memberorhave a family, as has often been prescribed for women in the past. In our work, we have found that women can have both work and family, and do so...

    (pp. 247-258)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 259-264)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-266)