Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Female Counselor Educators: Encouraging and Discouraging Factors in Academia

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Female Counselor Educators: Encouraging and Discouraging Factors in Academia

Article excerpt

Stressors in the workplace in the 21st century include increased workload, uncertainty, lack of support, and violence (Firth-Cozens, 2000). Historically, academia has not been perceived as stressful due to the freedom and security attributed to the tenure process. However, workplace stress in other occupations is now evident in academia, thereby encouraging a review of occupational satisfaction and stress for faculty members (Firth-Cozens, 2000).

Work provides individuals with social interactions, self-identity, psychological benefits, and economic resources (Herr & Cramer, 1988). Work satisfaction is a strong predictor of longevity as well as overall well-being (Burke & McKeen, 1995). The literature consistently demonstrates how gender influences an individual's experiences of life stressors (Bailey & Wolfe, 1996). There are life stressors that are innately stress producing, and yet other stressors may be appraised as stressful by one group and not the other. Gender, then, becomes a factor that mediates occupational satisfaction and quality of life.

There is a paucity of literature focusing on the experiences of counselor educators in the context of academia because most of the literature examines experiences of faculty in general. The only literature specific to counselor education includes the work of Sorcinelli (1994), who reviewed sources of work stress and satisfaction in relation to counselor educators, and Roland and Fontanesi-Seime (1996), who explored the publication activity of counselor educators. Understanding the occupational satisfaction of counselor educators is pivotal from a wellness perspective because work is a life task requiring the bulk of our energy and resources (Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer, 2000). Furthermore, focusing on understanding the role of occupational satisfaction in the lives of female counselor educators is important in their recruitment and retention as faculty members. This article overviews the unique challenges experienced by women in higher education and provides the first empirical data from a study that asked 115 female counselor educators to rate each of 91 items as to how encouraging or discouraging each item was to them as faculty members.

Female Faculty Members in Higher Education

Female faculty experience some unique challenges that influence their occupational and life satisfaction. West (1995) argued that female faculty are "frozen in time" because the number of full-time faculty in higher education increased only 5% from 1920 to 1995. The minimal increase in numbers, coupled with increased scrutiny on gender representation, has not produced the expected amount of change in the climate of academia. Female faculty continue to be responsible for learning how to engage a culture that has been predominantly male oriented (Ryan, 1993). One study of 400 randomly selected tenure-track faculty (Blix, Cruise, Mitchell, & Blix, 1994) found that 66% of the women reported feeling stress at work at least 50% of the time. The prevalence of occupational stress encourages the exploration of dynamics contributing to stress for female faculty members.

The role of interpersonal relationships may be experienced differently for men and women. Women tend to base their self-esteem and well-being on the quality of their relationships (Josephs, Markus, & Tafarodi, 1992). Job satisfaction of female faculty is strongly connected to social climate and interactions (Robertson & Bean, 1998). The lack of collegial relations experienced by pretenured faculty may be especially relevant for female counselor educators (Boice, 1992; Sorcinelli, 1992, 1994). Alternatively, female faculty may buffer occupational stressors by the relationships they have developed and maintained outside the sphere of work (Barnett & Baruch, 1987; Crose, Nicholas, Gobble, & Frank, 1992). The equivocal findings suggest that multiple roles can enhance life satisfaction as long as role conflict is lessened (Etzion & Bailyn, 1994). …

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