Academic journal article Community College Review

Faculty Life at Community Colleges: The Perspective of Women with Children

Academic journal article Community College Review

Faculty Life at Community Colleges: The Perspective of Women with Children

Article excerpt

This article explores the dynamics of how female faculty members at 2-year colleges balance the demands of their faculty jobs with motherhood. Results suggest that the community college appears to be a place that offers women the opportunity to balance their interests in teaching at the postsecondary level with the demands of having a family. This is not to say, however, that academic life at the community college is devoid of challenges for women faculty with young children. Some of these challenges include not having enough time, feeling guilty about not being able to give 100% to all of one's roles, concerns about tenure, inequity at work, and inequity at home.

Keywords: faculty; work; family

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The public sphere of work and the private sphere of home and family have historically encountered little overlap. In particular, for women, having a child meant removing oneself from the world of work. In some instances this separation resulted from social norms that viewed work and family as incompatible for women, but in other cases the separation was also a function of policy in which women were forced to leave the workforce once they were visibly pregnant. Clearly, the message to women was that to have a child was to be based at home (Williams, 1999). However, social norms and the law have both shifted, yielding a steady increase in the number of women in the workforce who have children. In 1975, 39% of mothers with children younger than age 6 were in the workforce; by 2004, this number had increased to 58% (U.S. Department of Labor, 2005). How do these trends translate to women in the academic labor force? The most recent data analyzed by gender and available from the 1999 National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty show that, whereas 60% of male faculty members have at least one child, only 43% of female faculty members have any children. This research shows that female professors are more likely than male professors are to forgo marriage and children and that those female faculty who do attempt to "have it all" pay a price in terms of their success in the field (as measured by productivity, rank, tenure status, and institutional prestige; Leslie, 2006; Mason & Goulden, 2002). Studies comparing female faculty to women in other professions (i.e., medicine and law) show that female faculty are less likely to have children than are women in these professions (Baker, 2002; Cooney & Uhlenberg, 1989). The above research does not conclusively answer whether the comparative lack of female faculty with children results from institutional expectations and environment or whether it is a personal choice of those who enter the academic career.

Research on faculty at 4-year institutions suggests that there are significant institutional barriers to female faculty with children, but when institutions are responsive, women with children are recruited and retained (Mason & Goulden, 2002, 2004; Ward & Wolf-Wendel, 2004). As compared to other institutional types, faculty demographics and the missions of community colleges make the community college sector potentially more receptive to female faculty with children. First, 49% of the full-time faculty members at community colleges are women (Almanac, 2005). Second, teaching is the main focus of community colleges (an aspect of faculty life with which women are associated), and research and publications are not a condition of continued employment (an aspect of faculty life that has been a greater concern for women than men) (Leslie, 2006; Mason & Goulden, 2002; Perna, 2001). The purpose of this article is to explore the dynamics of how female faculty members at 2-year colleges balance the demands of their faculty jobs with motherhood. This study contributes to the knowledge base about academic life at community colleges. In addition, the results of this study provide guidance to probationary faculty at community colleges who are trying to balance both work and family. …

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