Balancing Life and Work Responsibilities: The Advantages of Teaching at Community Colleges and Other 2-Year Colleges

Article excerpt

The struggle female faculty members face to balance both professional and personal responsibilities is well documented in higher-education literature. However, one type of higher-education institution, the community college, may make balancing both life and work responsibilities a little easier for many female faculty members. The lack of pressure to publish, as well as a fairly predictable work schedule, results in a reasonably family-friendly career. In addition, many female faculty members are suited for employment at community colleges due to their level of education and are attracted to the community college's focus on teaching, mission, and varied opportunities for leadership.

Introduction

Women are working outside the home in larger numbers than ever before (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 1 1) . Although research has shown that, for the most part, women who work outside the home are both healthier and happier than women who do not (Halpern & Cheung, 2008), higher- education literature has documented a history of female faculty members and their struggle to balance both work and life responsibilities (Armenti, 2004; Cook, 2011). After studying 22,562 full-time faculty members from 372 U.S. colleges and universities, DeAngelo, Hurtado, Pryor, Kelly, and Santos (2009) concluded that only 27.3% of female respondents believed they had found a healthy balance between their personal lives and their professional lives, while 38,7% of their male colleagues reported that they had successfully found a balance. Although female faculty members working at community or 2-year colleges are not totally immune to the pressures perceived by their colleagues in 4-year colleges and universities, for the most part they seem to maintain a balance between their professional and personal lives better than female faculty members at other types of institutions (Wolf-Wendel, Ward, & Trombley, 2007).

Full-Time Female Faculty Members and Community Colleges

According to West and Curtís (2006), the percentages of full-time female faculty members by institutional type in 2005-2006 included 50.8% at associate institutions, 41,9% at baccalaureate institutions, 42.3% at masters institutions, and 34.1% at doctoral institutions. A more recent study published by the U.S. Department of Educations National Center for Education Statistics (2009) confirmed West and Curtiss (2006) findings, revealing that 54,2% of the full-time faculty members at public 2-year institutions were female, while only 40,5% of the full-time faculty members at public 4-year institutions were female. More females are employed at 2-year institutions than at 4-year institutions.

In addition to having the highest percentage of full-time female faculty members employed, associate institutions also have the highest percentage of female faculty members tenured. According to West and Curtís (2006), the percentages of female faculty members tenured by institutional type in 2005-2006 included 47,4% at associate institutions, 36,1% at baccalaureate institutions, 35,0% at masters institutions, and 25,8% at doctoral institutions.

Many possible explanations exist for this trend. One is that women have traditionally outnumbered men in earning master's degrees, while men have outnumbered women in earning doctorates (Council of Graduate Schools, 2010), Because community colleges usually require a minimum of a master's degree for employment (Cohen & Brawer, 2008), women are more likely to be hired at community colleges than at universities and other 4-year institutions, which traditionally require doctorates. Another possible explanation, however, is that some women are attracted to community colleges and other 2-year institutions because they are more female friendly.

Why Do Women Choose to Teach at Community Colleges?

Although teaching has traditionally been a profession dominated by women, equality in college and university teaching, particularly at master's and doctoral institutions, has come more slowly (Touchton, 2008), Researchers (Wolf-Wendel & Ward, 2006) have shown, however, that when compared to other institutional types, the community college, as a whole, has been more conducive to the maintenance of a work-life balance for female faculty members. …

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