Academic journal article Advancing Women in Leadership

Queen Bees and Mommy Tracking: How's an Academic Woman Supposed to Get Ahead?

Academic journal article Advancing Women in Leadership

Queen Bees and Mommy Tracking: How's an Academic Woman Supposed to Get Ahead?

Article excerpt

Key words: Mommy track, queen bees, academe, Canada

Much has been written about the challenges women academics face in meshing work both with their intimate relationships and with the raising and socializing of their children (Altman, 2007; de Wet, Ashley and Kegel, 2002; Jackson, 2004; Leahey, 2007; Philipsen, 2008; Proctor Gerdes 2003; Stout, Staiger and Jennings, 2007; Williams, 2005). Less is understood about the mommy track and the movement of women academics, with or without children, through the system of academe (Cummins, 2005). While patriarchy and the old boys' network are still structural barriers to women's advancement, limited research examines barriers erected by women in positions of power against women who are climbing the ladder towards tenure and promotion. If women hold other women back, or are nasty in their relations with each other, one wonders how the female academic can plan and navigate to get ahead? This paper examines both sides of this issue - both mommy tracking and the queen bee - and analyzes the hampering of women academics both structurally and by the lack of assistance offered by other women.

The concept of mommy tracking was first linked to female lawyers in a New York Times article and identifies "women who choose to put in fewer hours and spend more time with their families ... are considered less serious by their male colleagues" (Williams, 2000, p. 72). I will argue that all academic women whether single and childless, or married with dependents - are less successful in achieving promotion and tenure in the halls of academe because they are perceived to be mommy trackers. The new vocabulary that describes these barriers includes the "sticky floor", the "glass ceiling", the "mommy track", the "second shift" (Buchanan, 1996), and the "glass cliff" (Ryan, Haslam and Postmes, 2007).

Combined with these socio-structural issues facing women is the phenomenon of the "queen bee" - the woman who holds other women back or blocks them on the ladder of success. There is not always a "good old girls network" (Stufftand Coyne, 2009, p.3) that operates to align women with each other and leads them equally into positions of power.

As Williams (2005, p.101) highlights: "the crucial point is that all women, non-mothers as well as mothers, are disadvantaged by a workplace that enshrines the ideal worker who starts to work in early adulthood and works, full time and over time, for forty years straight". That work often parallels compulsory motherwork as part of the structural underpinnings of their work related roles and the societal demands that are placed upon them which disallows them from concentrating on the real needs of their academic profession. In addition to work outside of the home, many women are also providing elder care to an aging parent (Philipsen, 2008) and in doing so they undertake the mental hygiene function, the stroking function, emotion work, doing the intimacy and/or wifework (Maushart, 2001, p. 144) or what is also called doing mom work (Chrisler, Herr & Murstein, 1998, p. 198) both offand on the job. Academic men are assigned to committees that make and implement university policy, or on grievance committees, whereas academic women can be found on committees that deal with students, social issues or with more routine matters (Chrisler et al., 1998; Eagly, Wood and Diekman, 2000).

Institutional housework takes women away from the real work that they need to be doing such as research and writing, and hence lessens their chances of climbing the academic ladder (Kulis and Miller-Loessi, 1992). Some women even suggest that the university is "family unfriendly" (Philipsen, 2008, p. 95). Interestingly, women with children often have 'natural' time barriers that prevent them from staying longer on the job or until meetings are completed as a result of the call away to see to their children (Astin and Davis, 1985). Childless women can thus be called upon to stay longer at work and to finish up the work that needs to be completed. …

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