22 SES 07 B, Gender in Academia
Research has shown the academic workplace, and the need to achieve tenure within the first six years, is designed in ways that work against women (e.g., Halpern, 2008; Park, 1996). For example, factors contributing to difficulties for women in academic settings include networking that excludes women and work-family conflicts (Bassett, 2005; Foster et al., 2000). In addition, despite idealistic expectations (Rice, Sorcinelli, & Austin, 2000), faculty report unbalanced lives and feelings of loneliness, isolation, and rivalry between colleagues (Greene et al., 2008). Novice faculty also report becoming dissatisfied, overworked, stressed, and physically ill (Hellsten, Martin, & McIntyre, 2010; Hellsten, McIntyre, Martin, & Kinzel, 2011), as they attempt to meet the often unwieldy, vague, and increasing tenure and promotion requirements (Schuster & Finklestein, 2006). However, despite a growing body of literature examining the scholarship of researcher development (Evans, 2011), there is little peer reviewed research literature exploring the challenges female academics experience when developing a program of research in today’s academic environment.
Purpose of the Study
Using a resiliency framework, the purpose of this study was to explore what factors helped or hindered the development of our research program, and the continued challenges we face as female tenured faculty in a Canadian Faculty of Education.
Resiliency theory formed the framework for our discussions on the factors that have helped or hindered the development of our research program, and the continued challenges we face as female faculty. Resiliency is defined as the ability to make positive adaptations in spite of serious threats or significant adversity to adaptation or development (Masten, 2001). Resilience results from the operation of basic human adaptational systems including attachment, extended families, mastery motivation, and self-regulation (Masten, 2001). Development in the face of adversity is robust when these basic systems are functioning. Conversely, when these systems are weakened, the risk for developing problems is much greater. Using the resiliency framework, we can ask ourselves what factors have helped or hindered the development of our research program (e.g., how were you supported by college/faculty to initiate and focus your research program? what factors have helped/hindered you from engaging in your research endeavours?). Resiliency theory is appropriate to use to frame our discussions since it fits in with the perspective of promoting well-being and considering solutions to adversities rather than focusing on hardships and negative experiences. This framework allowed us to consider strategies we have used, or factors that have supported us, in successfully developing our programs of research.
Results and Discussion
Using autoethnography, we identified five common themes in our narrative: (1) the context and temporal placement of our employment including the subthemes of institutional supports for research and (increasing) workload; (2) the increasing competition for research dollars; (3) individual persistence in seeking research resources; (4) the difficulty in (and importance of) finding reciprocally supportive research partners; and (5) taking advantage of research opportunities.
In reflecting on our research journeys, we noted that many of the changes we, as academics and developing researchers, experienced demonstrated our abilities to make positive adaptations and succeed in spite of adverse circumstances (Masten, 2001). In addition, many of our changes also fit the multidimensional conceptual model of researcher development put forth by Evans (2011). Reflecting on these factors will provide us the opportunity to improve the academic climate for current and future female faculty.
References Bassett, R. H. (Ed.). (2005). Parenting and professing: Balancing family work with an academic career. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77-101. Ellis, C. (1999). Heartful autoethnography. Qualitative Health Researcher, 9(5), 653-667. Evans, L. (2011). The scholarship of researcher development: mapping the terrain and pushing back boundaries, International Journal for Researcher Development, 2 (2), 75 – 98. Foster, S.W., McMurray, J.E., Linzer, M., et al. (2000). Results of a gender-climate and work-environment survey at a Midwestern academic health centre. Academic Medicine, 75, 653-660. London: Sage. Greene, H.C., O' Connor, K.A., Good, A.J., Ledford, C.C., Peel, B.D., & Zhang, G. (2008). Building a support system toward tenure: Challenges and needs of tenure-track faculty in colleges of education. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 16(4), 429-447. Halpern, D.F. (2008). Nurturing careers in psychology: Combining work and family. Educational Psychological Review, 20, 57-64. Hellsten, L.M., Martin, S., & McIntyre, L.J. (2010). Navigating the pot holes and speed bumps: Three female perspectives on tenure. Journal of Educational Thought, 44(1), 99-115. Hellsten, L., McIntyre, L.J., Martin, S., & Kinzel, A. (2011). Women on the academic tenure track: An autoethnographic inquiry. International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education, 2(1), 271-275. Masten, A.S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56, 227-238. Park, S. M. (1996). Research, teaching, and service: Why shouldn’t women’s work count? Journal of Higher Education, 67, 46-84. Rice, R., Sorcinelli, M., & Austin, K. (2000). Heeding New Voices: Academic Careers for a New Generation. American Association for Higher Education, Washington, DC. Schultz, N. (2008). Balancing faculty careers and family work: Tenure-track women’s perceptions of and experiences with work/family issues and their relationships to job satisfaction. Paper presented at the 94th Annual Convention of the NCA, San Diego, CA. Retrieved September 30, 2009 from www.allacademic.com/meta/p259816_index.html Schuster, J., & Finklestein, M. (2006). The American Faculty: The Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.
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