The impact of academic discourses, cultural messages and campus policies on women faculty members' career and family decisions: An exploratory analysis of women in the social sciences and humanities

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Weatherburn, Hollie Jade
Ballard-Reisch, Deborah

Since 1982, women have annually attained more bachelor's degrees than men. Since 1987, women have earned more masters' degrees than men, and since 2006, women have earned more doctoral degrees than men. However, males fill more prestigious positions within academia. Contemplating a career as a woman in academia myself, it was important for me to investigate this further. This exploratory qualitative communication study focuses on the impact of cultural discourses and campus policies on tenure and tenure-track women University faculty member's family decisions. Fifteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with women University academics, five from each stage of the academic career trajectory, assistant professor, associate professor and full professor. Discourse theory and grounded theory were used to conduct a thematic analysis identifying cultural discourses in academe impacting organizational culture, factors that facilitate and hinder work-life balance decision-making, and institutional policies around work-life issues. Analysis uncovered two dominant discourses, the traditional and the pro work-life discourse which impact the culture of academic institutions. This study provides insights from women academics who have flourished, strived, and succeeded in their disciplines, but have also had to make difficult decisions that have impacted their journey through academia and their capacity to prioritize and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." Albert Einstein

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Elliott School of Communication