Early Career Meets Motherhood

There is an extensive body of literature on ECA experiences of building research profiles, attaining job security, gaining funding and balancing competing workloads (Anderson, Johnson and Saha 2002; Bazeley 2003; Akerlind 2005; Laudel and Glaser 2008). The impacts of neoliberalism are keenly felt, with ECAs being particularly vulnerable to the emphasis on performance measures, research outputs, impact metrics and funding targets. Hey and Bradford (2004) argue that the current higher education structure is dominated by a managerialist-audit perspective that privileges an ideal (masculine) academic subject. Specific studies of women academics demonstrate a gender imbalance in senior and executive roles; a concentration of women at lower levels and in casual and contract positions; and higher teaching workloads, slower career advancement and, on average, lower citation rates and grant funding for women (Aronson and Swanson 1991; Grant and Knowles 2000; Probert 2005; Grant 2006).

There are several experiential collections specifically on academic motherhood—including Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory (2008), Mama PhD (2009), and Mothers in Academia (2013)—and extensive personal accounts from diverse perspectives (Castle and Woloshyn 2003; Mose Brown and Masi De Casanova 2009; Schlehofer 2012). These have removed some, but not all, of the stigma of talking about motherhood in an academic context. The empirical data is more limited (Young and Wright 2001; Fothergill and Feltey 2003). In Acker and Armenti’s (2004: 13) “Sleepless in Academia,” Canadian women academics reveal late night, obstructive institutional practices, and feeling “frenzied, fatigued and malcontent”. Australian academics Klocker and Drozdzewski (2012) ask, “How many papers is a baby worth?” The answer, after some deliberation, is approximately 2.4 depending on previous output. Ward and Wolf- Wendel (2004) sum up the experience of American academic mothers at research-intensive universities with the phrase “dark clouds and silver linings.” They identify four commonalities: (a) joy in professional and personal roles, (b) the “greedy” nature of academic and family life, (c) watching the clock, and (d) having children puts work into perspective (Ward and Wolf-Wendel 2004, p. 241). Much of the literature focuses on the ECA phase, and encompasses discussion of publication outputs; casualisation, tenure and promotion; academic workloads; and underrepresentation of women in permanent positions and at higher levels. While this may read as a list of negative consequences, this chapter shows that the challenges of combining academia and motherhood may actually help rather than hinder creative scholarly work.

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