Streaming Media

Abstract

Scholars and non-academicians consider popular key advantages to be flexibility in career trajectories as well as autonomy and control over one’s schedule and the work that one chooses to do (e.g., Buzzanell & Lucas, 2006, 2013). Although academic careers seem to offer these benefits, there are questions about whether and how such flexibility actually occurs, particularly in times of pregnancy/adoption, family leave, and work-life “balance” (e.g., Stone, 2008). Implicit in academic flexibility is that graduate student careers might evidence some of the same flexibility but within institutional structures that can range from lockstep to a build-you-own-plan and timetable model. In graduate school, concerns about parenthood, career, and policy use were not considered as relevant or important as those of faculty. It was assumed that students were invested in their degree programs and willing to forego “balance” for the goal. This presentation discusses findings from graduate student interview data gathered during the last year at a major Midwestern U.S. research intensive university. We chart the landscape with overt findings which differentiate challenges faced by female and male graduate students and by those seeking degrees in STEM and other disciplines. We then provide a glimpse of what might lie underneath these descriptions— gendered scaffolding for the construction of graduate students and their reported experiences. We draw upon research on work-life communication, power and status, paradoxes, and policy use. Theoretical and practical implications, particularly those regarding communication and work-life policy, conclude this presentation.

Keywords

academic career, graduate students, pregnancy, family leave, gender

 

Navigating pregnancy and parenthood: Work-family considerations for men and women graduate students in STEM and other disciplines

Scholars and non-academicians consider popular key advantages to be flexibility in career trajectories as well as autonomy and control over one’s schedule and the work that one chooses to do (e.g., Buzzanell & Lucas, 2006, 2013). Although academic careers seem to offer these benefits, there are questions about whether and how such flexibility actually occurs, particularly in times of pregnancy/adoption, family leave, and work-life “balance” (e.g., Stone, 2008). Implicit in academic flexibility is that graduate student careers might evidence some of the same flexibility but within institutional structures that can range from lockstep to a build-you-own-plan and timetable model. In graduate school, concerns about parenthood, career, and policy use were not considered as relevant or important as those of faculty. It was assumed that students were invested in their degree programs and willing to forego “balance” for the goal. This presentation discusses findings from graduate student interview data gathered during the last year at a major Midwestern U.S. research intensive university. We chart the landscape with overt findings which differentiate challenges faced by female and male graduate students and by those seeking degrees in STEM and other disciplines. We then provide a glimpse of what might lie underneath these descriptions— gendered scaffolding for the construction of graduate students and their reported experiences. We draw upon research on work-life communication, power and status, paradoxes, and policy use. Theoretical and practical implications, particularly those regarding communication and work-life policy, conclude this presentation.