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Having It All: Women, Work, Family, and the Academic Career
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Having It All:
Women, Work, Family, and the Academic Career
D. Lynn O’Brien Hallstein and Andrea O’Reilly, eds., Academic Motherhood in a Post-Second Wave Context: Challenges, Strategies, and Possibilities (Bradford, ON: Demeter Press, 2012)
Maureen Baker, Academic Careers and the Gender Gap (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2012)

The gender gap in academic careers at colleges and universities has been persistent and resistant to change. While women have made significant progress as incoming faculty, their ascent in the academic hierarchy, their quest for pay equity, and their move into senior academic and administrative positions has been slow. To be certain, there has been ongoing attention to, and improvement of progress for, women in the workplace in all sectors and at all levels, yet challenges remain and they have been stubborn. The integration of faculty work and family life, particularly for female faculty in postsecondary institutions, has been and remains a major focus of faculty members, academic researchers, administrators, and institutions and plays a significant role for increased representation and equity for female faculty.

The challenges facing women who yearn for an academic career, particularly a tenure-track one, can be associated with melding family and career. On the basis of insights from qualitative and quantitative research, it is clear that academic mothers face challenges at home and in the workplace when it comes to achieving greater parity and representation. Although faculty positions are flexible and enjoy great autonomy, tenure-track positions are time-consuming and can be difficult to manage. Structural impediments, workplace norms, and gender stereotypes can make the path for female faculty additionally [End Page 255] challenging. Women with children, in particular, can find traditional paths to academic success difficult to navigate.

Recent years have seen a significant research focus on work and family in the academic context as well as gender and academic careers. The topics range from pipeline perspectives,1 academic mothers,2 academic fathers,3 and policy environments4 to name a few. There have also been compendiums of personal narratives that address different aspects of motherhood,5 fatherhood,6 and motherhood7 in various disciplines. Alongside these works stand the books that are the focus of this review essay, the edited volume by D. Lynn O’Brien Hallstein and Andrea O’Reilly, Academic Motherhood in a Post-Second Wave Context: Challenges, Strategies, and Possibilities, and Maureen Baker’s Academic Careers and the Gender Gap. The former is focused on work and family issues while the latter addresses academic careers in general. A well-rounded conversation about work, family, and academic careers needs to consider individual, institutional, and societal perspectives. Reading these books in tandem provides a holistic and grounded perspective about the many facets that shape academic careers. The intent of this review is to use the information and insights from the books to highlight key issues related to work, family, and academic careers.

Academic Careers and the Gender Gap investigates different aspects of the academic gender gap – the difference between men and women as faculty. The book provides the necessary information to situate the gender gap over time, in different disciplinary contexts, in comparison to other careers, and in different countries. While not comparative in nature, it does draw on literature from liberal states (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States) as a way to frame academic issues and to show persistence of the issues across contexts. Such a view points to the structural elements of colleges [End Page 256] and university that are common in the liberal states. Researchers of academic careers are sure to benefit from the literature review alone as it is comprehensive and enhances the academic careers discourse with new information and broadened perspectives. As well, Baker uses the data from studies of Canada in 1973 and New Zealand in 2008 to provide examples and to show change (or lack thereof) over time. The theoretical grounding is derived from feminist political economy, social capital theory, and interpretive frameworks. The strength of the book derives from these different approaches and sources – a comprehensive literature review, unique theoretical grounding, data from two studies twenty-five years separated, and Baker’s...