motherscholar: MotherLeader

motherscholar: MotherLeader

Heidi L. Schnackenberg (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7056-1.ch003
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Having children negatively affects women's careers in higher education, and women in the academy are far less likely to marry and/or have children than women in other demanding professions. For those women that do ascend the academic ranks, they are far more likely to be unmarried or divorced, and childless. In fact, in 2015 only 32.4% of women held full professor positions in the academy. Clearly there are barriers in place that discourage/prohibit women both from becoming mothers and from being promoted from associate to full professor. Since attaining the rank of full professor is often a pathway to leadership in the academy, there also exists a problem of under-representation of women in leadership in higher education. In this chapter, the author explores the challenges and considers the possibilities of motherscholars becoming MotherLeaders in higher education.
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What amazing times we live in. It seems like each day we read stories of how women are both oppressed, and rising up, in politics, the entertainment industry, education, and virtually all facets of society. Events over the last year to two years illustrate some of these wildly conflicting examples of both power and repression. A few of them are described here:

In 2005, approximately a decade prior to his announcing his candidacy for president, Donald Trump was recorded making denigrating remarks about women. As he was running for the presidency, The Washington Post played the recording for the entire population of the United States to hear (Farenthold, 2016), yet it didn’t matter because the American people elected Donald Trump anyhow. It’s clear he has utterly no respect for women whatsoever. And he is arguably one of the most important role models for the American citizenry.

On December 12, 2017, a special election was held for the position of United States senator of Alabama. Prior to the election, candidate Roy Moore was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor by at least five women (Martin & Stolberg, 2017). Conversely, in this case, where the offending official had his misconduct publicly aired, the people of Alabama found his behavior utterly unacceptable and elected his rival, Doug Jones, as the next senator of Alabama.

A few months later, on February 21, 2018, representative Megan Jones was photographed bringing her newborn baby to work in the Iowa House of Representatives (Pfannenstiel, 2018). Although Jones wasn’t meaning to make a statement about women, motherhood, work, and leadership (her young daughter is simply too young at the moment to be in daycare) she certainly did.

And perhaps most significantly, on April 9, 2018, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth became the first woman to give birth while in office, and only one of 10 women ever in the history of the United States to give birth while serving in Congress (Wamsley, 2018). While it is heartening that women, and mothers, are holding powerful offices and publicly serving in both their professional and personal roles, it is stunning that these instances are such anomalies that they are national headline news and in Duckworth’s case, historical events.

It’s clear from the examples above that women are both making strides and losing ground, often at the same time, in both the workplace and in society. It is indeed a complex, yet energizing time to be a feminist and work toward equality for women in all facets of American life. Perhaps one of the most difficult places for women to establish themselves (still) on an equal footing is in the workplace. Like many other places of employment, higher education is a challenging place for women to work (Marine & Aleman, 2018). What is particularly disheartening about that is that colleges and universities are meant to be bastions of forward-thinking and pioneers in progressive policies. Unfortunately, this is not the case where woman and the workplace are concerned and women struggle to this day to gain access into many of the masculine strongholds of the academy, most notably, leadership.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Leadership: The position or function of one who guides or directs a group.

Women: More than one adult, female, person.

Change: To make the nature, content, or course of something different from what it is currently.

Challenges: Difficulties in a job or undertaking.

MotherLeader: The interwoven nature of a women, mother, and female guide, director, and/or manager; a powerful and nurturing female; an administrative position higher education.

Higher Education: Education beyond high school, typically provided by colleges, universities, and or professional schools.

Motherscholar: The interconnected, interwoven, seamless nature of a woman as both a mother and a scholar.

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