The perceptions of women community college presidents on the impact of children on their career decisions

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Persyn, Mary Lynn

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An unwritten rule in academe is that women, who can manage it, give birth between May and August. The timing of childbirth is one of the many barriers women face on the path to a community college presidency, but none are as complicated as balancing family and work issues. Women must factor the needs of her children when making career decisions. Balancing motherhood, family, and academic obligations complicates the pursuit of a presidency because society still expects women to care for her children and balance a professional career. This mixed methods study investigated the work/family balance that women community college presidents must attain during their career using a literature review, online survey, and individual interviews. Phase one was a confidential on-line survey of 275 women community college presidents to develop a profile of women community vii college presidents. Phase Two was individual interviews with 16 women community college presidents from eight states in the United States. Interviews were conducted either face to face or by telephone and were captured by an audio recording. The result of the study was while there are the tangible dimensions of self, career, and children; there is also an overarching dimension that interacts with and drives the others. This additional dimension is the individual woman’s spirituality, values, ethics and integrity. “Doing the Right Thing” is an intangible concept that encompasses ethical grounding, sense of duty to all the stake holders that lay claim to the president, e.g., as the community, college, students, faculty and staff, their children, spouses/significant and others. While all the women presidents utilize the Doing the Right Thing dimension, some women have clearer core values than others, therefore for some women the ability to make ‘good decisions’ is easier than for others. There are two important questions that women presidents must answer when trying to do “The Right Thing”: What makes a good decision? What defines doing the right thing?