Athena Swan

Athena Swan promotes and supports the careers of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM), and aims to address gender inequalities and imbalance in these disciplines and, in particular, the under-representation of women in senior roles.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Blog - How women in academe can avoid being pulled in too many directions?

Pulled in too many directions? Conflicting roles may be holding you back. Leslie, a researcher and endocrinologist, was frustrated after losing a weekend morning to painting furniture at her kids’ school. Leslie sighed and told me, as part of my academic career-coaching work, “We really shouldn’t have taken this on. We thought it was something we could all do together, but the kids couldn’t help much, and they ended up playing in the next room while Jeff and I worked. I’m disappointed because we didn’t have much time with the kids this weekend, and with school starting, things will get even more hectic.”
To understand why it is hard for someone like Leslie to say no to volunteering, one needs to consider role conflict. Leslie’s gender socialization told her that as a caring mom, she should be actively involved at her children’s school, but the demands of her academic career left her with limited time. The school’s culture of volunteering created external pressure, but there was internal pressure as well. In the end Leslie realized that although she could not take on big projects or weekly commitments, she could occasionally take off a couple of hours to volunteer in the classroom or watch a performance. This middle ground fulfilled her desire for involvement without causing undo stress.

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