The Ideal Worker or the Ideal Father: Organizational Structures and Culture in the Gendered University

Abstract

While literature has focused on the ways in which organizational structures exclude women from the workplace, this article suggests that the inverse is also true: organizational structures and culture prevent men from being involved in the home. Using theories of gendered organizations as a guide, this article draws on interviews with 70 faculty fathers at four research universities to explore the tension that many men feel navigating their responsibilities in the home while simultaneously aiming to fulfill the norms of the ideal worker, which holds that employees are always available to perform work and have few responsibilities in the home. Data suggest that institutions and those within them penalize men who appear too committed to their families. Some participants crafted identities for themselves that separated their roles as professor and father while others struggled to reconcile their two roles. In short, institutional structures and culture play a critical role in shaping faculty identity, both on and off-campus.

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Correspondence to Margaret W. Sallee.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Interview Protocol for Faculty

Experience Questions

  1. 1.

    How did you decide to pursue a career as a faculty member?

  2. 2.

    Please walk me through what a typical day looks like for you, starting from when you wake up in the morning to when you go to bed at night.

  3. 3.

    What are some of the biggest challenges of balancing fatherhood with your academic career?

  4. 4.

    Tell me about a time when your role as professor and parent conflicted.

  5. 5.

    Tell me a little bit about some of the activities you do with your children. (Follow up for those who are married: What types of activities does your wife do with the kids?)

  6. 6.

    How would your life be different if you did not have children?

Departmental Climate Questions

  1. 7.

    How would you describe the departmental climate with respect to parenthood and children?

  2. 8.

    Are mothers and fathers treated differently in the department? (OR: Do you think the challenges of balancing work and family are different for you than for women in the department?)

  3. 9.

    Do you think that the departmental climate is different from that of the institutional climate? If so, in what ways?

  4. 10.

    What (if any) family-friendly policies are available on your campus? Have you or will you utilize these policies? Why or why not?

Wrap-Up Questions

  1. 11.

    How could the university better support you in achieving a work/life balance?

  2. 12.

    Are there any policies that you wish the university would offer for all parents, or specifically for fathers?

  3. 13.

    Is there anything else that you think I should know to better understand your experiences as a professor and a father?

Appendix 2: Interview Protocol for Administrators

  1. 1.

    Describe the evolution of work/life balance policies on this campus. When were they first implemented? How have they morphed into their current state? (Probe: Who played key roles in getting these policies in place?)

  2. 2.

    Tell me about the work/life balance policies that are currently available to tenure-line faculty.

  3. 3.

    Describe the benefits that providing these policies has to individual faculty and to the campus as a whole.

  4. 4.

    Are there any drawbacks to providing these policies?

  5. 5.

    Do faculty tend to use these policies?

  6. 6.

    Are there policies explicitly designed for male faculty use? If so, do male faculty use them?

  7. 7.

    Are there any concerns—either your own or those from the wider campus community—about extending family-friendly benefits to fathers?

  8. 8.

    Are there additional policies that the university is considering offering or that you would like to see the university offer?

  9. 9.

    Is there anything else that you think might be helpful for me to know to understand work/life issues on this campus?

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Sallee, M.W. The Ideal Worker or the Ideal Father: Organizational Structures and Culture in the Gendered University. Res High Educ 53, 782–802 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-012-9256-5

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Keywords

  • Faculty
  • Fatherhood
  • Organizational culture
  • Ideal worker
  • Gender norms