Book by Maike Ingrid Philipsen
Review by Mandy Anderson
First Year Advising Center
Kent State University
Philipsen’s Challenges of the Faculty Career for Women: Success & Sacrifice is all about finding balance—balance between one’s professional and personal life. She explores how females in the academy may seek to build a life with a partner, possibly raise a family, maintain a home and, if they’re fortunate, have some semblance of a social life. It soon becomes evident, however, that it is not always possible to lead a full life outside of work with a career that requires teaching, publication, and service. Philipsen gives the reader insight into the often tenuous relationship between the private and professional life of female faculty.
The book reads something like a narrative biography; the results produced by Philipsen’s qualitative interview study are presented in chronological order progressing from early, mid, to late career. Issues pertinent to each cohort are raised, and passages from several interviews are included to support central themes. These passages make it clear that very few women are able to strike a healthy balance while employed as faculty members unless she has an enabler who provides additional support. Professional advisors are specifically mentioned as enablers since they can alleviate some of the advising duties of faculty. Even with the additional assistance, women still encounter barriers. Most of these challenges stem from the structure of the academy. Due to specialization and the competitiveness of the job market, new jobs often require cross-country moves which can prove problematic for dual career couples. The tenure process is grueling even in the most ideal circumstances, and women may feel they must choose between research and publication and having a family. In some instances it is possible to pause the tenure clock, but many fear this extra time will lead to increased expectations. Furthermore, many women find that although the situation of their sex has improved overall, there are still subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, differences in the way they are treated in the academy. These are issues women considering obtaining doctorates and possibly hoping to secure faculty positions must address. Unfortunately, it seems that committing to its pursuit will entail a portion of the woman’s life to be given up in order to succeed in the academy under its current structure. It is for this reason that Philipsen concludes by making recommendations for change, namely calling for an extended time frame and less ambiguous requirements for tenure.
The narrative format makes for an easy read that gives great insight into the lives of female faculty. It contains a wealth of references for anyone seeking further information about women in the academy, and qualitative information obtained through survey method is included in one of the appendices. This piece is appropriate for those considering pursing a Ph.D., female professionals seeking guidance on how other women balance work and home life, and those seeking a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of faculty. The information is honest, revealing, and troubling at times. A weakness lies in sections which become bogged down by self-pity and unrealistic demands. Aside from this minor flaw, Philipsen’s work brings to light the reality of life as a female faculty member.
Challenges of the faculty career for women: Success & sacrifice (2008). Book by Maike Ingrid Philipsen. Review by Mandy Anderson. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 368 pp. $40.00. ISBN # 978-0-470-25700-5