Bailey, Krista Jorge (2012-02). Women in Student Affairs: Navigating the Roles of Mother and Administrator. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • The purpose of this study was to understand the experiences of women who have children and work in mid-level student affairs positions. The study of this phenomenon was driven by four problems: (a) women face barriers in rising to upper-level leadership positions, (b) women are more likely than men to leave the field of student affairs, (c) there is a dearth of research related to women who have children and work in student affairs, and (d) the mid level has received inadequate research attention. These issues for women in student affairs called for further examination of career development strategies and work-life balance support and initiatives. Without meaningful support for career development and work-life balance, women professionals may continue to leave the field at a higher rate than men. Within the naturalistic inquiry research paradigm, I adopted a phenomenological approach. Fifteen women at colleges and universities in Texas, who held mid-level student affairs administrator positions and were mothers, were interviewed. Data were analyzed using the content analysis method. The findings indicated that the dual roles of being a mother and an administrator presented challenges and rewards for each participant. The women often experienced overlap or collision between the two roles and the navigation of the role collision prompted the women to develop strategies to address these challenges. The five most common strategies that participants used were (a) building support systems, (b) defining boundaries, (c) managing time efficiently, (d) focusing on family, and (e) taking care of self. An analysis of the women's experiences related led to five major conclusions: (a) mother + administrator = a potentially rewarding challenge, (b) acknowledging role interconnectedness is important, (c) combining the two roles comes at a cost, (d) career path is shaped by dual identifies, and (e) personalized strategies are key to success. Based on the findings, a new conceptual framework was developed to capture the essence of women administrators in student affairs. Implications for human resource development were drawn to address career development and work-life balance issues in the field of student affairs.

publication date

  • February 2012