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How Early Career Academic Women Make Decisions Surrounding the Use of Family Formation Policies: A Constructivist Grounded Theory

Jillian N Reading, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This research presents a qualitative, constructivist grounded theory of how academic women make decisions regarding the use (or disuse) of family formation policies that are available to them. This study sought to answer the following two research questions: (1) What is the process by which early-career academic women consider and decide whether to use family formation policies? and (2) What influences the decision-making process of early-career academic women as they consider using family formation policies? Participants included nine academic women in varying disciplines and backgrounds at multiple research one institutions across the United States. Data collection included two semi-structured, in-depth interviews with each participant and an analysis of both publically available and privately held documents provided to the researcher by participants. Using the constant comparison method, a substantive grounded theory of how early career academic women make decisions around family formation policies emerged. The generated theory includes four core steps in the decision-making process and five contextual elements that influence it. Feelings were determined to serve as a bridge between the two core elements. Implications for this theory are an increased understanding of how these critical decisions occur for academic women, departments, and institutions. By more thoroughly understanding the complexities of this process, stakeholders may be able to keep more women in the academic pipeline and avoid the need to engage in costly searches to replace them. Further research should focus on how the decision-process differs for academic women in non-partnered relationships or for those academic women who have chosen not to have children.

Subject Area

Higher education

Recommended Citation

Reading, Jillian N, "How Early Career Academic Women Make Decisions Surrounding the Use of Family Formation Policies: A Constructivist Grounded Theory" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10980324.