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Faculty parental status: An investigation of network homophily, marginalization, and supportive work-family academic culture

Megumi Watanabe, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Serious incompatibility between work and family life among faculty is well known, and various work-family policies have become available to faculty. Due to the traditional academic work culture (e.g., the ideal worker norms and the individualism norms), however, these policies tend to be underused. Therefore, it is necessary to develop an academic work culture that is more supportive of faculty's work-family needs. Using data collected on tenure-line faculty at a research-intensive Midwestern university, this dissertation pursues three complementary research objectives that provide new insight into the culture of academic work environments. First, based on social identity theory and homophily theory, I assess the presence of parent homophily within departmental friendship networks and explore if it varies by gender. Second, I investigate whether parents, especially mothers, have smaller friendship networks (i.e., hold marginalized network positions) within academic departments compared to non-parents. Finally, I examine how parent homophily and network size predict perceptions of work-family culture in the department. Results show that parent homophily exists in faculty friendship networks, but there is a gender divide. Mothers tend to have friendship connections with other mothers while fathers tend to be friends with other fathers (the tendency is especially strong among mothers). Parental status and gender are not associated with network marginalization. Among faculty parents, however, larger friendship networks are associated with more positive perceptions of work-family culture. Moreover, greater parent homophily is associated with more negative perceptions of supportive work-family culture only for mothers. The findings of this study imply that encouraging non-work related interactions with colleagues (e.g., discuss personal matters, and share free time) might help foster a more work-family supportive work culture in academia. Care must be taken, however, because parent homophily (being primarily friends with other parents) might negatively affect perceptions of work-family culture for faculty mothers.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Occupational psychology|Individual & family studies|Organizational behavior

Recommended Citation

Watanabe, Megumi, "Faculty parental status: An investigation of network homophily, marginalization, and supportive work-family academic culture" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3686956.