Recruiting research participants

If anyone out there is a working mum soon to change their working pattern, please get in touch if you would consider being interviewed for my PhD research.

I am looking for women who have at least 10 years experience in work, who might be on maternity leave at the moment and who will be returning on a different working pattern (e.g. part-time, flexible) that then were on before. Or you might be a woman who has had some time out and is about to re-enter the workforce and use a flexible work pattern to get you there.

I would be MASSIVELY grateful to you for filling in a short survey so I can understand a bit more about your situation and see whether it is a good fit for my project. You will want to know more about what is involved in my study too,of course so please take a look here for a more detailed description:

Thank you!


Thesis whispering

Last night I read this blog entry on the Thesis Whisperer about why people quit a PhD (clearly I was still feeling a bit tired out by it all….)
It was an interesting read in itself, but what I didn’t expect to find was a possible explanation that could feature in my own thesis.

My research is about the experiences of working mothers who seek to combine paid work with parenting using a flexible pattern of work. Part-time, compressed hours, job-sharing etc.

There is plenty of research that shows that women who work part-time (the most common and the most typically female work-life balance strategy adopted on becoming a parent) has big implications for pay, prospects and promotions over the life course.
And because it is mostly women that do it, the opportunities (or lack of) to progress a career whilst working flexibly make flexible working a gender equalities issue of some considerable scale.

Part of my lit review has been investigating why working mothers quit organisational life. Central debates on that are the extent to which women choose the life they prefer at a given point in time, or whether they are presented with compromised choices because of the structures, resources and cultural assumptions about what they could and should be doing instead of competing with the male ideal and unencumbered workers.

So I return to the point about the link I spotted between my research and what the Thesis Whisperer was reporting about why people quit a PhD….
Pluralistic Ignorance.
Thinking that you are the only one experiencing something, and the problem therefore is you.

So as I understand it in the PhD context, when PhD students are stuck, say, feeling lonely/isolated/over-whelmed/un-motivated…. it is possible to feel like you are the only one going through that experience; that everyone else can manage it. You can’t. The problem is therefore you, and the solution therefore is to remove yourself from all those other super-achievers.

As a working mother of young children who perhaps works for an organisation that is winning awards for its family friendliness, being congratulated in its industry for its efforts to recruit women, celebrated by policy-makers for its equality and efforts to reward women and men fairly, for opening flexible working up to everyone….
… if you are finding the experience of managing work life and family life a bit much, you would be forgiven for thinking that it must be a failing on your part. The rub comes when women don’t talk to other women about these feelings, or anyone for that matter. In these kind of A-type, competitive environments it isn’t that usual for women to open up to other women who are going through the same thing. I have facilitated enough focus group discussions in organisations to see the light-bulbs go on as women listen to other women FINALLY, talking about their experiences and challenges, such as convincing bosses and colleagues that although they work part-time they are committed to their careers and expect fair reward and recognition for their work, and to be able to grab more opportunities if they want them.

The risk for the women who quit is damage to their confidence, self-belief and self-esteem. If they quit thinking that the problem was them, they might not have the confidence to come back again or start something new. They miss out, organisations miss out, WE miss out on more women reaching more visible and influential positions in corporate and public life.

So that is why I am off to the library today. To do a bit more reading about pluralistic ignorance and its potential application in my work. It feels good to be back on track!

3 jobs: Parent, PhD, Worker

I found myself in desperate need of like-minded company yesterday, someone doing the same thing as me in attempting to study, be a parent, work a bit, and figure out what my career should be. I genuinely did feel yesterday that by splitting my energies across three ‘jobs’ student, parent and worker, I might have taken on a bit too much.

It was just a very long day (up at 5.30, travelling for a workshop then back at 8), so I think I was just a bit knackered. On the train home I was googling “mother worker PhD student” in hope of finding encouragement and inspiration, and reassurance … I didn’t find much. It seems that it is quite an unusual life model. Hhhmm.

I did find a couple of Mumsnet threads, and Netmums, and an interesting blog by an academic about doctoral authorship and the different challenges for women. But on the whole, not a great deal out there. So I thought I might try and resurrect this blog, in attempt to share my experience and maybe even draw a few people in who are doing the same thing as me. You never know.

I do really need to write more and keep it up though. Tricky, with 3 jobs…