Balance is a central quality-of-life issue for all academics, but it is an especially urgent problem for women because we are still expected to carry the major burden of care work in our society. Many challenges prevent women at all stages of their careers from achieving a satisfactory balance between earning a living and fulfilling other commitments and responsibilities. These challenges include the need to care for self, children, elders, and extended family members, disability and chronic health problems, and burdensome institutional expectations. Women of color often face added difficulties as they are called on not only to do extra committee work and “represent” their institutions in the larger world but also to mentor students of color who may have few role models. Poorly paid and professionally insecure adjuncts, of whom the majority are women, also face special problems. Many women struggle with work/life issues in isolation and attempt to find personal solutions to what are in reality structural problems.
The Status of Women in the Profession Committee (SWP) of the American Academy of Religion has responded to these concerns in a number of ways. We sponsored panels at two different annual meetings. The first session, “Got Life?,” held at the 2005 meeting in Philadelphia, was published in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (vol. 23, no. 2). The second, “Got Life Yet? A Structural Analysis,” which focused on the institutional dimension of the issue of work/life balance, was held in Montreal in 2009 and published in Religious Studies News and posted on our Facebook page. In 2010, we decided that we needed to go further by putting together an on-line survival manual on work/life balance.
In order to jump-start the project while seeking funding for a brainstorming retreat, members of SWP convened several focus groups, locally and at the AAR Annual Meeting. These focus groups generated topics and ideas that were then taken up by a small but diverse group of AAR and SBL members. The women who participated in this brainstorming retreat worked through a variety of potential angles, and these women, in aspiring to craft a plurivocal and multipronged website, decided that such a website could only be accomplished by asking the diverse membership of AAR to contribute varying searchable pieces that could serve as resources to others who share similar, if not the same circumstance. Our ultimate goal is for a navigable and searchable website that supplies a mixtures of stories about, strategies of, policies for, and critical reflections upon the different challenges that face varying individuals as they navigate their jobs, careers, diverse institutions, various “families,” different communities, and their own self-care.
View the Complete Work/Life Balance Project Report (PDF).