Professional women’s dilemma between work and family

Article title: Professional women’s dilemma between work and family: an examination of the ADVANCE program

From Gender Technology and Development

While women have made progress in recent years, the proportion of women receiving degrees in the sciences and engineering in the United States has historically lagged behind other industrialized countries (National Science Foundation, 2011). The underrepresentation of women in STEM fields has serious implications for women’s educational attainment and career opportunities; in turn, STEM disparities are argued to be contributing to occupational segregation and earnings inequality by gender (Ceci et al., 2009; Wang et al., 2013).

The article discusses about the National Science Foundation (NSF) initiated program, ADVANCE, which focuses on institutional rather than individual solutions to empower women to participate fully in science and technology. ADVANCE is the endeavor that tries to increase women’s representation within educational institutions, particularly for women in STEM fields. The purpose of this article is twofold: first, it illustrates women’s—in particular, professional women’s—difficulties in balancing work and family and the consequences that follow from women’s underrepresentation in academic STEM disciplines. Second, examines the intentions and implementation of this program and its consequences in professional women’s lives, especially their opportunities for promotions.


This study explores the underrepresentation of female professionals, especially in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and the efforts of one program, the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program, to ameliorate this situation. We chose female faculty members in universities as a research topic for several reasons. First, as a career, being an academic professional is seen as a “good” job not only because of its high earnings but also because of the prestige attached to it. Second, like other prominent occupations, working in a university is a time-consuming job. Moreover, junior faculty members need to devote significant time to build up their career and reputation. Third, unlike many other professions, being a member of an academic faculty affords flexibility in arranging one’s time and schedule. However, this flexibility does not guarantee that female faculty members face fewer work–family conflicts, nor does it necessarily improve their chances of gaining upward mobility. In order to deal with the prevalent situation of female professionals’ underrepresentation, the National Science Foundation is promoting the “ADVANCE program” to improve the status of women in academe. In this article, we use Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) as case studies to examine the results and implications of the program’s implementation. Our findings suggest that although female faculty members in both schools benefit from the “ADVANCE Program,” these policies and practices are still not sufficient to fundamentally change women’s underrepresentation in STEM fields because the issues are rooted in the characteristics of these disciplines and institutions.

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Article details

Yun Ling Li and Anthony A. Peguero
Professional Women’s Dilemma between Work and Family: An Examination of the ADVANCE Program
Gender, Technology and Development July 2015 19: 119-144, doi:10.1177/0971852415578038



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