Work-Family Balance in Academia: Hearing Women's Priorities

16 Apr 2018

Regina Guzmán Montiel, originally from Mexico City, came to Pamplona to study the Master’s in Social Science Research (MICS, in its Spanish acronym), supported by a grant issued by the Social Trends Institute. It is her first venture into the world of research, an experience she recounts below.

How did you hear about the STI grant for the MICS program?

A professor I met at the Universidad Panamericana, where I work in Mexico, has been my mentor in preparing to become an investigator. He told me about this relatively new Master's Degree program at the University of Navarra supported (through funding offered to students) by the Social Trends Institute. Among the multiple lines of research that STI develops, there is one that links with my area of interest: the family.

How has your experience been at MICS?

It has been very enriching because it has exceeded my expectations. The program is structured to allow students a strong theoretical study load, of a sociological nature, applied through the different methodologies that are taught in subjects like statistical methods, fundamentals and practice of qualitative methodology, and multivariable analysis. Further, because different concentrations are offered (I chose Education and Psychology), you can put into practice from a specific perspective the theoretical and methodological knowledge that you have acquired. The Final Master's Project (FMP) requires linking together everything learned over these months. Studying for the master's degree, which would not have been possible without STI’s support, has allowed me to begin to outline my doctoral research project.

Tell us about your Final Master’s Project

I chose to research Conciliation between the Academy and the Family. It is a variant of the conciliation that is made in the highly-studied binomial of work and family, but there is comparatively less literature on it. Further, it is a subject that interests me personally, since it is a reality that I will someday face, and I want to arrive as well prepared as possible. Of course, the hope is to benefit not only myself but also the many academics who have faced and are still facing this task every day. I would like for them to feel supported and above all, heard, because I consider that “not being heard” is precisely the origin of all the problems that exist in reconciling the family with academia.

In what way are Academics are not heard?

The peculiarity of my FMP is that the problem of conciliation is studied from a focus on priorities, which goes beyond an institutional or social approach. I consider, according to the work of sociologist Catherine Hakim, that today, unlike in the past, most women no longer find personal fulfillment solely in forming a family, but rather also in developing a professional career.

How does this work relate to the doctoral project you mentioned?

This project has meant a social change of great dimensions, since it suggests that certain social assumptions, implicit in society, need to be modified so that the ability of women to assume multiple roles can be recognized. The family (in this case, the spouse), institutions and society must listen to women, to come to terms with the different objectives that have been stated and that are structured in different legitimate priorities.

The FMP is the starting point for a broader research project aimed at deciphering the "winning formula" that some women - recognized academics, as well as mothers and wives - have put into practice. How have they managed to dedicate themselves to each of the roles that are part of their life project? In this investigation, sections that have to do with the identity of these women, as well as the relationships they establish with their environment, will be developed.

What motivates these research projects?

I believe that the society in which we live has allowed economic relations to govern even social relations, with the ultimate objective of taking some profit from them. Because of that, all the research projects in which I get involved will be motivated by a deep desire to humanize society and its prevailing economic relations.

How is this specifically reflected in the topic you chose for your FMP?

In the recognition of the life project that women set for themselves, which requires that the aspects that are important to constitute their personal fulfillment are valued. In this way, they cannot be considered to be "instruments" that perform professional or family tasks without a common thread running through each. In other words, to recognize the legitimate aspirations of women, which are reflected in a rich life project, we must observe these aspirations along with those that institutions and society have, in order to reach an agreement on how to fulfil them all. It would be utopian to suppose that all of them can be carried out, so it is therefore extremely important to study what women’s priorities are, in order to be able to make decisions together.