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Title of dissertation: “LIFE AS A GYROSCOPE”:





Brooke Lecky Supple, Doctor of Philosophy, 2007 Dissertation directed by: Professor Susan R. Komives Department of Counseling and Personnel Services Women in today’s society have multiple roles, multiple identities, and multiple challenges – as married women or life partners, as daughters, as sisters, as mothers, as members of communities, and as women in the workforce, among others. In particular, the dual roles of mother and worker can conflict and present challenges for women who want to have both a career and a family. Women working in higher education administration are no exception.

The purpose of this study was to understand the development of a dual-focused outlook by women with children working in the upper levels of higher education administration. By studying the work/life issues and experiences of a small sample of women who are identified as dual-focused, I expected to learn how these higher education administrators managed two significant roles - that of worker and mother - and how these women were able to achieve and maintain a dual-focused orientation.

However, what I found was that these women are dual-focused in that they value both motherhood and work, but also that they have extremely strong and well-developed selfconcepts.

This study utilized grounded theory methods to understand the development and maintenance of a dual-focused outlook in 12 mid- to upper-level mothers in higher education administration at a large research I institution. By conducting three individual interviews with each participant and one group interview session, I was able to develop a grounded theory and model for full-time working mothers in higher education administration developing and maintaining a fulfilling, balanced life.

Using grounded theory methods, one core category and five key categories emerged. The core category was developing and maintaining a fulfilling, balanced life.

The key categories were: valuing self, valuing work, valuing motherhood, negotiating a balanced life, and setting the context. The five key categories overlapped to form the core category. In order to have successful work and family lives, the women in this study were found to place a high value on self, a high value on work, a high value on motherhood, and to rely on support and tools to negotiate a balanced life.





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Advisory Committee:

Associate Professor Susan R. Komives, Chair Associate Professor Sharon L. Fries-Britt Associate Professor Susan R. Jones Affiliate Assistant Professor Marcy F. Marinelli Affiliate Assistant Professor Richard P. Stimpson ©Copyright by Brooke Lecky Supple


This work is dedicated to four extraordinary people in my life.

To Stirling Supple, my vivacious, phenomenal four-year-old daughter.

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To Bill and Paula Lecky, my wonderful, supportive parents.

Throughout this process, I have grown to appreciate even more the instrumental roles each of you has played in my life. Thank you.

–  –  –

It has been a long and winding journey that has led me to this place. I could not have persevered and maintained my own equilibrium without the support, love and assistance of friends, colleagues and family. For each of you and the role you played in this process, and in my life, I am profoundly grateful.

For the women in this study – Candace, Jenna, Michelle, Nadine, Renée, Siggy, Suzanne, Tara, Toya, Trece, Trixie and Zoe – thank you for sharing the most intimate details of your lives with me. Thank you for your honesty, your laughter, your tears, your joy and your brilliance. Your commitment allowed us to create this work together, and hopefully to make things easier for the women who will follow in your footsteps.

Dr. Susan Komives, my advisor and dissertation chair, lifted me up when I was not sure I would or could ever get to the finish line. Thank you for supporting me, for challenging me, for teaching me, but most of all, for believing in me. I honestly could not have done it without you.

My dissertation committee – Dr. Susan Jones, Dr. Sharon Fries-Britt, Dr. Marcy Marinelli, and Dr. Richard Stimpson – challenged me to make this process meaningful for all of us. Because of your support, your challenges, your involvement and your patience – together we have created an important piece of work. For that, I thank you.

I could not have finished this journey without my dissertation support group – Andrea Goodwin, Julie Owen and Jennifer Pigza. This shared experience has made us lifelong friends and together we share a bond that cannot be broken. We have shared an experience that will forever shape who we are and who we will become. I am glad to have traveled down this winding road together; I could not have done it alone.

Thank you to my research team – my peer debriefer, Tracy Kiras, and my inquiry auditor, Dr. Scott Brown. Your involvement, curiosity, commitment, and time have made this a more enjoyable process and a much better product. Your questions and comments challenged me to question my data and to be true to the words of my participants.

I would not be who I am or where I am today without my involvement in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. The support I have received from my colleagues and supervisors over the past 11 years has been unconditional and unwavering. Whether listening to renditions of my emerging model or typing and proofreading, my colleagues were always there to provide valuable input and essential assistance along the way. In particular, Jillian Martin and Pat Schaecher typed, edited, proofed, spellchecked, grammar checked and provided administrative support and endless positive encouragement along the way. And, finally, I would not be here without my supervisor, role model and mentor, Dr. Linda Clement, whose support went above and beyond anything I could have ever dreamed. I am forever in her debt for giving me so many degrees of freedom to finish this process.

There are dozens of other friends, colleagues, faculty and family who played an important role in this process. I could not possibly name every person on these two pages, so please know I am so appreciative of each one of you, your support, and encouragement.

And finally, I am so grateful for the endless support of my family. You all gave me the solid foundation of love and support to grow and challenge myself to be the best I iii can be. To my dad, Bill Lecky, for teaching me the value of balancing home and work and for showing me what it means to be a true professional and a committed parent. To my mom, Paula Lecky, for making motherhood appear easy and for showing me how to love children in ways that make us feel like anything is possible. To my brother, Eric Lecky – I am thankful for providing his technical and graphic expertise, and for offering his love and support throughout my life as I strived for each new goal.

To my daughter, Stirling Supple, who delights and surprises me everyday and makes me want to be the best mother I can be. I did not think it was possible to love one person so much. I hope work like this will make life better for women and mothers in your generation and the generations that follow. Without you, I would never have understood the importance of this research.

And above all, to my partner, husband and love of my life, Matthew Supple - I could not have finished this 10 year journey without you by my side. I could not have created this research, completed this process, or managed to develop and maintain my own fulfilling, balanced life as a full-time working mother without your love and support.

Everyday, you make me want to be a better person and you believe I can do things I never even imagined. Without your love and support, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today.

iv Table of Contents

List of Tables

List of Figures


Historical Context

Women in Higher Education Administration

Dual-focused Outlook

Purpose and Significance of Study

Methodology: Assumptions of Grounded Theory

Overview of the Study


Roles and Role Identification

A Psychological Perspective: Multiple-Identities of Women

A Vocational Perspective: Career Psychology of Women

A Sociological Perspective: The Development of Multiple Roles

“Dual-centric” Perspectives

A Perspective on Work/Family Issues

Negative Outcomes

Spillover Effects – Positive and Negative Outcomes

Positive Outcomes

Dual Career Issues

Structures That May Influence Work/Family Roles

Work and Family Issues for Women in Colleges and Universities

Work and Family Issues for Women in Higher Education Administration.................. 49 Work and Family Issues among Female College and University Faculty................ 54 Conclusion

CHAPTER 3 – RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND STUDY DESIGN............... 60 Rationale for Qualitative Methods

Rationale for Grounded Theory


Participant Selection

Data Collection


Pilot Testing

Document Review

Data Analysis

Open Coding

Axial Coding

Selective Coding

Methodological Issues

Access Issues

Political Issues

v Ethical Issues

Role of the Researcher




Participant Profiles













Development of the Grounded Theory

Core Category: Developing and Maintaining a Fulfilling, Balanced Life for Full-Time Working Mothers in Higher Education Administration

1. Finding Balance

2. Coping with Life

3. Setting Boundaries and Having Spillover

4. Facing Challenges

5. Making Compromises

6. Dealing with Conflict

Valuing Self

1. Managing Emotions

2. Matching Personality with Lifestyle

3. Understanding the Impact of Other Aspects of Identity

Race and Ethnicity


Socio-Economic Status

Sexual Orientation

Gender Roles

Valuing Work

1. Understanding the Impact of and on Work

2. Being Supervised

3. Mentoring

Valuing Motherhood

1. Having Children

2. Arranging Care

3. Being Involved with Children

Overlapping Categories

vi Valuing Self and Work

Managing Expectations

Choosing and Committing to a Career Field

Valuing Work and Motherhood

1. Identifying the Impact of Work on Motherhood

2. Identifying the Impact of Motherhood on Work

3. Setting Career Goals

Valuing Motherhood and Self

Identifying Family Background

Finding a Life Partner

Negotiating a Balanced Life

1. Surrounding Oneself with Supports

2. Managing the Logistics

3. Utilizing Technology

Setting the Context



A Grounded Theory for Full-Time Working Mothers in Higher Education Administration Developing and Maintaining a Fulfilling Balanced Life



Discussion of Theory in Relation to Research Questions

Relationship of Emerging Theory to Existing Literature

Valuing Self

Psychosocial Development


Valuing Work

Valuing Motherhood

Attachment Theory

Negotiating a Balanced Life

Time Diary Research

Developing and Maintaining a Fulfilling, Balanced Life

Multiple Dimensions of Identity


Implications for Practice

Implications for Theory

Implications for Future Research

Strengths and Limitations of the Study

Strengths of the Study

Limitations of the Study


APPENDIX A - Letter to Nominators

APPENDIX B - Letter to Potential Participants and Screening Information................. 226 APPENDIX C - Consent Form

vii APPENDIX D - Protocols for Interviews One, Two and Three

APPENDIX E - Group Interview Protocol

APPENDIX F - Categories Generated in Axial Coding Process

APPENDIX G - Letter from Inquiry Auditor


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Figure 1. A Grounded Theory Model for Full-Time Working Mothers in Higher Education Administration Developing and Maintaining a Fulfilling, Balanced Life……95 Figure 2.

A Grounded Theory Model for Full-Time Working Mothers in Higher Education Administration Developing and Maintaining a Fulfilling, Balanced Life (expanded)………………………………………………………………………………190

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