Power Women, Edited by Nancy Wang Yuen and Deshonna Collier-Goubil, Foreword by Shirley Hoogstra. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021.
Summary: Fourteen women who are both mothers and academics write about how they navigate these callings as women of faith.
Women in the academic world face a unique challenge. The biological clock and the tenure clock are synchronized. The critical years for child-bearing and for career advancement coincide. One’s faith community and cultural background further complicates this challenge with sometimes conflicting values around parenting and career advancement. Many women choose one over the other. Others, like the women in this volume, believe both callings to be important for them, and write about the ways they have cared for their families and continued to pursue their academic callings. Through all of this runs an underlying theme of continue to nourish their own souls and to practice good self-care.
The contributions are organized into four parts: navigating academia, navigating motherhood, navigating multiple callings, and navigating support. In the first part Maria Su Wang describes how she carves out time for research with young children, sharing some of the scriptural reflections that have shaped her choices. Stephanie Chan offered a unique perspective on the synergy of parenting and work (lullaby and syllabi) and how each may enrich the other. Teri Clemons talks about the misperceptions that exist about maternity leave and its importance, including how much time bonding with a child and recovery can take. She urges women (and men) to avail themselves of all the leave institutional and state policies allow. Yiesha L. Thompson closes out the section discussing the unique situation of adjunct professor moms. the special pressures and choices they must make, and ways administrators may offer appropriate support. .
The second section on navigating motherhood begins by asking just what is meant by being a “good” mother. Christine Lee Kim discusses the mixed messages mothers must negotiate and identifies good questions to identify those messages and describes her own process of working through these. Ji Y. Son identifies the double whammy working moms face of being disadvantaged both at work and home and suggests a recategorization that gives women grace by considering herself a “female dad.” Jean Neely describes her struggle with the imposter syndrome and how thinking of God as loving mother as well as father has transformed her spiritual life and how being a mother has deepened those insights.
Part three could be intimidating in its discussion of navigating multiple callings. Jenny Pak describes the juggling acts of the multiple callings of pastor’s wife, mother, and professor. Jennifer McNutt takes it a step further. She is a pastor, professor and mom of three. Yvana Uranga-Hernandez describes taking on homeschooling as a professor mom. For all, these are only possible as they reflect the singular pursuit of Christ and have the support of spouses, extended family, and the wider community.
That sets up the discussions in part four, navigating support. Deshonna Collier-Goubil speaks of her experience as a young widow of assembling a support network. Joy Qualls describes the choice she and her husband made for her to be the primary breadwinner while he managed the household as a stay-at-home dad. Doretha O’Quinn draws on her mentoring expertise to discuss how professor moms may mentor each other and also gets very practical about her own practices of self-care.
The chapters mix personal narrative and academic research. They are honest and practical. Their experiences demonstrate a variety of ways women have approached navigating the callings of mom and professor. While they are amazing in how much they accomplish, worthy of the “power women” label, their stories also reflect the importance of good institutional policies, including leave and tenure policies that do not disadvantage women, and the value of support from spouses, extended family, and a wider community, and lots of grace! This is a valuable work for men to read, to understand how they may be appropriate allies.
The women in this volume represented significant diversity of ethnicity, academic discipline, and life experience. What is missing are women in STEM fields and more women from secular universities (only one contributor is). That said, there is so much wisdom that may be extrapolated into these situations. I’ve worked with many graduate women who wonder whether it is possible to honor God as they pursue both motherhood and academic callings. These narratives offer a resounding “yes” as well as honest and practical models of how that is possible.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
The ministry with which I serve recently hosted a conversation with four of the contributors to this work that may be viewed on YouTube.