Women at the school gates: a narrative study of the career paths of three women

PhD Thesis

Stead, C. 2020. Women at the school gates: a narrative study of the career paths of three women . PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of teacher education
AuthorsStead, C.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDegree of Doctorate of Philsophy

This interpretive study explores ‘career’, as experienced and narrated by three female participants who combine senior professional roles with motherhood. The theme of the public versus the personal permeates the thesis, through the exploration of the challenges and constraints faced by the women as they seek to balance the competing demands of career and daily life, and through reflexive consideration of the author’s relationships with the women because the participants were drawn from existing friendship groups.

The research is framed within auto/biographical methodology and uses narrative methods to explore the elements that have influenced each woman’s career and the meanings that she attributes to her career story. Materials were gathered through loosely structured interviews and themes were identified and selected via a proforma approach. This led to a highly iterative, inductive analytical process, also informed by reflexive discussion of the author’s position within the thesis. The complex ethical issues explored in the study included the extent to which the research represented collusion or collision between researcher and participants, the extent to which prior knowledge of the participants should be used, and notions of leaving the field.

The study demonstrated the need to question assumptions concerning the way in which women conceptualise and articulate career, as the transcripts indicated unease with, or even denial of, the concept of ‘career’. Where there was discussion, it was in first-paradigm terminology, with a focus on organisational hierarchies and planned ascent of a career ladder rather than on career as a work of self-construction. The research also found that the emotions expressed around career were overwhelmingly negative, arising particularly from an inability to achieve a satisfactory balance between working and personal lives. A further, distinctive element of the work is its methodological innovation within the study of career. Uniquely, the thesis presents material gathered and viewed through the lens of friendship via an auto/biographical approach and finds that no single career theory can adequately represent the experiences narrated by these participants. This signals a gap between theory and lived experience.

KeywordsCarer; Women; Challenges and constraints; Theory and lived experience gap
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Deposited10 Jul 2020
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