Academic dual career as a lifeworld orientation: A phenomenological inquiry

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Hiring and retaining faculty in dual career partnerships is of increasing concern in academe especially in STEM disciplines. Many universities offer assistance when a prospective faculty member’s partner needs employment. Yet dual career has been framed as a problem that needs to be solved within the existing structures of university employment and academic careers rather than exploring this experience in itself. To ignore dual career as a meaningful context in itself is to miss a critical dimension of how dual career partners experience both their careers and their lives. Accordingly, we take a feminist phenomenological approach to examine dual career as a distinct lived experience. We conducted focus groups with dual career couples in which at least one partner is a faculty member at a STEM-focused research university. Our interpretive analysis yields thematic insights into the meaningfulness of dual career for these couples culminating in the characterization of the experience as “duressed autonomy.” We contextualize this characterization within contemporary changes in academe and engage in collaborative reflexivity to address feminist issues of gender and power. Thus, our study offers a rich interpretative inquiry into dual career as a lifeworld orientation.

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© 2017 Academy of Management

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Academy of Management Proceedings