Work-family balance satisfaction of racially and ethnically underrepresented minority postdoctoral scholars in the STEM fields

2019-08-16T14:16:18Z (GMT) by Cristina Marie Soto Sullivan

Postdoctoral scholars encounter various challenges as they navigate the gap between graduate school and faculty or industry positions, one of which includes the challenge of work-family conflict and balance. The science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields represent one sector of the workforce where a closer examination of work-family conflict and balance is important due to the rise in prominence of these fields and the unique populations of people who are underrepresented within these fields. Scholars have identified various experiences or constructs (e.g., bias) that suggest that STEM environments may not be particularly welcoming or supportive for racially and ethnically underrepresented minorities (URMs). The transitional stage of being a postdoctoral scholar in combination with high work demands and a “chilly” or unsupportive work environment may contribute to work-family conflict among racially and ethnically URM postdoctoral scholars in STEM, which could contribute to the underrepresentation of racially and ethnically URMs in the STEM fields and/or the premature exit of these postdoctoral scholars from STEM fields.

Using role congruity perspective (Diekman & Eagly, 2008), I examined the function of goal endorsement (communal or agentic) as a possible cultural moderator in the indirect relationship between work demand and work-family conflict. This study formulated and empirically tested the relationships between work demand, perceived work environment, goal endorsement (communal or agentic), work-family conflict, and satisfaction with work-family balance. Two models were examined to differentiate two different aspects perceived work environment: (a) one using a supportive work environment variable as a mediator of the relationship between perceived work demand and work-family conflict, and (b) one using a hostile work environment variable as a mediator of the relationship between perceived work demand and work-family conflict. Hypotheses regarding the moderating role of a communal goal orientation and an agentic goal orientation in the indirect relationship between work demand and work-family conflict across the two models (supportive work environment and hostile work environment) were assessed.

Data was collected from 282 racially and ethnically underrepresented minority postdoctoral scholars in the STEM fields enrolled in postdoctoral positions at universities through an online survey. Using structural equation modeling, results revealed that the indirect effect between work demand and work-family conflict was significant and strongest at low levels of a communal goal endorsement and the indirect effect gradually became weaker until it was nonsignificant as racially and ethnically URM postdoctoral scholars’ communal goal endorsement increased. The results suggest that in the face of microaggressions in the workplace, racially and ethnically URM postdoctoral scholars’ high value of communion serves as a protective factor, which reduces the indirect effect of work demand on work-family conflict.Limitations of the study and recommendations for future research are presented alongside implications for counseling practice.