By Karen Hice Guzmán

Power Women: A Discussion Guide

from the publisher's description:

Two challenging vocations, each filled with complexities and daily ups and downs. Yet more and more women are answering the call to both the academy and motherhood. A growing body of literature addresses parent-professors, but what about the particular needs of Christian women seeking to navigate both callings while living out their faith?

With Power Women, Nancy Wang Yuen and Deshonna Collier-Goubil have curated a unique resource by and for Christian academic mothers. This collection of essays includes the voices of women of different backgrounds, academic disciplines, institutions, and stages of parenting and career. Together contributors provide wisdom, encouragement, and solidarity for women who share a similar vocational journey. Combining research with personal stories, they address topics such as these:

  • how parenting and teaching can be mutually enriching
  • managing ambition, identity, and time
  • addressing misconceptions about motherhood in the academy, church, and society
  • navigating gender roles in marriage
  • taking maternity leave
  • flourishing as an adjunct professor
  • mentoring professor moms
  • resisting imposter syndrome by finding rest in God

There is no magic formula, but there are many paths to thriving in the call to motherhood and the academy. Christian academic moms will find in this book honest yet uplifting reminders that they are not alone. In addition, administrators, family members, and friends will grow in understanding and appreciation of the power women in their lives.

Editor bios:

Nancy Wang Yuen (PhD, University of California) is a sociologist, a pop culture expert, and the host of The Disrupters podcast. She is the author of Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism and serves as an associate professor of sociology at Biola University. She has appeared on PBS, NPR, MSNBC, CBS News, NBC News, BBC World, and Dr. Phil. She is a guest writer at CNN, Elle, Los Angeles Times, NBC, and Newsweek.

Deshonna Collier-Goubil (PhD, Howard University) is the founding chair of the department of criminal justice and now serves as interim dean of the School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences at Azusa Pacific University. She lives in Fontana, California.

Week One

  1. What drew you to this book and our discussion? Are there things with which you resonated in the introduction?
  2. Has the tension between motherhood and work felt as though you are “divvying up" your loves? The author of chapter one suggests that soul care is a “key for the Christian academic mother who desires to pursue scholarly ambition and family life” (page 25). How has that rung true for you? How might God be inviting you to care for your soul in this season?
  3. What do you think about this concept of "work-life enrichment"? Are there ways your work has enriched other spheres of your life (particularly life at home) and conversely, are there ways the home sphere has enriched your experience in the work sphere?
  4. What was your experience with maternity leave? How do those in your department think about maternity leave? What advice would you give to colleagues who are preparing for parental leave?
  5. What are the experiences and challenges of adjunct professor moms? How does your institution care for (or not care for) adjunct moms? What suggestions do you have?
  6. Comments or questions from any of the reading through chapter 4?

Week Two

  1. How has your understanding of what a “good mother” is/isn't developed or changed over the years? How does our insecurity or defensiveness around this topic affect our ability to interact with/support other academic mothers? (See questions on page 93.) The author asks a slew of questions on page 96 emanating from the main question For whom do I work so hard? Any thoughts about these?
  2. In chapter six, Ji Son talks about the importance of giving ourselves grace. Is this a hard thing for you to do and, if so, why do you think that is? Ji points out that men tend to get way more credit for being an involved dad than women do as mothers. Have you seen this to be the case in your experience? How can thinking of yourself as a “female dad” be helpful?
  3. Jean Neely, author of chapter seven, wrote honestly about her struggles with mental health and impostor syndrome. How is academia a particularly difficult place with regards to comparing ourselves to others? Does the “motherhood of God” provide a helpful lens as you think about how God sees you?
  4. What does your “village” look like? Who are the people that help you get through all that’s happening in your life? Who are the other important adults in your child’s/children’s lives and why are these relationships important? Are you/could you be part of someone else’s village?
  5. Self-care and soul-care continue to be key themes in this book. Has there been anything helpful or challenging to you from this week’s reading in regards to this?

Week Three

Managing the Juggle

Chapters 8-10 discuss the challenges around navigating a variety of callings in addition to motherhood and an academic career. Chapter 11 (leftover from last week) talks about the “village” we need around us to do all the things we are called to.

  1. What are the various callings you juggle?
  2. Are there ideas you found helpful in these chapters? 
  3. Where have you experienced support and encouragement along the way? (Or in the language of Chapter 11, what does your village look like?)
  4. If you don’t have a village, how might you begin to create a support system?
  5. Any good “tips” for managing the juggle? 

Taking Care of Ourselves and One Another

  1. How does the reality of intersectionality — specifically around ethnicity — add layers of complexity to this conversation about flourishing as Christian academic mothers? How can Christian academic women support, encourage, and champion one another?
  2. Who have been your mentors along the way? Has this been intentional or accidental or some of both? How are you mentoring the next generation?
  3. How are you at self-care? Do you find this hard? What are the messages we have received along the way that keep us from taking good care of ourselves? Where do you need to be intentional about this?
  4. What kind of resources, help, connections, etc. do you need these days to help you flourish in the complexity of your multiple callings?

Depending on interest, you could offer separate conversations for those who want to talk about homeschooling, single parenting, and main/solo bread-winning.

About the Author

Karen Hice Guzmán is the Director of Women Scholars and Professionals. Except for some years taken off to raise children, Karen has spent her adult life in and around InterVarsity. She loves to use her gifts of hospitality and teaching to create a welcome place to connect with God and one another. Karen has a BS in Horticulture from Michigan State University and lives in Marietta, Georgia. She and her husband have three adult sons and a daughter-in-law. She loves dark chocolate, good coffee, and British TV. 

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