Identifier

etd-12272016-223741

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Human Resource Education and Workforce Development

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Although African American women represent the largest female demographic in the workforce (NABCP, 2014) and have the highest rates of infertility (Chandra, Copen & Stephen, 2013), their career and life experiences remain underrepresented in scholarship. Framed through the critical lens of Intersectionality, this phenomenological qualitative study explored the lived experiences of 11 African American women as they struggled with infertility and the competing demands of work and family life. The two major themes that emerged were: (1) silent suffering, and (2) lack of sensitivity and support in the workplace. The subthemes that supported silent suffering included: (1) emotional distress and grief, (2) low sense of self-worth, and (3) the motherhood mandate. The subthemes that supported lack of sensitivity and support in the workplace included: (1) lack of awareness and limited use of work-life policies, and (2) lack of access and affordability of fertility services. The findings from this study revealed that African American women struggling with infertility suffer in silence and have a difficult time achieving work-life balance. Their infertility experiences permeated through their personal and professional lives. The emotional, physical, and psychological scars of infertility manifested as feelings of sadness, depression, grief, and low self-worth among the majority of the participants. In addition, most of the participants felt pressure from within the African American community to be a mother. Although organizational work-life policies such as Employee Assistant Programs (EAP) are intended to help employees achieve work-life balance, the majority of the participants did not use them. Likewise, a perceived lack of support and sensitivity in the workplace was shared by many of the participants. The subsequent coping strategies and lessons learned from this study can be used to encourage African American women facing infertility to be self-advocates and to seek emotional support; to press policy makers on the need for mandated employer sponsored health insurance that includes fertility coverage; to educate employers on the inherent need to recognize infertility as a disability enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and to implement work-life policies that support the needs of African American women facing infertility.

Date

2016

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Secure the entire work for patent and/or proprietary purposes for a period of one year. Student has submitted appropriate documentation which states: During this period the copyright owner also agrees not to exercise her/his ownership rights, including public use in works, without prior authorization from LSU. At the end of the one year period, either we or LSU may request an automatic extension for one additional year. At the end of the one year secure period (or its extension, if such is requested), the work will be released for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Robinson, Petra A.

Available for download on Saturday, February 23, 2019

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