Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Human Resource Education and Workforce Development
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.
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Williams, Kimberley Faye, "Silent Suffering: A Phenomenological Study of African American Women Facing Infertility & Lessons Learned For Work-Life Balance" (2016). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 4346.
Robinson, Petra A.
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