Women, Emotional Labor, and Higher Education Administration: A Qualitative Interview Study

Almi Rodriguez, Florida International University


Emotional labor is not a gender-specific experience. Hochschild (1983) estimated that roughly one-third of American workers encounter substantial emotional labor demands as a result of their occupation. However, this study examined women’s experiences with emotional labor in higher education because women face different expectations of emotional management (Wharton & Erickson, 1993; Hochschild, 1983). Emotions are situated within larger, gendered, and sexualized hierarchies that are reinforced through normalizing discourses and social arrangements that dictate what is normal (Illouz, 2007). Furthermore, power relations shape emotions through sometimes unseen, yet repetitious disciplinary techniques (i.e., emotional norms) that make up the patriarchy; particularly in organizational structures, which are not gender neutral (Acker, 1990). Thus, norms, such as emotions, that shape and encode our society deserve our attention, research, and criticality. This study provides a platform to recognize and acknowledge the ways in which participants experience and understand emotional labor within the workplace of higher education administration. Two semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 12 women higher education administrators about their experiences and understandings of emotional labor. Interview transcripts were analyzed to identify salient and emergent themes. The results of this study show that participant’s experiences and understandings of emotional labor are contextualized within their work environment and culture which emphasizes power and privilege through degrees, ranks and hierarchies. Hierarchies are made explicit in highly politicized places where emotional labor is necessary to appear as rational. Further, participants conceptualized emotional labor as part of their performance of professionalism and leadership which points to the commodification of emotions and behaviors as part of employment. Finally, through the embodiment of the organization, findings demonstrate the gendered nature of the participant’s work environment by acknowledging the way their institution privileges behavior rooted in masculine concepts such as emotion-less rationality. Implications include the acknowledgment of traditionally “invisible” work and the highlighting of gender relations within this work environment.

Subject Area

Higher education

Recommended Citation

Rodriguez, Almi, "Women, Emotional Labor, and Higher Education Administration: A Qualitative Interview Study" (2019). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI28773090.