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SIOP Award Winners: Meet the 2022 William A. Owens Scholarly Achievement Award Winners

Liberty J. Munson

As part of our ongoing series to provide visibility into what it takes to earn a SIOP award or grant, we highlight a diverse class of award winners in each edition of TIP. We hope that this insight encourages you to consider applying for a SIOP award or grant because you are probably doing something amazing that can and should be recognized by your peers in I-O psychology!

This quarter, we are highlighting SIOP’s 2022 William A. Owens Scholarly Achievement Award winners: (from L-R) Allison Gabriel, Rebecca (Calee) MacGowan, Marcus Butts, Christina Moran, and Sabrina Volpone.


Paper Citation:

Gabriel, A. S., Volpone, S. D., MacGowan, R. L., Butts, M. M., & Moran, C. M. (2020). When work and family blend together: Examining the daily experiences of breastfeeding mothers at work. Academy of Management Journal, 63(5), 1337–1369. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2017.1241






Share a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Allison Gabriel: I’m the McClelland Professor of Management and Organizations and University Distinguished Scholar in the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. I received my PhD in industrial-organizational psychology from the University of Akron in 2013 and have been studying emotions, motivation, employee recovery, and well-being ever since. Over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly focused on women’s health and motherhood.

Rebecca (Calee) MacGowan: I’m an assistant professor of Management at the University of Arkansas. I am passionate about using organizational research as a means for promoting social progress. My research focuses on studying individuals’ workplace and job search experiences and investigating the best practices that may be helpful in improving people’s day-to-day lives.

Marcus Butts: I’m an associate professor of Management at the Edwin L. Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. In my spare time, I’m also the department head. I primarily research work–life issues and workplace relations, mostly from a within-person perspective.

Christina Moran: I lead organizational development and learning at the international financial consulting firm MarshBerry. Under my guidance, our department has implemented the organization’s first-ever learning management system and developed over 200 proprietary courses in just 15 months. I earned my PhD and MA in I-O psychology from the University of Akron, and my bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish from John Carroll University. I am one of the few I-Os who are licensed to practice psychology (and thereby refer to ourselves as “psychologists”); I am licensed by the state of Ohio.

As a team, we also acknowledge Sabrina Volpone who was a part of the winning paper.

Describe the research/work that you did that resulted in this award. What led to your idea?

Gabriel: Honestly, the interest in studying breastfeeding mothers started from a very practical place. I had a friend visiting Tucson who brought her 8-month-old baby with her, and she began to confide in me all of the challenges she was having nursing and pumping breast milk at work. As someone who didn’t have a child at the time, I had never really processed how difficult it would be to blend this family demand (breastfeeding/pumping) into work, and I felt like there was a real opportunity to study this and try to positively impact working moms. That really was it! I emailed Sabrina after my friend’s visit to see if she would be interested, and Calee and Christina shortly joined thereafter. Marcus then joined the team as our work–family expert. It was a real labor of love, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say we really love this paper.

What did you learn that surprised you? Did you have an “aha” moment? What was it?

Gabriel: When we first submitted our paper to Academy of Management Journal, our story was pretty negative; we found that breastfeeding demands at work (or pumping demands) contributed to feelings of fatigue, which then hindered work goal progress, breast milk production (i.e., how many ounces of breast milk women produced each day), and work–family balance satisfaction. But the review team really encouraged us to dig deeper and figure out if breastfeeding at work could actually be good: Could it help women feel better affectively? Across our two studies (a qualitative interview-based study and an experience sampling study), we found that this same “blended work–family experience” could promote fatigue AND promote feelings of calm and contentment, with the latter rendering some benefits for women. So, our “aha!” moment was when work and family blend together, both good and bad can happen.

What do you see as the lasting/unique contribution of this work to our discipline? How can it be used to drive changes in organizations, the employee experience, and so on?

Gabriel: I hope the lasting contribution is that more and more organizations realize that it is not enough to just offer break time or a break room to support women. We really should be advocating for women at work, with managers stepping up and making sure that women feel empowered to pump breast milk at work if they so choose.

At a more general level, I also hope we just stop stigmatizing the choices women make when it comes to feeding their child. In our study, we found some evidence of women feeling that their coworkers stigmatized them for breastfeeding. Now, with the formula shortage in the US, we are seeing women stigmatized for formula feeding and not breastfeeding (something we recently spoke about here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/breastfeeding-is-not-free_l_6283e865e4b050d95197ba39). I really hope we can take a step back and see that it is time to support women holistically in the workplace, and that means supporting women’s health and their breastfeeding/pumping needs.

What’s a fun fact about yourself (something that people may not know)?

Gabriel: In high school, I was a total show choir/musical theatre kid. One of the more memorable things was I got to sing backup on a Christmas single written and sung by Bob Dorough (He wrote songs for Schoolhouse Rock—it was super cool back in the day!). You can actually find it online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABm3KDfHhWo.

MacGowan: One of my small pleasures in life is baking Japanese cheesecakes.

Butts: I got exactly one job offer when on the market. But I also only applied to a handful of schools because like most Texans, I wanted to come back to Texas.

Moran: My grandparents emigrated to the US from Lebanon.

What piece of advice would you give to someone new to I-O psychology?

Gabriel: There’s a lot of pressure to have this “perfect” linear career—no bumps along the way—and that’s just not realistic. I bought into that for a long time pretenure, and that created WAY more anxiety and stress than was probably healthy. We study and advocate for work–life or work–family balance, and I wish as a field we tried to practice this ourselves.

MacGowan: Ground your research and practice in topics you are passionate about, and then you will be able to share your enthusiasm with others!

Butts: Treat graduate school like a job (i.e., work hard), and try to acquire a superpower at something early on in your career that will make you marketable (for other jobs or for research projects).

Moran: Every experience is moving you closer to where you’re meant to be and further from where you’re NOT meant to be. Disappointments and rejections can be frustrating; but they’re also necessary to get you on the path meant for you.

About the author:

Liberty Munson is currently the director of Psychometrics of the Microsoft Worldwide Learning programs in the Worldwide Learning organization. She is responsible for ensuring the validity and reliability of Microsoft’s certification programs. Her passion is for finding innovative solutions to business challenges that balance the science of assessment design and development with the realities of budget, time, and schedule constraints. Most recently, she has been presenting on the future of testing and how technology can change the way we assess skills.

Liberty loves to bake, hike, backpack, and camp with her husband, Scott, and miniature schnauzer, Apex. If she’s not at work, you’ll find her enjoying the great outdoors or in her kitchen tweaking some recipe just to see what happens.

Her advice to someone new to I-O psychology? Statistics, statistics, statistics—knowing data analytic techniques will open A LOT of doors in this field and beyond!

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