Women in academic careers

I’ve been doing some thinking about academic careers. One of the areas that I’m interested in is inequalities and unfairness that exist in this career path, particularly relating to gender.

Universities are, by and large, not workplaces where prejudice is displayed particularly openly. However, there is strong evidence that academic workplaces are both unequal and unfair in gender terms.

A brief summary of the literature in this area seems to suggest the following five main factors that are likely to influence this unfairness and inequality. I’ve tried to loosely organise them in terms of the strength of the evidence that I’ve read.

  • The challenges of pursuing a career that result from childcare and other caring responsibilities.
  • The impact of career breaks on establishing a career and building a publication portfolio
  • Prejudice (e.g. during appointments and promotions) and stereotyping during work allocation (e.g. women should do more teaching and less research).
  • The existence of male networks of social capital and mutual support (old boys clubs).
  • Discrimination and harassment.

There seem to be some differences in the way that these issues appear in different disciplines. However, this may be down to methodological differences in the attempts to measure these differences as much as actual differences.

Note: This isn’t a systematic attempt to understand the literature. At the moment it is just an attempt to pull out some main themes. Do you think that I’ve got them all or have I missed some? What should I be reading in this area?

The papers that I’ve tagged so far are at http://www.citeulike.org/user/pigironjoe/tag/academic_women



  1. Hi Tristram,From my experience working with researchers the themes you’ve picked up are bang on. Don’t know about academic literature, but depending on how academic you are wanting to be, you should have a look at #phdchat and the Vitae research staff blog. Lots of ‘on-the-ground’ stuff but I think I have also seen links to research findings too.

  2. Thanks for this Tris. Agree with some of the points. Mix in ethnicity and the picture becomes more worrying. I have directly dealt with numerous supervisors with some ‘interesting’ perspectives (the ways in which they interact seem to point to biases re. gender and ethnicity).

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