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Mid-Career Academic Women and the Prestige Economy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-548
JournalHigher Education Research & Development
Volume37
Issue number3
Early online date13 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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Abstract

Drawing on 30 semi-structured interviews with women academics based in London higher education institutions in the UK, this paper investigates the gendered nature of the prestige economy in academia. We explore how mid-career academic women strategise their career development and the opportunities and barriers they perceive, particularly in relation to the accrual of academic esteem. Concept maps were used to facilitate dialogue about career plans and provided an artefact from the interviewee’s own perspective. The analysis draws on the concept of prestige, or the indicators of esteem that help advance academic careers, against the backdrop of a higher education context which increasingly relies on quantitative data to make judgements about academic excellence. The interviews indicated that women generally feel that men access status and indicators of esteem more easily than they do. Many women also had ambivalent feelings about gaining recognition through prestige: they understood the importance of status and knew the ‘rules of the game’, but were critical of these rules and sometimes reluctant to overtly pursue prestige. The findings are valuable for understanding how women’s slow access to the highest levels of higher education institutions is shaped by the value that organisations place on individual status.

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