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Accounting for the Gender Imbalance in UK Higher Education Administration: a Discourse Analysis

Caminotto, G. (2018). Accounting for the Gender Imbalance in UK Higher Education Administration: a Discourse Analysis. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, Universtiy of London)


UK Higher Education is considered to be at the forefront of equality and diversity policy and practice, yet its staff profile is characterised by persistent gender (among other types of) imbalance. This thesis investigates this paradox, focusing on the under-researched professional and support services staff, and particularly female-dominated administrative and secretarial occupations.

In contrast to the few previous studies on the topic, this PhD project takes a discursive perspective to explore this paradox. In other words, it examines how university professional and support staff discursively account for the persistent gender imbalance in their sector, with a particular focus on how they talk themselves out of acting to change the status quo, i.e. on discursive barriers to change.

A UK case-study university, whose staff gender-imbalanced profile is representative of the national picture, was selected as the epistemological site. Focus groups were conducted with female and male staff in administrative and secretarial occupations; interviews were carried out with managers who had progressed internally from administrative and secretarial roles, and with former employees of the case-study university. Data were analysed and interpreted from a critical realist, feminist perspective. Discourse analysis was conducted, with a specific focus on the functions, effects and implications of participants’ situated use of gendered discourses and discursive constructions, and co-production of patterned accounts.

This thesis takes a much-needed step beyond deconstruction and critique of discursive barriers, towards promoting discursive reconstruction and change. It highlights participants’ potentially emancipatory uses of counter-discourses, and provides recommendations for discursive change.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
L Education > LF Individual institutions (Europe)
P Language and Literature
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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