Navigating the gendered academy: Women in social work academia

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Women fare less well than men across all academic disciplines: they are less likely to be promoted, they earn less, and many more professors are men. There has, however, been little analysis to date of the experience of women in social work education, a discipline that has historically had higher representation of female staff and students. This study set out to explore women in the social work academy through a case-study of social work education in Scotland. A mixed methods approach was used, including a review of relevant literature; an online survey of women and men academics in social work education; and semi-structured interviews with female social work leaders, past and present. The study found that women in the social work academy faced the same pressures as other women in higher education; some of these pressures were also shared by men. Most significant, however, was the extent to which women in social work academia experienced twin challenges, firstly, as female academics and secondly, as female social work academics in a discipline that struggles for recognition in the academy. We conclude that this makes for a contradictory and, at times, ambiguous experience for women as they navigate the gendered academy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Work Education
Early online date23 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jan 2020


  • social work academy
  • gender in social work
  • gender in HE
  • women in social work
  • women in the academy
  • women in social work education


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