The 'feminisation' of universities? The case of Australia
This paper draws on Australian data to examine the nature of what has popularly come to be known as the feminisation of higher education. It is argued that the standard approach to feminisation, which is apt to adopt a strong focus on the percentage shares of women and men (see Vincent-Lancrin 2008), is incapable of capturing the complexity of gender relations in the contemporary university (Quinn 2003). A much more richly nuanced conceptualisation of feminisation is required. This is important not only in terms of producing informed academic analyses but, critically, also in terms of countering potentially damaging assumptions that the numerical dominance of women symbolises the achievement of gender equity. This paper addresses the statistical profile of women's employment (academic and professional) in Australian universities using a range of data sources. The undoubted gains made over recent years are mapped and linked to various societal, political and institutional factors, especially the national system of monitoring organisational equity plans. The gains made cannot be formulated as a unilinear, upward trajectory of progressive achievements for women. Indeed the growing female presence has the potential to mask the underlying resilience of deeply-entrenched structures and practices that routinely stymie the achievement of gender equity. The feminisation process that is occurring is distinctively shaped into feminised segments, both vertically and horizontally, and this segmented feminisation ensures that the universities remain strongly masculinist enterprises.
Conference Proceedings - Equality Diversity Inclusion 2011 Conference