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A new lens on a persistent problem: using emergent theory to investigate the progression rates of STEMM academics at a UK university

Caroline Wilson, Christine Broughan, Richard Hillier


The gender imbalance which exists in science orientated disciplines is exacerbated at senior levels. We build on a framework that proposes six distinct themes impact on the career development of women generally, and investigate the nature and extent of these themes at a UK university. Interviews were conducted with 21 female STEMM academics. To our knowledge this is the first study of its kind to test the applicability of the framework in an applied setting. The revised framework presented as a result of this study offers the potential to investigate the persisting problem of gender imbalance in progression for STEMM disciplines at other universities with similar employment and cultural profiles. The themes investigated proved a useful mechanism to elicit factors both internal and personal to women, and those that are more directly employer-related. The stand-out personal factor which helped women develop their careers in our case study was in taking the initiative to plan and to develop their own strategies to manage periods of absence or part-time work. We recommend exploring further how to nurture the planning and strategic capacities demonstrated by some women in order that these capacities can be developed for more female employees.


STEM, SET, STEMM, Science; Gender; Equality; Higher Education

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