“My Path has not been a Standard Path”: Academia as a Bourdieusian Field and How Assumptions of an Unencumbered Life Disadvantage Women

Academic Abstract: Academia represents an organizational field in the Bourdieusian sense, a field which has historically been structured around masculine norms. Drawing on interviews with female academics in Canada, we examine ways in which women navigate university structures and processes. These masculine structures and processes assume academics are unencumbered to focus on work. Using a life course approach we examine key turning points in women’s academic careers. In particular, we focus on the gendered nature of conference attendance and sabbatical leaves, aspects of the academic field which have not previously received much attention, to show how masculine structures and processes around each of these points impact women. We rely on interviewees’ insights to describe the challenges of fitting into, and succeeding in, a masculinized academic field. We amplify women’s suggestions for changing the masculine nature of academia’s structures and processes, and encourage universities to undertake gender-based analyses going forward.

Keywords: Women academics; Gendered organizations; Life course; Bourdieu; Unencumbered

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