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Academic women here! New University of St Andrews booklet reveals the diversity of pathways through academia

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Women academics at the University of St Andrews talk openly and honestly about the highs and lows they have experienced in pursuing their careers, in a new booklet launched this week.

Academic Women Here! On being a female academic at the University of St Andrews reveals the diversity of possible paths through academia. The booklet highlights the variety of routes women have forged to take their careers in academia forward and emphasises the fact that there is no such thing as an archetypal female academic.

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Illustrating the diversity of pathways and experiences is an important counter to the familiar rhetoric that, by conceptualising women’s careers in terms of linear ‘ladders’ or ‘pipelines’, may have the effect of marginalising or demotivating those whose careers do not fit a perceived stereotypical ideal pattern.

Inspiring stories

‌The University hopes that sharing these diverse stories will suggest role models for early career academics, and stimulate further conversations about the shape of women’s careers in academia.

The challenges negotiated by women in this booklet include:

  • Going part-time
  • Caring for children and elderly relatives
  • Long-distance relationships
  • Balancing personal and professional lives  
  • Gaining recognition for academic activities other than research
  • Prioritising the competing aspects of academic life

One history professional said: "Although I know I was well-qualified for my first job, I also know a lot of it was luck. I applied for many positions that year but was only short-listed for one; I might well have left academia if I had not gotten it. In addition, crucially, my partner is entirely mobile and stays home with our children. This has allowed me to take any job I have been offered, to travel frequently, and even to move the family abroad for research many times." 

 

A generation of women

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sally Mapstone, the University’s second female Principal, said: “In St Andrews, as in other UK higher education institutions, there are still fewer women the further you go up the academic tree.

“We are working to change that: through revisions to our promotions structures; through a new mentoring programme for senior women; through expansion of our childcare provision. But a great way to infuse change into our culture is to encourage women academics to speak for themselves.

“Reading these honest and thoughtful reflections on their career paths by a generation of women makes me proud to be at St Andrews, and the more determined to do all we can to enable women’s fulfilment of their potential here.”

Download the booklet from the University of St Andrews website.

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