Athena SWAN Research in Higher Education

Does Gender Matter? Exploring the Experiences of Being a Female Academic in Higher Education

Led by Katy Greenland (SOCSI) and Nicky Priaulx (LAWPL), the aim of this Athena SWAN project is to develop an enhanced understanding of the experience of female academics in higher education and to identify what needs exist in facilitating and embedding equality.

Phase One: Discussion Groups and Focus Groups

In the first phase of research undertaken in 2016/17 following securing ethical approval, we conducted small focus groups with female academics in the College for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, to explore the range of ways one’s gender matters – and can be said to render women’s experience distinctive from men’s. In collaboration with male SOCSI scholars, separate focus groups were run with male academics.

Phase Two: Imitation Game (IMGAME)

In 2017/18 academic we embarked upon the second phase of the project following gaining ethical approval. This novel aspect of our research uses the Imitation Game (IMGAME) method (developed at Cardiff University). So far we have run 1 IMGAME and will be running a second IMGAME in June. Here male and female academics participate in an Imitation Game experiment – a computer-based experiment – the aim of which is to see the extent to which participants can pass themselves off as the opposite gender in the context of higher education. For example, female academic “judges” pose questions that they think only female academics would be able to answer – their question then goes to a group of male academics (pretenders) and a group of female academics (non-pretenders). The pretenders are asked to respond in a way that they think female academics would respond; the non-pretenders answer naturally. This work is designed to identify whether there is a ‘distinctive’ gendered experience of higher education and the extent to which women and men possess insight and understanding into each other’s gendered experiences in HE.  The PI and co-PI will also be working with other LEAP members including Rob Evans, Martin Weinel, Sion Tetlow (SOCSI) and Dan Newman (LAWPL). We also benefit from the input and assistance of Grace Krause (SOCSI) and Will Mason-Wilkes (SOCSI).