Gender in Higher Education

The ‘Gender in Higher Education’ project was initiated in the 2016-17 academic year. This project investigates the experiences of female academics in higher education and seeks to identify the extent to which male academics possessed insight into these (and vice versa). While initially designed with the aim of drawing together actors from a range of disciplines to learn how to work together, the exciting and complementary contributions that actors from diverse fields have made in the course of project co-design, has resulted in this project growing into something more ambitious and substantial.

Following gaining ethical approval, and led by Prof Nicky Priaulx (LAWPL) and Dr Katy Greenland (SOCSI), during the course of 2016/17, a range of actors from LAWPL and SOCSI (Priaulx, Dr Pauline Roberts, Dr Daniel Newman – LAWPL; Dr Katy Greenland, Dr Martin Weinel, Dr Sion Tetlow, Professor Rob Evans – SOCSI), were involved in running discussion and focus groups with different social groups (male academics, and female academics respectively) to explore the relevance of their gender in their experiences of higher education/the workplace/academic careers. These discussions and focus groups engaged with academics from Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences in the first instance.

In 2017/18, we sought and secured ethical approval to take this project further using the Imitation Game, a novel method developed at Cardiff School of Social Sciences/the Centre for Knowledge, Expertise, Science. The project team also settled during this phase to focus more on those with social scientific expertise, but also expanding so as to draw in new early career/PhD researchers, with Grace Krause and Will Mason-Wilkes (SOCSI). In the last academic year, concentrated particularly in semester 2, we ran two sets of Imitation Games with male and female academics. Based on a very early findings, we are very excited about the future of this project. While the aim of the Imitation Game is to elicit a range of tacit knowledge (unwritten, unspoken) offering a novel and innovative way of moving beyond a good deal of the ‘unconscious bias’ approaches currently centralised in techniques for enhancing equality and diversity in the workplace, we are discovering an approach that provides a unique ‘immersive’ learning experience for research participants to engage with themes around gender, experience and the workplace. The transcription of the discussions around the Imitation games has recently been completed and we shall shortly embark upon full analysis of the data.

We can currently identify that the technique could be useful in eliciting ‘tacit’ knowledge around gendered experience. This points towards the future development of this project that extends beyond higher education. By virtue of the manner by which the Imitation Game provides an immersive pedagogical technique, as well as an exciting prompt for far deeper enriching conversations, we will seek to explore the potential for industry applications and training.