Contextualizing Women's Academic Careers in Cross - National Perspective


Contextualizing Women's Academic Careers in Cross - National Perspective

Despite recent improvements in the collection, compilation and dissemination of quantitative data on women’s academic careers in the European context (notably through the European Commissions’ SHE Figures publications), we have not progressed much in understanding the mechanisms behind women’s limited role in the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge. Although comparative data is more widely available today than in the past, it remains the case that much of the research on women in scientific professions lacks a theoretically grounded cross-national comparative perspective. As Maria Caprile and her colleagues have noted “In general, comparative research (across countries, scientific fields and institutional sectors) is scare and a descriptive approach prevails” (Caprile et al, 2012: 16). Therefore, although the research on this topic is generally situated (in so far as publications usually mention the country, disciplinary field, type of academic institution under consideration), the data presented is rarely fully contextualised, making cross-national comparisons of women’s experiences in scientific occupations somewhat hazardous.

The aim of this comparative report is thus to identify the structural characteristics of the sexual division of – paid and unpaid – labour in each national (local) GARCIA context and to suggest how this may effect women’s access to and experiences of academic professions. We are particularly interested in showing whether (or not) women are expected to maintain continuous and full-time commitment to the labour market over the entire course of their adult lives; whether or not they are presumed to have main responsibility for domestic and care activities and whether or not measures exist to facilitate the combination of work and personal / family life, either at the national or institutional level. This task is particularly important, given that the majority of the countries represented in the GARCIA consortium are rarely studied directly in the existing welfare regimes literature (Esping-Andersen, 1990, 2009). For example, we believe that the structures of opportunity and constraint offered by various welfare provisions will influence the conditions under which men and women aspire to working in science and evaluate their chances of access to the academic labour market. Likewise, we expect national (or local) gender norms to shape the expectations that well-qualified women (and their friends and family) have about their future career prospects and their employment and family formation patterns. They will also influence the ability of men and women to combine a more or less demanding academic job with a satisfactory level of investment in other aspects of their lives (Fuselier & del Rio Carral, 2013).

This report thus provides an overview of the main findings of the National & Local Policy reports produced in January 2015 by each GARCIA institution (Le Feuvre, 2015a). Rather than summarising the data collected on each of the five policy domains (education, employment, family formation, care and equal opportunities), we have chosen to structure our comparative synthesis around a number of significant observations. These provide a set of “contrasting cases” that enable us to illustrate the complex combinations of multiple dimensions of national gender, employment and care regimes that are likely to impact on women’s academic careers.

The primary aim of this comparative analysis is to provide sufficiently contextualised knowledge about the social mechanisms behind women’s positions within the academic labour market, in order to elaborate the most appropriate self-tailored gender equality action plans in each GARCIA institution.



Publikation Information



University of Trento, GARCIA working papers n. 3










Akademie – Universität – Hochschulen
Arbeit – Laufbahn – Beruf


Gender Studies, Soziologie