Drifts, shifts and career ladders
: career agency and gender in academia

  • Katja Jönsas

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis revolves around the debates surrounding the contextual turn in career research. Focusing on the careers of academic women at State University Business School in Finland and University College Business School in England, this research explores the conceptualisation of career agency in research analysis. Building on the tenets of practice-based studies, this research proposes a conceptual framework that explores how the context and conditions of career agency emerge at the intersection of the organisation of academic work, the expectations placed on academic work, and the locally shared practical understanding of femininity and masculinity. The analysis draws on the concept pair of authority and career capital. While authority directs attention to the organisation of academic work by exploring how authority places academics in certain relationships with each other and their activities based on a certain legitimation, career capital revolves around the expectations placed on academic work and how engagement in academic work results in cultural, social, and economic career capital. Gender, meanwhile, is assessed by exploring how the locally shared practical understanding of femininity and masculinity intertwines with the context and conditions of career agency.

    The findings suggest that while femininity is described as an active stance at State University Business School, University College Business School is characterised by a feminine–masculine dichotomy, in which the competitive and individualistic formulation of masculinity is perceived as detrimental to inclusion. However, it is not gender per se that causes divisions amongst academics. In fact, those who engage in academic work that generates income for the community might not be able to accumulate the kind of career capital that is required for promotions or recruitments, especially since the expectations stemming from managerial authority seem to underpin what is expected from an employable or promotable academic. Thus, the empirical analysis in this thesis highlights how the conditions of career agency emerge in a certain organisational setting, and shows how career agency can be addressed within career studies while retaining a gender perspective.
    Date of Award16 Apr 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    Sponsors Marie Curie Networks for Initial Training
    SupervisorCarole Elliott (Supervisor) & Fiona Robson (Supervisor)


    • Academic work and careers
    • gender in academia
    • practice theory
    • career agency
    • career capital

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