Women professors and the academic housework trap

Bruce Macfarlane*, Damon Burg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
143 Downloads (Pure)


Women constitute just over one fifth of full professors in UK higher education and whilst work has emerged in recent years on professors as leaders, there has been comparatively little research about how this under-represented cadre define and practise their role as intellectual leaders. This paper seeks to analyse how women see their role as full professors through autobiographical accounts of their intellectual and career histories via interviews with women professors, and a small comparison group of male professors. A range of freedoms and responsibilities connected with the professorial role are identified along with personal qualities considered central to success. Both female and male professors understand their role principally in terms of research leadership, but women are more likely to emphasise the importance of academic citizenship, especially mentoring, compared to their male counterparts, an obligation that weighs especially heavily on women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics areas. While these findings are indicative of the continuing effect of so-called ‘academic housework’ in holding back the academic careers of women, they are also a positive indicator of a commitment to an all-round role as an intellectual leader.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-274
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Higher Education Policy and Management
Issue number3
Early online date23 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Knowledge, Culture, and Society
  • SoE Centre for Higher Education Transformations


  • academic citizenship
  • academic freedom
  • academic profession
  • Gender
  • service
  • women professors


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