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The current Conference time is: 17th Aug 2022, 01:02:20am CEST

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Parallel sessions - I.14 Gender Asymmetries in Academia
Saturday, 05/June/2021:
9:00am - 11:15am

Session Chair: Barbara Poggio
Session Chair: Manuela Naldini
Location: Room 8

Session Panels:
I.14. Gender Asymmetries in Academia

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Renzo Carriero1, Massimiliano Coda Zabetta2, Francesca Tomatis1

1Department of Cultures, Politics and Society - University of Turin; 2Spatial Dynamics Lab - University College Dublin and GREThA UMR CNRS 5113 - Université de Bordeaux

In this contribution we address the issue of gender disparity in access to academic career, i.e. the “leaky pipeline” observed in its initial stage. While many contributions in the literature usually center on the “glass ceiling”, therefore hypothesizing a mainly vertical segregation, other authors focused attention on the mechanisms that prevent entry into the academic world at the initial stages of the career. Among various mechanisms, recent papers (Ooms et al 2019; Gaule & Piacentini 2018) look at the role of academic mentors and supervisors in fostering women’s entry into academic track.

Our contribution follows this avenue in the Italian context, using an unpublished data source. The empirical analysis draws from the archive of doctoral theses filed at the National Central Library of Florence (BNCF) from 1986 to 2006. Bibliographic information on all the doctoral theses present therein was extracted from the BNCF catalog (N = 76K records). The data collected contain information on author’s name, thesis’ title, thesis’s year, disciplinary area, supervisor’s name, university of origin, gender of the PhD candidate and of the supervisor (the latter information obtained retrospectively based on first name). The BNCF data were linked with the MIUR database relating to the teaching staff in service at Italian universities in each year from 1990 to 2015. The union of the two datasets allows us to describe the evolution over time of the probability of entry into academic career by various PhD cohorts, based on some relevant variables such as PhD’s gender, supervisor’s gender, academic rank of the supervisor, disciplinary area and university of provenance.

Available information makes it possible to examine the role of the supervisor in influencing the probability that the PhD will enter the academy and to check whether the supervisor role is associated with gender disparities. At this stage of the analysis, we consider supervisors’ gender and academic rank, while subsequently we will be able to include supervisors’ and PhD’s publication record.

Preliminary results show that gender disparities in the probability of accessing the Italian academy (at any level from assistant professor upwards) are present in all disciplinary broad areas (economics & statistics, engineering & architecture, medicine & veterinary, natural sciences, humanities & law, social sciences). The academic rank of the supervisor is strongly associated with the probability of obtaining a post-doctoral academic role: PhD’s chances increase if the supervisor is full professor. However, supervisor’s gender is not associated with chances of entering the academy. The only exceptions are found in the human and social sciences ‒ more feminized disciplines ‒ where a male supervisor is associated with fewer chances of access to the academy. The extent of gender disparities is not significantly altered by either supervisor’s gender or supervisor’s rank (i.e. the interaction is not significant), though certain combinations of PhD’s and supervisor’s gender are associated with higher probabilities of accessing academic career, differently depending on their discipline.


Massimiliano Coda Zabetta1,2, Aldo Geuna3,4, Francesca Tomatis3

1University College Dublin, Ireland; 2University of Bordeaux, France; 3Universiy of Turin, Italy; 4Collegio Carlo Alberto, Italy

The aim of this paper is to understand if gender makes a difference in the path to promotion in Italian universities, in the context of one of the first major reform of Italian academic labor market, introduced 1998. This reform aimed to decentralize the academic recruitment. In this “quasi-experimental” research framework, the differences between individual productivity measures of researchers hired before and after the reform are studied, focusing the analysis on gender differences. Using data gathered from MIUR collected from 1990 to 2015 and the “bibliographic” Web version of Elsevier Scopus database, we obtain information on academic careers. We focus on evaluating the effects of a shift to decentralized selection mechanisms in terms of gender, considering the “treatment status” as the exposure of an individual to local selections instead of national ones. In Europe women are underrepresented in the academia and some studies point out several possible explanations for this persistent underrepresentation. At micro level, gender differences in promotion rates may reflect differences in productivity, due to the existence of gendered roles at the household level or the lack of female mentors (Blau et al., 2010). Furthermore, women are less likely to apply for promotions (Bosquet et al., 2013; De Paola et al., 2015), maybe due to existence of gender differences in the preference for competitive environments (Niederle and Vesterlund, 2007) or in bargaining abilities in the labor market (Blackaby et al., 2005). With this contribution we explore the effect of gender on promotion to determine whether a decentralization of the recruitment in the academic labor market enhances the quality of selected researchers, assuring a higher gender equality of the hiring process.


Kateřina Cidlinská, Kateřina Machovcová, Kateřina Zábrodská, Jiří Mudrák

Institute of Psychology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic

Academic identity has been proved as an important factor behind the development of academic career ambitions (Lief et al. 2012, McAlpine 2012). Various disciplinary environments have been shown to create specific conditions and obstacles for constructing own academic identity of early-career academics while these obstacles are significantly gendered (Cidlinská 2019, Linková 2014). However, we miss greater knowledge of the academic identities of men and women who have left an academic career and the relation between academic identities and academic career exits because a majority of studies focus on actual academics. The presented study has the aim to contribute to fulfill this knowledge gap and to conduce to the discussion about gender asymmetries in neoliberal academia by focusing on the gender and research field specifics of the academic identity development of “leavers”.

The study is based on 45 narrative interviews with individuals from various disciplines who have left an academic path at doctoral and mostly post-doctoral stage. Interviews were collected in 2013-2017. The data analysis was based on the grounded theory approach. As a theoretical framework was used identity as a trajectory (McAlpine 2012).

The analysis showed, based on retrospective comparison of academic identity at the moment of the entrance to PhD study and at the moment after the exit, that similarities in original academic identity, approach to academic work and confidence in one´s academic capability may lead to differences in the development of academic identity and reasoning of exit regarding research field and gender. Only women from the STEM field lost their original academic identity when they did not question their academic ability and did not lose interest in academic work. Men from the STEM field and both, men and women, from the SSH field in such case kept their academic identity after the exit. While women from the STEM field concluded that they are not "good enough" for science, those who kept their academic identity exited with the conviction that the academic environment is not “good enough” for those who want to do “good science”. The study supports our previous findings showing high exclusivity and masculine features of normative collective identity in the STEM field and rather inclusive collective academic identity in the SSH field (Cidlinská 2019).


Cidlinska, K. (2019). How not to scare off women: different needs of female early-stage researchers in STEM and SSH fields and the implications for support measures. Higher Education, 78(2), 365-388.

Lieff, S., Baker, L., Mori, B., Egan-Lee, E., Chin, K., Reeves, S. (2012). Who am I? Key influences on the formation of academic identity within a faculty development program. Medical Teacher, 34(3), 208-215.

Linkova, M. (2014). Disciplining science: the impacts of shifting governmentality regimes on academic research in the natural sciences in the Czech Republic. Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University.

McAlpine, L. (2012). Identity-Trajectories: Doctoral Journeys from Past to Present to Future. Australian Universities' Review, 54(1), 38-46.


Alberto Fornasari1, Matteo Conte2

1Università degli studi di Bari "Aldo Moro"; 2Università degli studi di Bari "Aldo Moro"

The Single Committees of Guarantee (CUG) of the Italian Universities promote equal opportunities among all those who work or study at the University, proposing measures and actions aimed at preventing, opposing and removing all forms of discrimination, direct and indirect, related to gender, age, sexual orientation, race, ethnic origin, disability, religion, language, personal and political convictions, in access to employment, treatment and working conditions and safety at work. The CUG prepares plans of positive actions aimed at preventing discrimination and promoting conditions of effective equality, promote the dissemination of the culture of equal opportunities, implement actions aimed at fostering the creation of a working environment marked by organizational well-being, countering any form of moral, physical or psychological discrimination and ensuring the adoption of policies to reconcile work and life times. The CUG of the University of Bari Aldo Moro has immediately focused on the importance of language in the process of identity construction. The correct use of gender in administrative texts is, in fact, a very concrete way to strengthen gender equality and promote respect for differences within the education system, constituting an important safeguard in the fight against discrimination from an equal opportunities perspective. The work on these issues has distant roots when, in 1987, Alma Sabatini's pioneering study entitled "Sexism in the Italian language” was published, sponsored by the then National Commission for Equality and Equal Opportunities between men and women, followed by several studies, including those of Prof. Cecilia Robustelli, who for many years has been conducting extensive and in-depth research on the use of gender in administrative language. As recalled by Minister Valeria Fedeli in the preface of the 2018 Guidelines for the use of gender in administrative language of the MIUR, also the Accademia della Crusca has repeatedly highlighted how a non-sexist and non-discriminatory use of Italian is possible without forcing, but simply paying attention to what is said or written, while continuing to use grammatical gender according to the regular norms of our language. Since the use of language is collective, its modification cannot be left to the initiative of the individual, but the change must be initiated with a conscious and active reflection on the part of the community, overcoming all forms of linguistic prejudice. It is, in fact, evident how the resistance of public discourse and many media to the use of regular femininities in reference to women who perform functions that were once exclusively male is still marked. Language configures personal identity, acts in the manifestation of identity. Our contribution illustrates the work of the "Gender Language" group, coordinated by the writer, of the " Guarantee Committee for Equal Opportunities, the enhancement of the welfare of those who work and against discrimination" (CUG) of the University of Bari that has elaborated the draft of the guidelines for the use of gender in the administrative language of UNIBA.


Clelia Cascella

University of Manchester

Not one country around the world has achieved gender equality (WEF, 2020), with larger room for improvement in some sectors - such as in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) - and in some domains of the social life (Weber, 1979), especially in terms of the female-over-male ratio in leading positions in the private or public sector (Bericat, 2012), or in academia (glass ceiling effect), to different extent in different countries (e.g., Wesarat & Mathew, 2017; Williams, 2005).

The number of researches investigating gender asymmetries in academic careers has increased over time. Such a scientific production mirrors the increasing attention of both national and international entities towards the mechanisms behind gender inequality, and has produced a large corpus of studies not yet systematized.

This paper focuses on vertical segregation in HE, both in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and in SSH (Social Sciences and Humanities), comparatively across European studies. To this end, a systematic review of the existing literature will be carried out. Literature search will be limited to the European countries that, compared to countries in other continents, share a common set of values and are addressees of the same European policies/guidelines to foster gender equality; but, also largely differ in terms of attitudes and beliefs towards and about gender and gendered roles in and outside family (Cascella et al., under review).

The literature review will focus on careers trajectories, in the attempt to (i) understand at which stage in the career gender differences begin to show up (a still largely under-researched topic, e.g. Murgia & Poggio, 2018), and if such a stage changes country to country; and, (ii) reconnoiter the possible factors (such as aspirations, motivations, constraints and strategies, even including mentorship, to enter, pursue or quit academic careers) associated with the gender divide. Among these factors, mentorship seems to play a critical role: a recent study (AlShebli, Makovi, & Rahwan, 2020) claimed for example that increasing the proportion of female mentors is associated not only with a reduction in the quality of female protégés’ papers (published without co-authors), but also in a reduction in the gain of female mentors. The literature review presented in this paper was also intended to address this aspect.

Both scientific publications (peer-reviewed journal articles and books) and grey literature (e.g., institutional reports) were included. Finally, starting from these records, a snowballing search was additionally carried out. Relevant studies will be searched in Scopus, Web of Science, Erin, and Google.Scholar. No language or time restrictions will be applied in the searching process in the attempt to find all relevant publications, in a longitudinal perspective.

The PRISMA flow diagram ( was used to depict the flow of information through the different phases of the systematic review. Results from previous studies were used to compare male and female career trajectories comparatively across the European countries in the attempt to find patterns and regularities across them that may be associated with relevant sociocultural and historical countries’ characteristics (Bourdieu, 1977, 1990; Bozzon, Murgia, & Poggio, 2019).


Anna Carreri1, Rosy Musumeci2, Barbara Poggio1

1University of Trento, Italy; 2University of Turin, Italy

Recently scholars have started focusing on how the pandemic is aggravating gender inequalities in academia with long-term consequences. So far, the literature has shown that especially female academics with children have struggled to reconcile work, domestic and care commitments during the pandemic, with the consequence of producing fewer publications, thus possibly facing future repercussions in their career advancement (e.g. King, Frederickson, 2020). However, the research has not yet explained the micro- and meso- mechanisms and processes behind this widening gender gap, nor has so far been looked at how the (re)production of gender asymmetries during the pandemic vary between STEM and SSH fields.

We aim to make a contribution to this debate by exploring in a gender perspective the micro- and meso- politics of living and organizing STEM and SSH academic lives during the pandemic. Our analysis is focused on Italian early careers to whom the ‘pandemic penalty’ can be particularly burdensome. Early stages of the career are indeed significantly marked by the requirement of very high productivity levels, temporary contracts, and more generally by the principles of individual entrepreneurial freedom and market deregulation of the neoliberal agenda although with some differences between STEM and SSH fields (Murgia, Poggio, 2019).

Specifically, we ask the following research questions. Is this new modality of managing productive, reproductive and social life by (most of the time) staying at home a new form of neoliberal contemporary organising ‘beyond organisation’? Do the (new) micro- and meso- politics of living and organizing academic lives in early stages during the pandemic produce gender asymmetries in terms of work-life balance, productivity and career prospects? How does gender intertwine with some macro-structural drivers of work and family life that have been found to be particularly significant in the literature such as caring responsibilities and the disciplinary field (STEM versus SSH)?

These questions are addressed through the analysis of literature and empirically through qualitative data collected in the national project ‘GEndering Academia’ (GEA) which focuses on gender asymmetries in Italian academia. The project is funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, University, and Research, and is coordinated by professor Manuela Naldini (University of Turin). Specifically, this contribution relies on 32 semi-structured interviews with male and female early careers (post-doc and fixed-term researchers) working in different disciplinary fields (16 in a STEM field and 16 in a SSH field), which were collected in two universities of northern Italy.

The interviews were conducted remotely in the period June – October 2020 and included some questions about the impact of Covid-19 on interviewees’ lived experiences. The interview guide concerned the individual career, daily working activities, work-life balance, the organizational culture and the perspectives and projects for the future. The thematic analysis is currently underway using the software Atlas.Ti.


King, M.M., Frederickson M.E. (2020, September 12), The Pandemic Penalty: The gendered effects of COVID-19 on scientific productivity, SocArXiv.

Murgia, A., Poggio, B. (eds) (2019), Gender and precarious research careers: A comparative analysis, New York, Routledge.


Arianna Santero1, Maddalena Cannito2, Manuela Naldini1

1University of Turin, Italy; 2Univertisy of Trento, Italy

Gender continues to shape academic careers at different levels. As in other countries, women remain significantly underrepresented in Italy both in early career stages and in full professorships and leadership positions (Miur 2018; Bozzon, Murgia & Villa 2017; Checchi, Cicognani & Kulic 2018; Murgia & Poggio 2019; Picardi 2019; Filandri & Pasqua 2019; Gaiaschi & Musumeci 2020). Vertical gender segregation and underepresentation of women in higher academic levels, including top decision-making positions, are widely recognized as glass-ceiling phenomenon (Roberto, Rey & Maglio 2020; Connell 2006; Ryan, Haslam & Postmes 2007; Wright, Cooper & Luff 2017).

The paper focuses on gender gaps in Italy with regard to access to apical positions and the role played by individual agency.

Theorizing about gender structures differentiate inequalities at individual level, for the development of gendered selves; at cultural level, since during action men and women have different cultural expectations; in institutional domains, where explicit regulations regarding resource distribution are gender specific (Risman 2004). This article is an attempt to investigate which social processes might explain the reproduction of power and gender inequalities. It focuses on individual agency interactions with organizational practices and cultural expectations. In particular, it highlights on how male and female associate professors interpret and develop their career advancement paths.

We consider academic careers as a part of interdependent trajectories during time, marked by events and turning points, whose development is intertwined with the trajectories of other “linked” individuals in specific gendered contexts. The research questions are two. What are the main gendered individual strategies in enhancing academic career? Which are the main processes which may explain the development of these gendered strategies?

The study is based on 64 in-depth interviews with those who became associate professors after 2005 (32 female and 32 male), working in both STEM and SSH academic departments, in four Italian universities. The qualitative interviews have been realized in 2020-2021 online, during the Covid-19 Pandemic crisis. The interviews made it possible to gather information on work and family careers, work orientation, work-life balance, self and hetero assessments of one's academic achievement, networking, organizational cultures, well-being, organization of daily life and working times, prospects for the future, proposals for policies.

Findings allow to understand how male and female associate professors reconstruct and explain their career progresses, and the event and the mechanisms that they consider fostering or hindering the advancements of female/male academics, i.e. “individual self-selection” or “barriers at institutional or organizational level”.

Preliminary results suggest that glass ceiling and sticky floor processes are mechanisms at work in gendered organizational contexts as the Universities. Women enact strategies of individual resistance, part of wider coping strategies to gender disparity. The analysis enables to explain how gender inequalities shape the processes of career consolidation, during crucial institutional changes in the Italian university system, such as the flexibilization of assistant professor jobs (i.e. RTD), the partial (re)centralization of career advancement procedures (i.e. national scientific evaluation), and harsh cuts in public funding for academia.

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