Women in higher education : an analysis of narratives on gender in the workplace

Date: July 21, 2014
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The aim of this study is to evaluate the extent to which women in higher education experience or are aware of possible limitations placed on them as women in work contexts that historically were the domain of men only. The research critically analysed semistructured interview responses from seven female participants from a South African university. The analysis aimed to investigate the participants’ individual and shared perceptions and to present a view of how they discursively construct their own experience within an academic work environment. The research draws on theories and methodologies developed within critical discourse analysis (CDA) in order to interpret the data. This study draws on Gee’s model of CDA, which conceptualises discourse as inherently political and ideological, and therefore seeks to make clear the discursive connections between discourses and the sociocultural, historical and institutional contexts in which it is created and interpreted. Thus, a close analysis of discourses provides insight into aspects of social reality, including how individuals construct themselves and their personal experiences, as well as their attitudes and assumptions about their social contexts. The study reveals that during their narratives the women participants addressed similar issues and themes relating to gender in an academic work place. The participants also used similar linguistic and discursive strategies to construct their narratives. Subsequent to an analysis of the data using Gee’s model of CDA, it was found that the participants do experience limitations in the workplace, but they did not always directly attribute these limitations to gender. After a final analysis of the ways in which participants express attitudes to the issues being addressed, the study finds that the participants are not often aware of dominant ideologies related to gender, or of how the ideologies affect their experiences.

Publisher: Stellenbosch University
Year of Publication: 2014

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