Higher Education

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 431–447 | Cite as

Survivors in a male preserve: A study of British women academics' experiences and perceptions of discrimination in a UK university

  • Barbara Bagilhole


Women academics in British universities make up a very small minority and are concentrated in the lower grades. All the statistical evidence points to the fact that a reason for this situation is that discrimination exists in the academic profession. Howerver, very little empirical information exists on the nature of this discrimination and how it operates. The study reported here seeks to contribute to the understanding of this phenomenon by exploring the processes involved, through the perceptions and experience of women academics themselves. A total of 43 women from a British university were interviewed at length, and problem areas were highlighted by their evidence.

There is the problem of being in very small minorities functioning in a male environment. They suffer from isolation and exclusion from their male colleagues, and challenges to their authority from male students. They have fewer support systems, with few role models or mentors, and little access to communication networks. They report problems with work relationships, and experience hostility from male colleagues and students. The majority had experienced discrimination within the university. Finally, the effects of these factors on their perception of themselves as academics are explored. The majority become convinced that the concept of a women academic is problematic. This leads them to put pressure on themselves to perform better than male colleagues, and to avoid being identified with other women. They become ‘honorary men’ and as such are in no position to support other women.


Communication Network Support System Lower Grade Role Model Male Student 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Bagilhole
    • 1
  1. 1.Lecturer in Social Policy, Director of Studies for MA in Women's Studies, Department of Social SciencesUniversity of LoughboroughEngland

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