McWilliams, Allison Elise
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Within the halls of the academy, women arguably have made great strides in the roughly 150 years since first gaining access to these historically white, male-dominated institutions. In today’s four-year colleges and universities female students fill a greater number of seats within the undergraduate population than male students do, as well as within many graduate departments, and women can be found at all ranks of university administration and faculty. However, within these latter groups female academics are still largely outnumbered by their male counterparts and this is increasingly the case ascending the ranks. This disparity raises important questions about what is happening to women in faculty roles. Although there are quantitative comparisons of women versus men that identify the roles that women occupy within the academy, such number-counting does not explain why women occupy the roles that they do and does not get to the level of providing an explanation for the percentages. By examining the specific, lived experiences of women in the academy, through their own words, researchers construct a more complete picture of women’s academic lives and can make recommendations for improving those lives and the opportunities for those who follow. This interpretive research study uses organizational socialization and feminist theories to explore how women in a Department of English, a Business School, and selected Departments of Science construct their academic lives. The study concludes that women within higher education face challenges that include a pervasive bias towards women in their professional roles, difficulties balancing professional and personal demands, and an unequal burden of service, each of which contributes to women’s marginalization within the academy, pressure to conform and to perform to standards that have been articulated for a “gender-neutral” employee, and hard choices between professional and personal lives.