Women's Identity in Management: A Qualitative Study on Non-academic Women in New Zealand Universities
MetadataShow full metadata
Neoliberal reforms in the 1990s have changed the way universities are managed. A more corporatised structure has impacted on the professional identity of both academic and non-academic staff. Boundaries between administration and academia have blurred as management, once seen as the domain of academics, has now shifted to the control of administrative managers (McInnis, 2012; Olssen & Peters, 2005). Extensive research has been undertaken to examine the effect these changes have had on academic staff in universities (Henkel, 2005). Over the last decade, there has been a growing interest in non-academic staff and the importance of the need to establish their professional identity (Gray, 2015; Lewis, 2014; Whitchurch, 2008a; 2008b). However, these studies have mostly explored non-academic staff as a homogenous group. Over half the staff in New Zealand universities are non-academic staff (Ministry of Education, n.d.-a) and a large proportion are female (Ministry of Education, n.d.-b, see Figure 1). In spite of this, there has been very little research on non-academic staff in New Zealand universities and no research specifically on the identity of non-academic women managers in academic units. This thesis aims to address this gap and gain an understanding of how non-academic women working in management roles within academic departments understand their identity and perceive their career opportunities in the New Zealand university environment. The study uses a hybrid approach informed by van Manen’s (1997) hermeneutic phenomenology. Tajel’s (1974) social identity theory was an overarching theoretical guide. A hybrid approach brings a ‘hue’ of phenomenology to the sociological concepts of professional role and identity rather than the strong focus of lived experience that underpins a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology. Semi-structured interviews were used to gather data from 20 participants within four New Zealand universities. The findings were conceptualised in a model (Figure 3) showing how the participants spatially, relationally, corporeally, temporally and materially experienced their professional identity. This thesis shows how the participants proudly enacted their roles with a management style known as doing gender, using feminine attributes. The lived space the participants were positioned in had a significant influence on their everydayness of being-in-the-world. There is still evidence of the binary divide between academic and non-academic staff in New Zealand universities. Findings suggested that validation of the participants’ roles by their academic-manager and the university would lead to more credibility and a stronger professional identity. This thesis makes a significant contribution to scholarship on women in universities, providing educational policy makers and tertiary institutions with a greater sense of how professional identity and career progression of female non-academic staff in New Zealand universities can be enhanced. This thesis also contributes to the body of knowledge on professional identity of roles predominately undertaken by women and also a deeper understanding of power imbalance between intra-groups in organisations. The caring aspects of doing gender, such as supporting, protection and adapting behaviour, could be considered a positive asset to the future management of academic units. A key recommendation from this thesis is for universities to strategically develop their female non-academic managers with the potential of developing a management model based on collaboration as an ethic of care where academic and non-academic managers work together.