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The female professor: a rare Australian species, the who and how

Ward, Beverley Lorraine (2003) The female professor: a rare Australian species, the who and how. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Although many studies have been made of female academic staff in Australia, there has been no discrete study of Australian female professors as an occupational class or of the relatively rare incumbents of this important position. This thesis makes a contribution to this previously unexplored area by providing a descriptive profile of current professors at Australian universities and an insight into female professors' perspectives on how they managed their entry into the Australian professoriate. It responds to the twin central questions: 'Who are the female occupants in the Australian professoriate and how have they managed their way through the academic hierarchy'?

A profile of current female Australian professors, constructed via a questionnaire, provides the study with a foundation -- a background from which to view the interpretative data. This part of the research also makes a contribution to the social arithmetic of higher education, by presenting systematic demographic information on female professors in Australian universities. Subsequently 13 in-depth interviews were conducted, giving a 'voice' to the professors. This enabled the research to identify and explore six major themes - career, role, significant others, gender, change, and reflection.

The thesis presents the data collected in the questionnaire and interviews, discusses and interprets the research findings, and provides an insight into the milieu in which the female professors function. It includes an overview of some of the critical literature pertinent to the topic - female professors and their working lives - from both an Australian and an international perspective. It also details the methodology used in the study, which included both quantitative and qualitative research tools, and describes the theoretical position which frames the qualitative part of the research, symbolic interactionism, which is located within the hermeneutic/interpretive paradigm in social research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Supervisor(s): Harris, Patricia
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