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Social Work: Research


Women in the Academy - A Case Study of Social Work Education in Scotland

Funded by Carnegie Resarch Incentive Grant, this project was part of the Social Work Centenary at The University of Edinburgh.  The project began with the realisation that women in the academy fare less well than men across all disciplines: they are less likely to be promoted, they earn less pay, and that are much less likely to become professors. But what about women in a traditionally female-centred discipline such as social work? How does their experience mirror or contrast with this global picture? And what lessons can be learned (positive and negative) that might inform policy and practice in higher education in the future?  The research was carried out between 2017 and 2018.

Our research used social work education in Scotland as a case study through which to explore the experiences of women in what has conventionally been a female-dominated environment, in academic and practice arenas alike. The research drew from statistical and demographic data on women academics in social work in Scotland, and located these within the wider context of the academy and the social work profession. We undertook an online survey with ALL social work academics in Scotland, exploring the different aspects of work they undertake, and their views about gender equality in the academic discipline of social work in Scotland. We also carried out interviews with 15 senior women in social work education in Scotland, past and present, and analysed findings within wider research literature on gender norms, patriarchal structures, caring responsibilities, and neoliberalism in the academy.  It is hoped that our insight into what has helped and hindered social work academic women’s participation and progression in higher education and what strategies (individual and collective) may improve understanding of the position of women across the academy in the future.

On 24 October, emerging findings were shared at a seminar held at The University of Edinburgh and attended by an enthusiastic group of practitioners, students and academics from Edinburgh and Stirling universities. provided a podcast of the seminar presention; the powerpint slides can be accessed here too. A journal paper is now under review.

This research was carried out by  Viv Cree, Jackie Gulland, Mary Mitchell and Fiona Morrison.

An abbreviated URL is here - please share and tweet! -

SW and academy