An Exploration of the Career Social Mobility Beliefs of Senior Female Academic Leaders: A Social Identity Approach

Patrick Buckland

    Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


    The under-representation of women in the professoriate continues to be an intractable issue. Various initiatives have attempted to rectify this equality challenge, yet progress towards gender equality in senior academic roles remains slow. Extant research has identified numerous social, organisational, and interpersonal factors that contribute to this gender imbalance. However, despite gender being central to one’s social identity, there is a lack of research that explores this issue from an intergroup relations perspective. The objective of this study is to explore the career social mobility beliefs of female professors and explore the influence that their social identity as women has on their perceptions of their leadership roles in the business schools of Irish and UK universities. Career social mobility beliefs is a concept adapted by the researcher from social identity theory’s social belief systems. In this study, career social mobility beliefs is defined as an individual’s subjective beliefs regarding the permeability, stability, and legitimacy of the boundaries between one’s group and a perceived higher status group in terms of their position and achieving greater hierarchical status and its associated psychological outcomes within the context of work. In this regard, the study explores female professors’ beliefs about whether they can achieve a position that reflects their perceived individual merit and gain access to other groups, including the material and psychological outcomes associated with them regardless of gender. Additionally, the study explores these women’s perceptions of their roles as professors, specifically how their social identity as women and their career social mobility beliefs influences their leadership roles. The research asks: • What are the career social mobility beliefs of senior female academic leaders? • How does social identity influence the perceptions of their leadership roles? This study contributes to a theory-based, empirically informed understanding of the under-representation of women in the professoriate from a social identity perspective. The findings suggest that gender identity is fundamental to most professors' academic identity and influences both beliefs and behaviours regarding career advancement. Furthermore, gender identity was found to have significant implications on how these women view themselves as leaders and how they lead in a male-dominated environment.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • O'Riordan, Chris, Supervisor
    • Kelliher, Felicity, Supervisor
    • Flood, Patrick C., Supervisor, External person
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2021


    • Career Social Mobility Beliefs, Female Academic Leaders


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