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Women academic’s experiences of maternity leave in the neoliberal university: unmasking governmentality

Jones, K. ORCID: and Floyd, A. ORCID: (2024) Women academic’s experiences of maternity leave in the neoliberal university: unmasking governmentality. Gender, Work & Organization, 31 (1). pp. 92-114. ISSN 0968-6673

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/gwao.13059


Addressing a paucity of large-scale studies about women academic’s maternity experiences of leave in academia and under-theorizing of the influence of neoliberalism on this phenomenon, this research provides one of the largest studies of women’s experiences of maternity leave in the academic sector. Secondary analysis of a sub-set of data from a global online mixed method survey with 553 women academics (82% UK, 18% international) was undertaken to explore experiences and implications of maternity leave for women. The findings reveal that women academics continued to undertake core academic work duties during maternity leave, such as writing grant applications and journal articles, supervising doctoral students, teaching and responding to email. We document four distinct orientations adopted by women during maternity leave that characterise neoliberal subjectivity and use Foucauldian governmentality to unmask the inculcation of such norms. Our analysis shows how neoliberal ideology has gained a hegemonic position in academia that leaves little space for maternity leave, resulting in many women effectively relinquishing their maternity rights to sustain academic productivity. We argue that neoliberalism and new managerialism within the academy undermine policies to support women’s maternity rights. The findings will be of interest to scholars and Human Resources professionals, academic mothers, managers, and policy makers championing change in the sector.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Improving Equity and Inclusion through Education
ID Code:112778
Uncontrolled Keywords:women, maternity leave, neoliberalism, academia, governmentality


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