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AMIN/SRHE ‘Gendering Academic Mobilities’ symposium (by Xuemeng Cao)

Reflections on the AMIN/SRHE International Women’s Day Event

by Xuemeng Cao (Centre for Education Studies)


A fantastic event was held on 8th March 2017, International Women’s day, at the University of Warwick, with a relevant theme: ‘Gendering academic mobility: international perspectives’. Four excellent researchers shared their studies focusing on different angles of international academic mobility.


Thushari Welikala, a lecturer in higher education at King`s College London, gave a vivid presentation combining her research and her own experience, talking about the double strangeness that migrant women can confront in UK higher education (which is perceived as a masculine work context). She adopted an auto-ethnographic methodology to reveal the complex, ongoing identification process of female migrants who imagine new ways of interpreting the self, and choose borders to dwell owing to their experience of journeying across multiple borders and their feeling of foreignness. Welikala also proposed an idea about “liminal selfhoods” which includes but is not limited to how migrant females seek belonging and self identity in a heterogeneous context. Welikala expressed her attitude towards challenging the masculine norms such as being advised ‘to speak like a man’ in order to be heard, saying ‘I don’t want to be a man. I am a woman’.


Channah Herschberg, a PhD candidate at the Institute for Management Research at Radboud University in the Netherlands, gave an amazing presentation and triggered plenty of discussions. Her research is about inequality practices in the construction of international mobility as a selection criterion for assistant professor positions, collecting data from six European universities according to the recruiting criteria used at university, department and individual levels. Despite comparing the difference of recruiting criteria adopted in natural and social science departments, Herschberg emphasized the inequalities that are created by selection committees’ perceptions of the international mobility of women (especially mothers). Recruiters tend to assume parenthood will create obstacles for women to be internationally mobile, which leads to unequal perceptions of women as suitable candidates in assistant professorship selections.


The other two speakers Mark de Vos and Charoula Tzanakou both talked about deal career couples in academia or beyond. Mark de Vos, who is Dutch but works at University of Copenhagen in Denmark, introduced the EURAXESS and the Dual Career Spouse Network —a dual career service targeted to providing employment-related information and support to the people who followed their spouses to move abroad. The majority (90%) of people served by this project are highly skilled females. This project is successful in not only attracting and retaining international high-profile researchers, but also benefiting the work-life balance of academics.


Charoula Tzanakou’s research also confirms the significance of dual career services in enhancing academic career-enhancing mobility, but puts forward some concerns of gender inequalities which may result from these practices. Charoula Tzanakou is a research fellow in the department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick. Her research presents examples of recently established dual career services of higher education institutions in Germany, Denmark and Switzerland, comparing them with US practices which are longer established and more mature. Tzanakou suggested an important angle that in the situation of mobile couples, women can be younger and at earlier career stage, therefore, women tend to be the follower who passively relocates to a new country, which is also proved by Mark de Vos’s research. Hence, it is necessary to consider whether practices of mobility and international recruitment reinforce gender inequalities when these practices are developed to enhance the international excellence and diversity in academia.


Alongside the brilliant presentations, Marie Sautier from University of Lausanne in Switzerland displayed an attractive poster showing her study titled ‘Questioning the Male-Mover/ Female-Follower Model of Academic Mobility patterns’. During the break-out discussion, almost all attending researchers shared personal experiences and understandings about international mobility and/or the gender inequality situations in their countries of origin. This event is a good example of networking among researchers in interrelated research domains but from different contexts.


Podcasts of presentations:

Thushari Welikala

Channah Herschberg

Mark de Vos

Charoula Tzanakou

Thu 30 Mar 2017, 15:19 | Tags: AMIN, mobility, academic mobility, gender