Female academics: Wives of the organization?

Describes how gendered interactions in the workplace subvert success for female academics


As a young academic in the early 1990s I received a copy of Anne Huff's "Wives of the organization", which describes how gendered interactions in the workplace may subvert success for female academics. And with "copy" I do mean an actual paper copy that was grey from being photocopied again and again! Remember "the Web" didn't really exist back then and few people even regularly used email. Heck, it was only a few years earlier that I still did my university assignments on a typewriter.

Surely things have changed?

Although I found the paper interesting, like many young women then and now I naively thought the patterns described in the paper would not apply to my generation. And of course I was wrong, very wrong! In the next 15-odd years of my academic career I noticed that, although things were undoubtedly improving for women in many ways, traditional gendered interactions were still very much present in the workplace. And yes they did prevent many women from achieving what they wanted. Every time I read the paper again (I still had that hard copy) it acquired more meaning for me.

In 2009 - as PhD director at the University of Melbourne - I wanted to share the paper with a group of PhD students in my seminar series Academia Behind the Scenes. But running off even greyer photocopies probably wouldn't appeal to the younger generation. Thus I contacted Anne and asked her whether she had an electronic version, and if so, whether she would allow me to put it up on my frequently visited website. That would mean everyone could read her work.

Anne readily agreed, but by a very fortuitous coincidence was able to offer something even better: a set of four papers around the general theme of the role of women in the workplace. The papers were originally meant to be published elsewhere, but this initiative fell through and the authors were happy with an alternative outlet.

The result: a very exciting exchange

As a result you can now read all four papers on my website, introduced by an interview exchange between Anne Huff and Alison Konrad. Happy reading!

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