Understanding Female Mid-Career Professional Trajectories in Higher Education: The Triad of Pedagogy, Research, and Knowledge Exchange

Understanding Female Mid-Career Professional Trajectories in Higher Education: The Triad of Pedagogy, Research, and Knowledge Exchange

Catherine Hayes, Yitka N. H. Graham
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4451-1.ch002
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This chapter provides an insight into the trinity of pedagogy, research, and knowledge exchange, which now characterises all strategic and operational levels of United Kingdom (UK) higher education institutions (HEIs). All have important implications for the degree of agency women are afforded within their everyday professional practice. By framing issues such as embodiment, political lenses such as neoliberalism, and the national initiatives which influence the sector to such a great deal in the UK, the chapter is used as a means of considering various aspects of professional organisations that afford female mid-career professionals so much, yet at the same time can pose challenges to promotion and developmental progression. It also highlights the broad consideration of the challenges of professional development, being able to refocus female academic careers and personal lives following the global pandemic and the impact on framing professional identity.
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The overlap between three focused individual nexi provides the foundation of this chapter. As female authors, working within the context of a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI) we provide an insight into the structure and agency afforded by UK Higher Education for women whose lives are spent within and between the parameters of research, pedagogic and knowledge exchange leadership. Whilst topical conversations of the progression and development of women in the workplace stemmed originally from the latter decades of the 20th Century, debates surrounding equity and equality in the workplace and in society generally, still pervade (Ramamoorthy & Stringer, 2017; Mill, 2018). Whilst the original debates of whether women can ever ‘have it all’ typically characterised the 20th Century, time has seen different challenges emerge for female professionals including the 21st Century Global Covid 19 pandemic. The authors highlight the key aspects of these challenges and to consider the concept of perceived versus actual reality of lives lived in a modern society where women are now expected to work. Their developmental progression in the context of professional practice is also seen as a social norm rather than a deviance from those historically lived (Bittman & Pixley, 2020). Written through the lens of perspective of two women who have worked, raised families and faced the dilemmas of the UK Higher Education labour market, the chapter provides a source of critical evaluation on the extant published literature, an insight into their means of managing expectation and perhaps most importantly a sense of wisdom in terms of acknowledging those elements of working life that have the greatest capacity to impinge and impact on the prospect of a life outside of the workplace. By dividing the content into clear facets of UK HEI research, pedagogic practice, and knowledge exchange activity provides the chapter with the opportunity to provide an insight into these as potential areas for career progression in current pedagogic and research praxis. Within this is a formal acknowledgement and recognition of the wealth of experience, tacit knowledge and formal capacity for interaction, dialogue, and cognitive input that women in Higher Education bring to the roles they occupy (Toffoletti, & Starr, 2016).

Using principles of an autoethnographic approach, rather than two purists separate autoethnographic accounts, the authors wrote this chapter as something that can be used as a collective tool of critical introspection for others (Humphreys, 2005). In terms of their contribution to the context of HEI strategic planning and front-line operationalization, the authors regard themselves as having overlapped and complementary skill sets within the context of the pedagogical, research and entrepreneurial nexi. These connect the two authors but also provide a seam of delineation, from which their combined efforts stem in the context of a Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing. Their work together provides a means of collaboration towards outcomes that strategically benefit the institution within which they work and provide the opportunity to work in an ethos of mutual reciprocity, where whilst each of us could work optimally without the other, the catalytic impact of having a shared work ethic, ensures satisfaction both in the workplace and in managing a work life balance (Cole et al., 2002). The authors also recognise that their stories may not provide a narrative generalisable to other women, but it might serve as a source of critical reflection and reflexivity for all those working in similar contexts and settings in HEIs across the globe. From a pragmatic perspective the chapter addresses twelve key areas, initially covering the contextual backdrop to UK Higher Education and an insight into the current UK Teaching Excellence Framework in academic practice. The chapter then moves to consider the concepts of gendered physicality and embodied agency, the challenges of becoming a mid-career professional, character attribution and framing professional identity. The central point of the chapter provides an insight into framework building for mid-career professional development opportunities and the intersectional relationships between pedagogical practice, research and entrepreneurship. The chapter concludes with an overview of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, gender bias within the context of UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), applied research and knowledge exchange.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaboration: Is the action of working co-operatively or in partnership with an organisation for someone to produce something purposive for wider society.

Teaching Excellence Framework: The Teaching Excellence Framework is the British Government’s epistemological tool for the active assessment and metrification of the quality of undergraduate teaching within HEI providers in England.

Research Excellence Framework: The Research Excellence Framework (originally named the Research Assessment Exercise) is a mechanism of assessing or evaluating research impact in British HEIs.

Embodiment: Is the representation or expression of something in a tangible or visual form.

Autoethnographic Approach: Is a form of self-narrative that places the self within a social context, using principles of a purist autoethnographic approach.

Temporality: From a philosophical perspective temporality pertains to the linear or chronological passage of time, in relation to the past, the present and the future. This has resonance when considering the role and historical role of women within their career trajectories and is used within the chapter to highlight the relative currency of perception.

Professional Identity: Collective professional identity can be defined as the attitudes, values, knowledge, beliefs, and skills shared with others within a professional group, individual professional identity pertains to the alignment of personal attitudes, values, knowledge, beliefs, and skills integrated formed on a singular basis relative to collective professional identity.

Knowledge Exchange Framework: The Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) is a tool serving to provide focused information on the knowledge exchange activities of British HEIs. The framework is also associated with the term ‘knowledge exchange’ which is the processes that HEIs undertake with their collaborative partners from health, industry, commerce, and business to create new knowledge with a societal purpose.

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