Behind the Scenes: His, Hers, and Ours

His, Hers, and Ours: Gendered Roles and Resources in Academic Departments

By Meghan Pifer

I wrote this article to explore a way of using data to demonstrate the patterns of behavior that faculty members engage in themselves and experience from their colleagues. Much of the literature about academic women points to differential experiences that make the academic workplace fundamentally different for them than for academic men. From a networks perspective, these experiences and relationships are connected to resources and opportunities. That creates differences beyond how it feels to be at work, in and of itself an important factor, and raises issues of equity, opportunity, access, and advancement. It introduces the question of how factors other than knowledge, skills, and abilities affect the development of academic careers. I was interested to explore how we might build on academics’ perceptions of how others treat them to document collegial interactions. In other words, I wanted to learn more about whether any gender-based differences existed in the ways that faculty members interacted with their departmental peers, and if so, what patterns emerged from those cumulative differences.


This article presents findings from an exploratory study of whether and how gender-based patterns were present in faculty members’ departmental networks. A network analysis approach was used to identify if women and men had ties to their departmental colleagues in similar patterns and for similar purposes. Findings from the analysis of network survey and interview data with 19 faculty members in two academic departments suggest that some participants held gendered expectations of collegial support and that perceptions of gender roles may have influenced departmental work and relationships. Gender was salient for women in ways that did not shape the experiences of men in the same departments. There was a tendency for participants to connect to colleagues who were women for teaching-related purposes more than for research purposes or other reasons. Faculty members’ relationships with their colleagues may be shaped by their own gender-based assumptions and behaviors as well as those of their colleagues. These differences across gender led to different networks of relationships for various functions of colleagueship, which participants used to obtain different resources that were important for their career success.

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