What do the experiences of ASAW reveal about the role of networks in pursuing career opportunities in the field of Higher Education?

Salh, Sukhwinder (2023) What do the experiences of ASAW reveal about the role of networks in pursuing career opportunities in the field of Higher Education? Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Sukhwinder Salh PhD Thesis published_Final version_Submitted Aug 2022_Final Award Nov 2023 .pdf - Accepted Version

Download (2MB)


This thesis draws on the concept of social capital, network theory and feminism to critically investigate choices and paths available to a specific group of women, namely Academic South Asian Women (ASAW) as they navigate their careers through British Higher Education (HE). Although gender and race inequalities experienced by academic staff within higher education institutions are well documented (Bhopal, 2020; Rabelo, Robotham and McCluney, 2020; Rollock, 2019; Ahmed, 2019; Morley, 2014) little is known about the specific voices of ASAW: in particular, how they use/access informal/formal academic networking spaces.

Findings identified multifarious factors which both enabled and constrained ASAW’s access and mobilisation of networks. These encompass the role of enabling behaviour and personal interventions facilitated through relationships with supervsiors, managers and informal sponsors. Participants’ stories revealed a variety of explanations of their experiences ranging from individual historical accounts, personal ‘snap’ moments (Ahmed, 2017) as well as negotiating an HE Sector characterised by an entrenched white, patriarchal, racist structure.

The conceptual framework for this inquiry is built on Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice (1986), particularly his concepts of habitus, capital and field. However, it moves beyond Bourdieu’s conceptualisation of habitus, in that it reveals ASAW make use of a hybrid habitus, which is often operationalised in order to negotiate their position within the academy. This thesis argues that although Bourdieusian theoretical framing offers valuable methodological insights, it somewhat undermines the active agency of the ASAW themselves to transformatively construct their own identities to improve their position within HE. In order to explore this limitation, in addition to Bourdieu, the works of feminist writers such as hooks (1990) and Ahmed (2012, 2015 & 2004) are critically integrated within my analysis.

From my participants’ narratives four key themes emerge, which explore both the barriers to networks and how they are mobilised and accessed through: (i) relationships, (ii) agentic behaviour, (iii) structural inequalities & fitting in, and (iv) informal/organic networks. The research demonstrates how, despite a glacial pace of change in higher education, ASAW demonstrated innovative and agentic personal strategies to develop their professional careers and identities. In conclusion this research explores the extent to which ASAW pursue ‘alternative’ capitals such as external, digital and emotional capital to improve their position within the academy. Ultimately, this thesis innovatively argues that there is potential for transformative outcomes for ASAW, enabling both access to networks and mobilising them by resisting dominant rules, disrupting historic practices and through this, ASAW, flexibly and responsively, are sourcing their own solutions to improve their position in HE.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
August 2022Submitted
November 2023Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Networks, Higher Education, Careers and Equality
Subjects: CAH15 - social sciences > CAH15-01 - sociology, social policy and anthropology > CAH15-01-02 - sociology
CAH17 - business and management > CAH17-01 - business and management > CAH17-01-02 - business studies
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences > College of Business, Digital Transformation & Entrepreneurship
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2024 14:48
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2024 14:48
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/15176

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


In this section...