The article sets out first to discover the gender balance in universities in New Zealand. The analysis examines three disciplinary areas: the hard and soft disciplines plus accounting, the latter as a discipline of gender balance on entry. The goal is to explain gender imbalance by advancing the problem of internal obstacles such as guilt. The article acknowledges the social constructions that engender imbalance but argues that for a sufficient explanation the internal responses to external constructions should be considered. The method involves an analysis of gender distributions at junior and senior levels in New Zealand universities, relevant case studies of junior academics and theorisation of how guilt arises as an imposed powerful negative emotion.