Sisterhood in academia: building a flock culture to cope and thrive
International Journal of Educational Management
Purpose: This paper examines the experiences of a team of female academics (teaching a large cohort of undergraduate students) and the coping mechanisms used to combat the challenges they confront in the Australian higher education sector. Design/methodology/approach: Using a reflective autoethnographic method and strengths perspective, the authors share experiences as female professionals whose intersectional identities presented challenges that extend beyond those typically found in the current higher education setting. Findings: The individualized nature of academic work exacerbates the systemic marginalization of female academics. Adopting a flock culture serves as a support network for addressing the various intersectional challenges. The authors liken the “flock cultural approach” to a “sisterhood” where individuals impacted by intersectional challenges build a strong and cohesive unit to support each other by utilizing their combined strengths to create positive synergy to cope with ongoing workplace challenges. Research limitations/implications: The study highlights the benefit of the strengths perspective to understand how female academics with intersectional identities can overcome the challenges of their highly individualized profession. Practical implications: This paper highlights the importance of building team-based work, cultivating collective achievement and high trust in a highly individualistic profession. Social implications: Using the strength perspective, the authors disrupt the conventional and currently narrow usage of sisterhood to help develop strong, adaptive, flexible and responsive bonds among diverse female academics. The findings point to how using a “flock culture” – a membership-based philosophy – became the key support mechanism for the marginalized groups, empowering them to confront the systemic barriers within their profession. Originality/value: First, the findings of this study are shaped by the intersections of factors such as ethnicity, age, race, religion and mode of employment, which all influences the participants’ lived experiences. Second, this study contributes to the transnational feminist movement by unveiling the contextualized barriers that junior academic females from various migrant backgrounds face and identify how they synergized their collective strengths to survive the challenging academic environment. Third, using the strength perspective, the authors disrupt the conventional and currently narrow usage of sisterhood to help develop strong, adaptive, flexible and responsive bonds among diverse female academics.
Open Access Status
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