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Vol. 36 (2016)

Worker Bees and Wild Roses: The Pleasure and Pain of Mid-Career Female Academics

  • Athena Vongalis-Macrow
June 14, 2017


Drawing on self-identified metaphorical expressions that represent women at work, this paper discusses how a group of mid- career academic women experience their work and workplace. The research was prompted by consistently high number of female academics who remain in the mid-levels in the academic career ladder despite research that shows this group is ambitious and holds leadership aspirations. Understanding the experiences at the mid-career levels, by gaining insights into their workplace experiences, may further our knowledge of how to advance women in leadership. The research draws on the metaphoric descriptions provided by 28 mid-career women working across three Australian universities. Metaphors elicit hidden and implicit values about how the subjects respond and give meaning to their work and working conditions and have been used in organisational practices to disclose underlying issues. The findings discuss the positive and negative work and workplace associations disclosed by the participants. However, the findings suggests that women find pleasure and desire in and through their work. It is through their work that academic women experience self-expression, creativity and adding value. By focussing on the value of doing academic work and the rewards of contributing to academia, there is potential to enhance the capacity for mid-career women to thrive in academia and build the foundations for leadership.

Keywords: metaphors, mid-career academics, women, higher education