Silent Strategy: Women Faculty and the Academic Profession

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Silent Strategy: Women Faculty and the Academic Profession

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Although the passage of Title IX improved access for women in higher education, women faculty remain underrepresented in many disciplines and prestigious institutions in the U.S. For women faculty, navigation strategies are integral to succeeding in their careers within an environment that privileges men. Women faculty often utilize silence, consciously or subconsciously, as a tool to advance their careers. This qualitative study included 26 interviews with 13 women associate professors representing different disciplines across one public research-intensive institution. In this study, I explored silence and other strategies women faculty used as they sought career success and satisfaction. Findings support that women faculty use and experience silence, daily, in their academic careers to manage and negotiate identities, preserve their careers or selves, hide or conceal identities and emotions to conform to cultural and institutional expectations, silence their voices in specific situations or contexts, and strategically use their voices to push toward change or fight for a cause. These strategies make up strategic silence. This dissertation highlights how the women faculty in this study strategize around the gendered organization that is higher education to achieve success and satisfaction. It also demonstrates the reasons women faculty might choose silence to negotiate and manage their careers and how the academic environment produces a culture that invokes the need to choose silence. Finally, findings further theoretical understandings of silence as a gendered career-enhancement strategy for women in academia and provide implications toward social change within institutions.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2016. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Rebecca Ropers-Huilman. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 303 pages.

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Reinert, Leah. (2016). Silent Strategy: Women Faculty and the Academic Profession. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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