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Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Marianne Larsen


This study examines how gender shapes the experiences of internationally educated Chinese females in trying to obtain academic positions in Chinese higher education institutions from a feminist standpoint theory perspective. The interactions between education and gender in the contemporary globalized world have been an important theme in studies about education, gender, and social equity. Identifying the gaps in the statistic-based understandings of gender parity, this study adopts a qualitative narrative method and interviewed four female scholars who have applied and interviewed for academic jobs in China in the past four years. The findings are presented as four elaborate narratives. The life stories demonstrate various challenges, particularly gender-specific challenges, confronting women in starting and developing academic careers and women’s intentionality and subjectivity in pursuing their careers. This study reveals the limitations and negative effects of neoliberal measurability and objectivity, and suggests concrete measures for institutions to promote gender equity.

Summary for Lay Audience

Education is widely considered as an effective way to empower women and close gender gaps. In many contexts, the increase in females’ access to education has been seen as a signifier of improvement in gender parity. This is particularly obvious in China, where the dominant discourse constantly uses the fact that women outnumbered men in universities to prove women and men are already equal. This study tries to counter the notion of measuring social equity only by numbers, explore the interactions between education and gender equity, examine women’s agency in advancing educational attainments, and add nuanced understandings of women’s experiences in higher education today.

Focusing on the lived experiences of internationally educated Chinese females who seek academic careers in China, this study asks: What happen when women look for academic jobs? What challenges do they face and how do they overcome the barriers? What is it like to be a woman in academia? This study positioned women’s narratives told in their own voices as the source of knowledge. It interviewed four female scholars who have looked for academic positions in China in the past four years and asked them to recount their experiences with job application and life in academia as stories.

Through critical analysis of these stories, the study reveals the persistent discrimination against women in the academe and lack of support for female scholars. Further, the marketization of higher education emphasizes measurable research productivity and hinders females’ development in academia. Universities’ hiring practices are filled with unfairness and implicit obstructions. However, in the face of challenges and gender biases, all participants exhibited a sense of resilience and autonomy in seeking academic careers. This study presents female scholars’ realities and struggles and corrects the misunderstandings of women’s lives in academia. In doing so, it validates women’s agency and sense of self. It unravels the myth of “objectivity” by revealing the injustice it caused and provide insights into the interrelation between knowledge and power. It also provides suggestions of concrete measures for institutions to advocate gender equity and improve fairness for all candidates.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.