Contextualising Universities’ Third Mission : A Study of African Women’s Participation in Academic Engagement

Owusu-Kwarteng, Afua Konadu and Dada, Lola and Jack, Sarah and Forson, Cynthia (2023) Contextualising Universities’ Third Mission : A Study of African Women’s Participation in Academic Engagement. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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The traditional mandate of universities has been to undertake research and teaching activities. However, in recent times, universities are pursuing a ‘third mission’ by collaborating with societal partners, including firms. Research suggests that such academic engagement (AE) activities are expedient for achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Other studies have, however, drawn attention to the gender differences in men and women’s pursuit and practice of AE. In particular, scholars have shown that the masculine cultures and structures of universities and firms are averse to women researchers’ lived experiences and, thus, limit their participation in AE activities compared to their male colleagues. The emerging gender dynamics in AE has raised important, yet unanswered questions, regarding the potential of universities and firms to support the achievement of SDG5 (gender equality and women’s empowerment), especially in developing countries that are characterised by weak institutions. Given the importance of AE to the success of the SDGs, this thesis aims to fill this knowledge gap by first, providing an understanding of how the corporate sustainability practices of businesses are pragmatically contributing to the achievement of the SDGs related to gender, climate change, democracy, and poverty, within the contexts of Mexico, Ghana, Vietnam, and South Africa. Second, and focusing narrowly on the theme of gender and the sub-Saharan African context, the thesis sheds light on how and why gender differences exist in the opportunities for men and women researchers to participate in AE activities. Next, the study draws on Bourdieusian social theory and in-depth interviews with 36 women researchers from Zambia, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, and Botswana, to explicate how women researchers within these contexts utilise their agency to overcome the structural and cultural constraints impeding their involvement in AE activities. Finally, the thesis deepens insights into how, and why, the efforts of African women researchers to overcome the systemic constraints impeding their participation in AE activities, come to reinforce the very structures that establish those barriers. A key finding from the study is that AE promotes competitiveness and performativity in academia, which in turn distorts the gender equality targets enshrined in SDG5. In particular, the findings demonstrate that AE is a gendered and neoliberal activity that urges women researchers to develop and implement career strategies that sustain male privileges and female disadvantages within universities. Emerging from the analysis is also the fact that, although businesses can make significant contributions to the SDGs, a failure to embed community participation in their corporate sustainability principles and agendas, can reverse much of the progress made on SDG5. This thesis makes several contributions. First, it extends and pushes forward existing scholarship and policy discussions on the SDGs by empirically investigating a significant, but understudied group of women, whose voices and experiences in academia have rarely been acknowledged. In addition, the study provides novel insights into the socio-cultural dimension of sustainable development by highlighting the utility of community participation approaches to corporate sustainability practices. Importantly, this study offers another way of viewing the gender gap in AE by drawing on Bourdieu’s (1977) social theory to show how the current single-level and de-contextualised explanations of this problem limit our understanding of the interesting ways in which micro-individual career opportunities are shaped by contextual influences at the macro-level and organisational processes and practices at the meso-level.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
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The datasets used during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Research Output Funding/yes_externally_funded
?? sub-saharan africagenderbourdieuwomensustainabilitysdgsacademic engagementthird missionuniversity-industry collaborationyes - externally fundedyessdg 5 - gender equalitysdg 4 - quality educationsdg 9 - industry, innovation, and infrastructuresdg 10 - redu ??
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Deposited On:
08 Aug 2023 09:05
Last Modified:
03 Apr 2024 00:35