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Women’s career progression in UK academic libraries: Organisational change and management change Emma Hadfield (University of Huddersfield) Barbara Sen.

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Presentation on theme: "Women’s career progression in UK academic libraries: Organisational change and management change Emma Hadfield (University of Huddersfield) Barbara Sen."— Presentation transcript:

1 Women’s career progression in UK academic libraries: Organisational change and management change Emma Hadfield (University of Huddersfield) Barbara Sen (University of Sheffield) IFLA Satellite Meeting Bologna August 2009 Moving In, Moving Up, and Moving On: Strategies for Regenerating the Library & Information Profession

2 Origin of idea Feminist movement that emerged in the UK in 1980 called Women in Libraries (WiL)

3 Women in Libraries - background Non hierarchical, organic, loose, collective Provided support network of like minded people Raise awareness, change attitudes, ‘force for change’ Core benefits, confidence and support Women benefitting today from seeds planted - staff development, mentoring, promotion and flexible working Movement ended as women’s positions improved therefore reducing need

4 Aims To investigate women’s success in UK academic libraries To identify career paths and potential barriers to career progression

5 Areas investigated The glass ceiling Management traits Mentors/role models Barriers Flexible working

6 Literature review Management traits Mentoring/role models/networking Flexible working/barriers.

7 Methods Influenced by a feminist perspective 12 interviews with women holding senior management roles in UK academic libraries Qualitative thematic analysis of interviews supported by some descriptive quantitative statistics

8 Focus Initial examinations highlighted a dramatic shift in amount of women in senior positions in UK academic libraries over past 30 years

9 The glass ceiling - statistics Statistics acquired from Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL), membership institution and delegate lists and Annual General Meeting (AGM) minutes

10 The glass ceiling - results

11 The glass ceiling - reasons Suggestions were made that any glass ceiling was created by women themselves through family commitments or confidence “The fact that it has always been a female dominated profession [and] if other obstacles were relaxing which I think they were in the 90s, there was a whole raft of women ready and able to rise.”

12 Management traits Good management is unrelated to gender and skills are wide ranging, the most important being people skills “Listening, multi-skilling are all considered to be feminine traits, but I think as a senior manager you need to be able to multi-skill and if you can’t you are not meant to be a senior manager”.

13 Management traits (2) A willingness to develop people was seen as critically important WiL highlighted this area as lacking in the past - more women in senior roles may have contributed to the change

14 Management traits (3) Women’s influence on organisational structures Hierarchies are still in place, but are mixed with flattened structures that encourage team working and participation

15 What women say… “I have deliberately experimented with less hierarchical groups...I think my main thrust has always been trying to get the engagement from all levels of staff ". "I have thought about issues such as providing structure and opportunities for people in all areas of the organisation...to provide some career progression...because I think that is something in the past that has been lacking".

16 Mentors and role models Most thought that gender not relevant – participant’s mentors had mostly been male Others felt women identify better with women Networking was also seen as important for friendship, support and sharing good practice

17 Confidence Participants emphasised low confidence Women “need encouragement to develop and progress their careers” “Women are less pushy and less able to push themselves forward”

18 Having confidence – manager’s steps to success No specific career plans Taken roles that were interesting and challenging Sometimes moving sideward as well as upward Not followed traditional routes

19 Potential barriers Children “the burden of childcare rest with the mother” Career break “taking a career break is the biggest barrier” Mobility “families…being torn apart by the fact that they are having to live apart in order to progress their careers”

20 Flexible working “If you give people the flexibility…then they are far more likely to put the effort in” Useful for both women and men “Prejudice against flexible working in a management position”

21 Succession planning “The age profile of...staff is such that a number of key senior post holders are coming up to retirement age” No formal procedures in place despite staff development being central to manager’s role Need for management training “We need to ensure that there are enough good ambitious people in the sector to do the senior jobs in the future”

22 The future being… 33% felt no further improvement needed 66% commented on childcare, flexible working, confidence and training (all important for both women and men) Achievement of women both noticeable and impressive – BUT some issues still remain

23 Conclusions Have things changed and how?

24 Conclusions – positive changes Opportunities are afforded to women the glass ceiling has been shattered Good managers are not attributed to gender - a blend of skills is required Hierarchies are combined with collaborative structures Strong emphasis on staff development – preparing future managers Flexible working and mentoring opportunities are more prevalent

25 Conclusions – work still required Childcare responsibilities Flexible working at senior levels Women’s confidence Opportunities for further training (management/leadership training)

26 Recommended further research Research into succession planning and practices in place Women’s career progression in academic libraries in other countries Women’s career progression in different library sectors Men’s career progression and aspirations

27 Further information The Complete Research:- Hadfield, E. Women in Libraries the Movement: Its Impact on Women’s Career Progression / A Study of Women in Academic Libraries. [dissertation]. MA in Librarianship. Sheffield, (Supervised by Sen, B.) Contact Details:-


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