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Reflections on women’s career responsibilities in neoliberally driven universities

Sheeba Asirvatham (Department of Global Management, Woosong University, Daejeon, The Republic of Korea)
Maria Humphries-Kil (AUT, Auckland, New Zealand)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 6 December 2019

Issue publication date: 19 March 2020




The purpose of this paper is to reflect on career aspirations and experiences explored with senior women organizational scholars employed in neoliberally driven public universities in Aotearoa (New Zealand) legally mandated to serve as a critic and conscience of society.


Over the 18 months period, three sequential research conversations were conducted with each of 12 participants known for their commitment to social justice and planetary well-being. The conversational approach allowed for spontaneous participant-lead development of ideas. Sequencing of conversations allowed for reflection on matters raised in previous conversations.


Vitality and creativity deemed essential to scholarly careers were reportedly under pressure. Career concepts in use indicate a protean commitment to self-direction but also recognized constraints of institutionally driven neoliberal output regimes. Detrimental impacts of neoliberal values permeating their employing institutions were offered spontaneously often in radical feminist terms but paradoxically given liberal feminist remedies.

Research limitations/implications

The 12 diverse transcripts of participant conversations generated remarkable similarities that indicate the influence of career articulations on the social construction of reality. The implications of this interpretation invite further reflection on the consequences of normalization of career metaphors and their implication in the intensification of institutional control, the weakening of professional autonomy and the system preserving restriction of career-related responsibilities.

Practical implications

Highlighting constraints to creativity and vitality necessary for scholarly work can inform further research into professional influences on justice and environmental matters in and beyond the Academy.

Social implications

In this paper a short review of Aotearoa (New Zealand) as in vanguard of neoliberal intensification globally, the implication of this doctrine in neoliberally driven universities and the impacts on career opportunities, degradations and responsibilities of scholars are explored.


The conversational research process contrasts with more tightly framed empirical research methods by generating spontaneous participant-led articulations of career-related dynamics explored and expanded over subsequent conversations.



Asirvatham, S. and Humphries-Kil, M. (2020), "Reflections on women’s career responsibilities in neoliberally driven universities", Career Development International, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 111-129.



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