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How equity practices within universities facilitate women graduates' employability

Gail Crimmins (School of Business and Creative Industries, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast, Australia)
Sarah Casey (School of Business and Creative Industries, University of the Sunshine Coast Sippy Downs Campus, Sippy Downs, Australia)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 14 December 2022

Issue publication date: 3 February 2023

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper argues that universities can facilitate women graduates' employability by supporting gender equity within their institutions. It presents a rationale and strategy for addressing the gendered nature of career confidence which negatively impacts women graduates' entry into the workplace – a phenomenon that influences women graduates' career and life trajectories, and all industries' capacity to serve women stakeholders.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors consider existing literature as “words to think with” (Kinsella and Shepherd, 2020), as a feminist methodology to contribute fresh ideas into the discourse arena of graduate employability and as a means to make social change possible (Phelan, 1994).

Findings

The paper presents the feminist viewpoint that a reconfiguration of gender relations in the academy, through deploying gender equity quotas, and professional development activities designed to expose and help mitigate implicit gender bias are required to support women graduates' career confidence and employability.

Research limitations/implications

The paper offers a viewpoint rather than an empirical evidence because of the difficulty in directly assessing a causal relationship between gendered education experience and graduates' self-efficacy and transition from college to work, “due to its longitudinal nature … [and] because cultural beliefs are … difficult to manipulate experimentally” (Sterling et al., 2020, p. 30,306). Also, while gender equity quotas have had some success, they can be disrupted by gendered bias within the workplace. Although the authors recommend a combination intervention of gender equity quotas and professional development to address gender bias, they acknowledge that the intervention is yet to be evaluated.

Practical implications

Universities are tasked with supporting graduate employability, an inherent quality of which is graduate identity. The study offers a practical solution to increasing the number of women leaders within the academy by recommending the introduction of gender equity quotas, supported by professional development designed to develop leaders' gender insight and change agency, and combat all university workers' gender bias. This approach provides more equitable work structures within universities and increases the number and nature of women role models to support women's graduate identity development. Gender equity principles are presented as the key to facilitating women graduates' self-efficacy and work readiness.

Social implications

Strategy designed to enhance women graduates' career confidence is critical because women's lower career confidence tends to inform their lower-level starting positions with lower-level pay, resulting in role and pay gaps that are sustained and magnified throughout the life cycle of their careers. Additionally, interventions to address gender bias in the academy are significant because providing gender equity quotas alongside facilitating women in leadership positions to be/come change agents move beyond what Cockburn (1989, p. 218) defines as supporting a short-term agenda of “equality for individual women … [to supporting a] project of transformation for organizations”.

Originality/value

The novel contribution of this paper is the feminist conceptualisation that gender equity practices, most notably a composite of gender equity quotas and professional development, are located within universities' remit to support graduate employability.

Keywords

Citation

Crimmins, G. and Casey, S. (2023), "How equity practices within universities facilitate women graduates' employability", Education + Training, Vol. 65 No. 1, pp. 44-57. https://doi.org/10.1108/ET-02-2021-0064

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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