Creating safety: Group reflections on surviving as a female, social work early career academic in the neoliberal academy

Michelle Newcomb, Katherine Saxton, Esha Lovric, Sera Harris, Danielle Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Female social work early career academics (ECAs) face many challenges within a neoliberal university context. The tension between balancing the social justice mission of the profession against the consumer model of higher education is conflicting and contributes to feelings of isolation and alienation. This article documents a group of female ECAs experiences by drawing on critical, post-modern and feminist knowledge traditions. The qualitative methodology used was collective autoethnography and critical reflection where the group documented and collectively analysed individual experiences of teaching social work education as female ECAs. The purpose of collating these experiences was to explore the emancipatory capacity of female agency as well as embodying what it is to be a female ECA. Vignettes were thematically examined in a three-part process including (1) reading and reviewing data; (2) categorising and group data and (3) finding themes and connecting these to the original data (Chang et al., 2016). Analysis of the vignettes highlighted the tensions of working as female social justice educators within a neoliberal university causing feelings of oppression and discomfort. In finding one another, sharing and writing stories as well as a collective response this challenged the masculinist model which has been the norm within neoliberal universities. Female led support strategies coupled with the utilisation of feminist methodologies contributes to the emergence of a new, feminist and collectively safer academic culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalQualitative Social Work
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


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