"The Leaking Pipeline" - øjebliksbilleder af kønnede in- og eksklusionsprocesser i Akademia

  • Inge Henningsen
  • Lis Højgaard


Inge Henningsen and Lis Højgaard: The Leaking Pipeline: Snapshots of gendered processes of in- and exclusions in the academic world. Debates on the reasons for the well documented low participation of women in scientific research tend to follow two lines of argument: one that maintains that the low percentage of women in research is a result of few women in recruitment positions and that this will change as more women enter these positions, and one that maintains that a closer look at the statistics does not support this optimism because women’s percentage in recruitment positions is not increasing as the pool of potential female researchers increases, or to put it metaphorically, “the pipeline is leaking women all along” (Alper 1993). This article investigates the mechanisms perpetuating the low participation of women in academic sciences, inspired by Alper’s methaphor. It begins by describing the Danish educational system and structure of science education including gender ratios in the various disciplines. Second it identifies and describes a Danish verion of ‘the leaky pipeline’ from analyses of the ratios of women in science from high school through tenured positions. Finally it illustrates the cultural mechanisms at play in this process, based on the results of three studies. The first two analyze the educational cultures in physics and chemistry, and the third illustrates the gendering mechanisms at work in the institutional culture of medicine. The analysis shows that there is no single cause of the problem and no single point along the career path where women are excluded. Rather more women than men are excluded at all steps on the academic ladder. The problem is no longer manifest exclusion, but rather the working of subtle mechanisms, unintended consequences and the stubborn ingenuity of the symbolic order of gender. The ‘leaks’ are the result of the intersection and interaction of individually mediated negotiations of cultural prescriptions of gendered subjectivity and identities, organizational understandings and procedures embedded in specific university cultures, traditional of different science disciplines, and the systemic logic and political rationale of the education and research system.