A2 - Facilitating belonging: Addressing the barriers faced by women doctoral students

Day Day 1
Code A2
Start time 15:30
Room Henley
Work with Doctoral Researchers

Rachel Handforth, Research Fellow, Sheffield Hallam University

Workshop overview: 

This workshop will present the findings of my doctoral research, which illuminate the barriers to belonging that women doctoral students encounter during their studies. It will consider how academic communities and cultures can preclude or facilitate belonging for women doctoral students, drawing on literature highlighting the ongoing marginalisation of women in academic spaces. In this workshop, I consider the long-term implications of this, for individuals, institutions, and the higher education sector.

The first part of the workshop outlines the specific barriers that women doctoral students face to belonging, including gendered expectations of their abilities. I draw attention to the negative impact of this on career aspirations; individuals often became discouraged from an academic career because they struggled to establish a sense of belonging as doctoral students. Finally, I outline how institutions can facilitate women doctoral students' belonging; something which is vital to create a truly inclusive higher education sector.

Workshop topics covered: 

  • Understanding how doctoral students negotiate belonging to their academic communities 
  • How academic cultures can facilitate or preclude belonging as a doctoral student 
  • Gendered barriers to belonging 
  • Implications of not belonging- for individuals and institutions 
  • How academic communities and cultures can facilitate belonging

Themes covered: 

  • Research staff and supply of talent; strategies and practice, developing a pipeline of research talent through strategies to attract and retain researchers
  • Research environment and culture; shaping an inclusive research environment; wellbeing and mental health, gender equality and diversity research integrity and open research

Workshop outcomes: 

By the end of the workshop, participants will have: 

  • Understanding of the barriers to belonging experienced by women doctoral students 
  • Understanding of the individual and structural implications of experiencing marginalisation as a woman doctoral student 
  • Knowledge of strategies which can address these barriers and facilitate belonging 
  • Advice on how to create an inclusive academic culture which values women doctoral students


Presentation with small group activities