‘Knowledge hustlers’

Dr Emily Yarrow is a respected Senior Lecturer in International Human Resource Management at Portsmouth Business School. She also provides a consultancy and mentoring service.

Here, she discusses micro-politics and networking in UK universities…

“Gender bias is still an everyday feature of our society. In my latest paper, Knowledge hustlers: Gendered micro‐politics and networking in UK universities’, published in the British Educational Research Journal, I explore how men maintain power and how power dynamics and informal networks function, which I characterise as ‘the hustle’. 

Through my research, I have discovered that there is a close relationship between gender, gendered power and micro-politics, and women’s lived experiences of research evaluation, all of which are bound by the central role that (gendered) networks play in UK universities. 

My work draws on the voices of 80 academics, including female academics, from early career researchers to professors. During my research, I had access to confidential professorial review data, pay gap information as well as workforce diversity data, including gender statistics.

I found gendered informal networks to be integral, not only to the culture of the university case study upon which my research draws, but more widely in academia. In particular, the central and prevalent role of informal networks, interactions and practices—‘the knowledge hustle’—in academia is astonishing, and reflects what is really happening in academia today despite initiatives such as Athena SWAN. 

A key argument within my research is that women are forced to engage in what is known as the ‘knowledge hustle’, defined as a mode of survival in gendered organisations that involves navigating and understanding formal and informal practices and networks. 

Negotiations play an important role in the allocation of workload, even where workload models are utilised, and informal agreements and network hustling play an integral role in this. In an increasingly managerial context, which is reinforced by informal practices; the hustle is further necessitated because of ongoing vertical gender segregation where men dominate in managerial and decision making roles. 

Now, more than ever before, in the midst of a global pandemic, it is imperative to raise awareness of the fact that gendered expectations continue to impact and reproduce dominant and subordinate statuses of men and women in the academy, and that hustling is integral in this.”

Find out more about Dr Yarrow’s hustlers research here: https://bera-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/berj.3671as well as reading more about her here: https://emilyyarrow.co.uk/about/