Gender and knowledge production in institutions of higher learning: an African context

by Promise Zvavahera, Mercy Dikito-Wachtmeister, Sheppard Pasipanodya, Natasha Salome Mwenda and George Okumu Achar

01 Apr 2021
Journal of the British Academy
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Number of pages
26 (pp. 217-241)

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Abstract: This study focuses on the factors that contribute to the low production of knowledge by women compared to men in terms of the number of research outputs and recommends ways of narrowing the gap. Literature suggests that the social construction of gender and the consequent different gender roles and responsibilities of women or men inform this social phenomenon. This is because the social construction of what it means to be a man and a woman subordinates and confines women to the private sphere and men to the public sphere. These patriarchal discourses and practices of private and public spaces shape women’s roles in society, including their participation in the production of knowledge. A cross-sectional survey in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Kenya shows that gender indeed impacts knowledge production. The study found that women had limited access to research grants, limited exposure to higher institutions of learning, and also had limited mentorship by men as there were few women who could play the mentorship role. The study recommends full support for women researchers by providing funding, creating mentoring units, commercialising research outputs, engaging in advocacy, and crafting and implementing affirmative polices that support their work. This has a net effect of increasing the participation of women in knowledge production and in the development of national and global economies.

Keywords: Knowledge production, gender, research outputs, patriarchy.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 9, supplementary issue 1 (Repositioning of Africa in Knowledge Production: Shaking off Historical Stigmas).

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