The equality paradox: sexual harassment and gender inequality in a UK university

Melanie McCarry, Cassandra Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


The incremental progression of women into academia, as both students and staff, has disrupted, but not dismantled, cultures and practices of gender inequality. The #MeToo and other movements have engendered a focus on the prevalence, and normalization, of sexual violence on campus. Most UK studies focus on intra-student or staff-student experiences, which construct it as either a student issue or individualized transgressions. In this article, we draw on data from a convergent mixed-methods study in a UK university, in which quantitative and qualitative data were collected from staff and students on experiences of sexual harassment and perceptions of gender inequality. In this article, we focus specifically on staff data. It is argued that a cultural practice, or conducive context, of gender inequality within the institution is the scaffold for sexual harassment. This invidious circle of gender inequality and sexual harassment is mutually supportive and sustaining. Using this one university as a case study, we argue that for women in academia, parity in entry has not equated to parity of experience – with women having to navigate the paradox of the academy as an ostensibly welcoming, yet hostile, environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)928-940
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Gender Studies
Issue number8
Early online date24 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2022


  • equality
  • gender inequality
  • sexual harassment
  • culture
  • university staff


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