‘What are you doing here, I thought you had a kid now?’ The stigmatisation of working mothers in academia

a critical self-reflective essay on gender, motherhood and the neoliberal academy


  • Kellie Gonçalves University of Oslo




motherhood, gender, neoliberal universities, early-career researchers, auto-ethnography, stigma


The last decade has seen an increase of scholarly work within the social sciences critiquing neoliberal processes of our academic institutions. Much of this work has focused on metrics, paradoxes and politics. Few studies centre on the effects of these processes for women only and where they do exist, they are primarily located within the fields of critical geography, sociology and feminist studies. In this paper, I argue that as scholars of language, we are lagging behind and it is high time to address the demands of our taxing institutions and international workplaces with regard to the implications and consequences they have for women and, more specifically, early-career female researchers who would like to combine motherhood with an academic career. I argue that we need to be seriously attuned to the effects and ramifications of motherhood and academia with the aim of correcting existing gendered biases, which requires an investment on the part of all stakeholders if change is to take place. As such, this work has personal, political and epistemological motivations and implications. By focusing primarily on women and my own personal experiences through autoethnography, this essay is concerned with knowledge production that deviates from masculine and heteronormative accounts within the academy. In these ways, this article contributes to recent work in the social sciences that has been influenced by the ‘emotional turn’ in order to ‘find ways to exist in a world that is diminishing’.

Author Biography

  • Kellie Gonçalves, University of Oslo

    Kellie Gonçalves is currently a post-doc fellow at the Center for Multilingualism in Society Across the Lifespan (MultiLing) at the University of Oslo, Norway. In addition to her research interests in sociolinguistics, she is an advocate for gender equality and female leadership within academia.


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How to Cite

Gonçalves, K. (2019). ‘What are you doing here, I thought you had a kid now?’ The stigmatisation of working mothers in academia: a critical self-reflective essay on gender, motherhood and the neoliberal academy. Gender and Language, 13(4), 469-487. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.37573