How Do Female Academics Interpret Their Success?


  • Eva Barlösius Leibniz Universität Hannover
  • Grit Fisser Leibniz Universität Hannover



narrative interview, problem-centered interview, secondary analysis, thematic coding, women, mechanical engineering, academic ladder, STEM, success


Female students in mechanical engineering have better chances to achieve an academic career than women in other academic disciplines. In this article we reconstruct how female mechanical engi­neers interpret for themselves their success. Our reconstruction of the self-interpretations focusses on the "in­ternal biographical mechanisms of regulation" (GIEGEL, 1988). The empirical mate­rial encompasses three qualitative primary data collections with female professors, female doctoral candidates, and female students of mechanical engineering. The methods used are narrative and problem-centered interviews. These primary data collections are then analyzed by applying the method of thematic coding. The analysis shows an extraordinarily high level of accordance between the three groups. The first accordance relates to family up­bringing, which was aimed at enabling the children to make individual decisions Further agree­ments concern: 1. biographical resources: a high level of self-confidence of being successful by realizing their own ob­jectives; 2. the dominant interest in technology, based in the natural sciences; 3. the relation to the performance principle: the female mechanical engineers embrace great determination for perfor­mance as an essential basis for realizing one’s own interests. These three dimensions specify their "internal biographical mechanism of regulation." It can be assumed that women who opt for mechanical engineering very often possess a distinct aspiration for success. Pre­sumably they would be successful in most other disciplines.



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Author Biographies

Eva Barlösius, Leibniz Universität Hannover

Eva BARLÖSIUS ist Professorin für Makrosoziologie und Sozialstrukturanalyse und Leiterin des Leibniz Forschungszentrums Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft an der Leibniz Universität Hannover. Ihre Forschungsschwerpunkte sind Wissenschaftssoziologie, Ungleichheitsforschung und die Soziologie des Essens.

Grit Fisser, Leibniz Universität Hannover

Grit FISSER ist wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Institut für Soziologie der Leibniz Universität Hannover. Sie promoviert über die Wahrnehmung biografischer Unsicherheit bei Post-Doktorand/innen am Leibniz Forschungszentrum Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft. Ihre Forschungsschwerpunkte sind Biografieforschung, Hochschulforschung und Lebenslaufsoziologie.



How to Cite

Barlösius, E., & Fisser, G. (2016). How Do Female Academics Interpret Their Success?. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 18(1).