Women faculty members’ work and lives in state Islamic universities in Indonesia

Author: Sofkhatin Khumaidah

Khumaidah, Sofkhatin, 2018 Women faculty members’ work and lives in state Islamic universities in Indonesia, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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As students, women in universities across the world outnumber men, but they remain a minority as faculty members, especially in the highest academic and managerial ranks. This is often explained in terms of gender relations, as women’s double burden as paid workers and the main holders of domestic and care responsibilities. Accordingly, their academic and career performance is affected in deficit ways. Women faculty in Islamic higher education in Indonesia are also surrounded by cultural, religious, and policy issues affecting the ways they manage their work and lives. These issues constitute the main focus of this research project.

In order to explore the experiences of the women faculty members in managing their work and lives, field work was undertaken in two State Islamic universities in East Java, UIN Sunan Ampel or UINSA and UIN Maulana Malik Ibrahim or UIN Maliki. The study comprised in-depth interviews with 17 long-serving women faculty in various academic and management roles and was supported by analysis of policy documents and both universities’ websites. Through the framework of social constructionism and using feminist standpoint methodology, I understood and analysed their work and lives in relation to Islamic religion, Javanese culture and relevant state and university policies.

Given their ages, the interviewees were a mix of the 'Old Order' (1945-1965) and 'New Order' (1966-1998) generations. Most attended pesantren or other Islamic education institutions for schooling and undergraduate study, but secular universities for their postgraduate qualifications. Growing up, they were advantaged by policies granting equal status to secular and religious education institutions.

Despite gender mainstreaming policies in higher education, UINSA and UIN Maliki had no segregated data on staff, portrayed women faculty in stereotypical ways, and did not include the gender study centres in their websites. At work, women faculty adopted normative femininity and tolerated gender harassment to avoid accusations of militant feminism and establish successful careers. Most interviewees progressed slowly in research for reasons including overloaded teaching and their domestic and caring responsibilities which are rooted in Javanese and Islamic norms. Some interviewees reported that informal networks limited promotion opportunities. The developing discourses on gender, including gender in Islam, were not able to penetrate the patriarchal culture in either university.

In domestic life, women faculty were often reminded of their kodrat, being cultural and religious norms legitimated by the Marriage Act prescribing women as the main holders of household responsibilities. They shared domestic work with maids, husbands or family, and adopted a range of career strategies to protect their husband’s status and family harmony. In so doing, the women faculty maintain that they successfully negotiate both their work and domestic lives.

Keywords: gender in education, gender in higher education, women and higher education, women and career, work and family balance, work and lives, Muslim women academics, Muslim women and career, Islamic higher education, Islamic universities, Javanese norms, kodrat, kanca wingking, konco wingking, gender relation, women faculty, work-work balance, informal networks, normative femininity, gender harassment, sexist jokes.

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Prof. Kay Whitehead