Investigating the Glass Ceiling in Italian Academia. Women’s Strategies and Barriers to Career Advancement


  • Maddalena Cannito Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa
  • Manuela Naldini Department of Cultures, Politics and Society, University of Turin
  • Arianna Santero Department of Cultures, Politics and Society, University of Turin



Glass ceiling, Career advancement, Leadership positions, Italian academia, Academic work


The underrepresentation of women in academia at the top levels, the so-called “glass ceiling phenomenon”, is still an issue also in Italian universities. Women, in fact, remain significantly underrepresented especially in full professorships and leadership positions, with only slightly changes over the years. Using 46 semi-structured interviews with 31 female associate professors and 15 female members of the departmental governance working in 4 Italian universities, the article explores this phenomenon looking at two aspects. On one side, it explores the barriers to access to full professorships and managerial positions in Italian academy, in particular the motherhood penalty, the gendered allocations of activities and the gendered construction of leadership. On the other, the essay looks at the individual strategies implemented by women to overcome or to cope with them. The analysis shows the interdependence between structural and cultural barriers and the alleged individual self-selective strategies of women.


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How to Cite

Cannito, M., Naldini, M., & Santero, A. (2023). Investigating the Glass Ceiling in Italian Academia. Women’s Strategies and Barriers to Career Advancement. Sociologica, 17(2), 93–114.