Academic careers are a significant topic in EDI research. Our research aims to understand the ambiguous and contradictory developments of gender relations at Austrian universities and to explain persistent career barriers for women academics without neglecting opportunities that emerge in the frame of new governance in higher education. While existing research primarily focuses on the organization ‘university’ as the immediate context of careers, we propose to extend the horizon of analysis. We think that a gendering of organizational structures emerges from and unfolds within a multi-layered social reality that entails social (power) relations and structures of meaning inside and outside the organization. Our study refers to Pierre Bourdieu’s comprehensive theory of social fields and argues for the benefits of a multi-level analysis. It aims to unravel important interlinkages between macro-, meso- and micro-level phenomena and to reveal the subtle and often invidious barriers to women’s careers in academia.