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Gender equality and meritocracy

contradictory discourses in the academy

Powell, Stina (2016). Gender equality and meritocracy. Diss. (sammanfattning/summary) Uppsala : Sveriges lantbruksuniv., Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae, 1652-6880 ; 2016:17
ISBN 978-91-576-8536-0
eISBN 978-91-576-8537-7
[Doctoral thesis]

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This thesis examines how gender equality measures and discourses are reconciled with notions of merit in academia. Gender equality is often defined as equal rights for women and men and has become a widely accepted political goal and vision. Meritocratic principles build on the assumption that everyone, regardless of gender, class, race and sexuality, has the same opportunities to advance provided they are sufficiently hardworking and intelligent. Meritocratic principles thus build on the assumption that objective evaluations are possible. Along these lines, inequalities in academia are a natural outcome and not the result of discrimination. However, feminist studies have shown that meritocratic practices fail to reach these objective evaluations and that gendered norms influence who is considered merited and not. This awareness of discrimination leads to academic organisations being required to act upon inequalities and ensure that gender equality measures are taken, despite the strong conviction that meritocracy is already in place. Thus, we have two contradictory discourses that have to be reconciled in order to co-exist in academia. Through which processes does this reconciliation take place? With a view to answering this, I examine a gender equality project at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU. The material includes interviews, focus-group interviews, surveys, participant observations and literature reviews. The research methodology is based on action research and the analysis on relational and critical discourse analysis. The research finds that meritocracy and gender equality are reconciled through three processes 1) by creating the gender inequality discourse as a matter for the individual, not the organisation 2) through depoliticisation of gender equality where administration rather than inequalities are in focus and 3) through a process of decoupling where gender equality is separated from the permanent organisation. These processes make it possible for meritocracy and gender equality to co-exist as two important principles of academic practice, despite their contradicting values. However, this separation of discourses contributes to the persistence of inequality in academic organisations. Further, these three processes work to silence counter discourses on gender equality that have become visible in the Gender Equality Project.

Authors/Creators:Powell, Stina
Title:Gender equality and meritocracy
Subtitle:contradictory discourses in the academy
Series Name/Journal:Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
Year of publishing :18 February 2016
Depositing date:18 February 2016
Number of Pages:131
IPowell, S. and Ah-King, M. (2013). A case study of integrating gender perspectives in teaching and in subject content at a natural science university in Sweden. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, vol. 5(1), pp. 53-61.
IIPowell, S., Ah-King, M. and Hussenius, A. (submitted with revisions). Facets of resistance. Submitted to Gender, work and organization.
IIIPowell, S. and Arora-Jonsson, S. (2015). The Ethics of Political Correctness. Book chapter in Understanding Social Science Research Ethics: Inter-disciplinary and Cross-Cultural Perspectives for a Globalising World, Routledge, Editors: Nakray, K., Alston, M. and Whittenbury, K., pp. 61-77.
IVPowell, S. Gender equality in academia. Intentions and consequences.(manuscript).
VWestberg, L. and Powell, S. (2015). Participate for Women's Sake? A Gender Analysis of a Swedish Collaborative Environmental Management Project, Society and Natural Resources: An International Journal, vol. 28, pp. 1233-1248.
Place of Publication:Uppsala
Publisher:Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
ISBN for printed version:978-91-576-8536-0
ISBN for electronic version:978-91-576-8537-7
Publication Type:Doctoral thesis
Full Text Status:Public
Agris subject categories.:X Agricola extesions > X80 Social sciences, humanities and education
Subjects:(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 5 Social Sciences > 509 Other Social Sciences > Social Sciences Interdisciplinary (Peace and Conflict Research and Studies on Sustainable Society)
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 5 Social Sciences > 509 Other Social Sciences > Gender Studies
Agrovoc terms:gender, gender analysis, teaching, research, participation, social sciences, natural sciences, environmental management, universities, sweden
Keywords:gender equality, gender equality measures, meritocracy, academia, projects, gender and environment
Permanent URL:
ID Code:13077
Faculty:NJ - Fakulteten för naturresurser och jordbruksvetenskap
Department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
Deposited By: Stina Powell
Deposited On:19 Feb 2016 12:34
Metadata Last Modified:10 Sep 2020 13:41

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