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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Leading gender equality change in higher education–the case of forestry

Powell, Stina; Grubbström, Ann


Purpose: The aim of this article is to examine the role of formal and informal leadership for advancing gender equality in forestry education. Methodology: The article builds on empirical material from focus group interviews and semi-structured interviews with students, teachers and leaders at an agricultural university in Sweden. Findings: The article finds that leadership for gender equality is not exclusively the role of formal leaders. We show that students and teachers, together with the formal leaders at the university, all expect others to take responsibility while expressing uncertainty about their own opportunities to effect change. Still, teachers appear as a group with great potential to make a difference. Practical Implications: The article reveals a need for case-based research to clarify issues of gender equality in education and, in particular, how change might happen and who is expected to lead it. We suggest that higher education institutions address this ambiguous division of responsibilities. Theoretical Implications: The role of formal leadership in gender equality change is continuously stressed in research, policy and practice. We have broadened the definition of leadership in this context beyond formal leadership, and we highlight, for example, teachers and professionals as role models and agents of change. Originality/Value: The study generates important insights about why gender equality work often fails in higher education, and in particular in the male-dominated forestry sector. It also sheds light on the value of comprehensive case study research.


gender equality; higher education; forestry; leadership

Published in

Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG5 Gender equality
SDG4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

UKÄ Subject classification

Gender Studies

Publication Identifiers


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