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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

'Are we to become a gender university?' Facets of resistance to a gender equality project

Powell, Stina; Ah-King, Malin; Hussenius, Anita


Gender equality (GE) is something we cannot not want'. Indeed, the pursuit of equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for all women and men throughout a society freed from gendered oppression is widely visible in recent organizational GE initiatives. In practice, however, GE initiatives often fail in challenging gendered norms and at effecting deep-seated change. In fact, GE measures tend to encounter resistance, with a gap between saying and doing. Using a GE project at a Swedish university, we examined the changing nature of reactions to GE objectives seeking to understand why gender inequality persists in academia. We used resistance' to identify multiple, complex reactions to the project, focusing on the discursive practices of GE. Focusing our contextual analysis on change and changes in reactions enabled a process-oriented analysis that revealed gaps where change is possible. Thus, we argue that studying change makes it possible to identify points in time where gendered discriminatory norms are more likely to occur. However, analysing discursive practices does not itself lead to change nor to action. Rather, demands for change must start with answering, in a collaborative way, what problem we are trying to solve when we start a new GE project, in order to be relevant to the specific context. Otherwise, GE risks being the captive of consensus politics and gender inequality will persist.


academia; resistance; gender equality; meritocracy

Published in

Gender, Work and Organization
2018, volume: 25, number: 2, pages: 127-143

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
Ah-King, Malin
Stockholm University
Hussénius, Anita
Uppsala University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG5 Gender equality

UKÄ Subject classification

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Gender Studies

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)