The Failure of Gender Equality Initiatives in Academia: Exploring Defensive Institutional Work in Flemish Universities

Hannelore Roos*, J.L.J. Mampaey, Jeroen Huisman, Joost Luyckx

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although a large number of studies have explored the main causes of gender inequality in academia, less attention has been given to the processes underlying the failure of gender equality initiatives to enhance gender representation, especially at the professorial level. We offer a critical discourse analysis of recently promulgated gender policy documents of the five Flemish universities, and demonstrate that defensive institutional work is a fundamental process underlying resistance to gender equality in the academic profession. That is, powerful organizational actors resist gender change by (un)intentionally deploying a combination of discursive strategies that legitimate what we describe as non–time-bound gender equality initiatives: The expected outcomes are undetermined in time, and they delegitimate concrete, time-bound measures that define specific outcomes against well-defined deadlines. By explicitly bringing a temporal dimension into our analysis, we argue that defensive institutional work deflects questions regarding what ought to be achieved when, and contributes to the slow pace of gender change in academia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-495
Number of pages29
JournalGender & Society
Volume34
Issue number3
Early online date29 Apr 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • critical discourse analysis
  • defensive institutional work
  • gender (in)equality
  • gender change
  • gender in academia

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