1st Edition

Inequalities and the Paradigm of Excellence in Academia

    272 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    272 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume examines the criteria of excellence producing inequalities of gender in the daily working environment and evaluation of academics.

    Policymakers have increasingly placed emphasis on gender equality as part of a strategy for achieving research excellence, and efforts to reduce gender bias have become mainstream. This book suggests that this goal has remained elusive in practice due to continuing under-representation of women across many academic and scientific fields. Questioning the old structures of male dominance still prevalent in national research policy, the book explores the effects of institutional values and practices on the careers of academics, particularly the academic identities of women and their career developments.

    It focuses on case studies drawn from Europe while also highlighting the rise of new forms of public management and a neoliberal framing of the value of academic work, that have a much broader global reach. Using participatory research, the book analyses contemporary forms of "gendered excellence" in an intersectional and international perspective. It will be of interest to junior/senior researchers, teachers, and scholars in sociology, education, gender studies, history, political science and science and technology studies.

    Introduction: Inequalities and the Paradigm of Excellence in Academia

    Fiona Jenkins, Barbara Hoenig, Susanne Maria Weber, and Andrea Wolffram

    Part I. "Inclusive Excellence": How are excellence and gender equality combined?

    1. Are Equality and Excellence a Happy Marriage of Terms? How Gender Figures in the Business Case for Change

    Fiona Jenkins

    2. Implementing Gender Mainstreaming in a Discourse of Academic Excellence

    Anne-Charlott Callerstig

    3. What are the Real Attitudes of Professors Toward Gender Equality?

    Eva Wregzyn, Lara Altenstädter, Ute Klammer and Ralitsa Petrova-Stoyanov

    4. An Excellent Researcher?: Institutional Programmatics and Organisational Strategies in the Academic Field

    Sarah Wieners and Susanne Maria Weber

    Part II. Constructing Excellence: How does gender bias affect the evaluation of excellence?

    5. Gendered Representations of Excellence in Science and Technology

    Andrea Wolffram

    6. Gender Bias in Peer Review Panels: – "The Elephant in the Room"

    Helene Schiffbaenker, Peter van den Besselaar, Florian Holzinger, Charlie Mom and Claartje Vinkenburg

    7. Gendered Excellence for Business Interests: A Critical Examination of the Construction of Centres of Excellence in the Estonian Research Policy Discourse

    Kadri Aavik and Raili Marling

    8. Excellence?: Gendered Micropolitics in an Irish and Spanish University Context

    Pat O’Connor and Estrella Montes-López

    Part III. Reproducing Inequality: How does the discourse of ‘excellence’ impact women’s careers?

    9. Scientific Careers and Mobility Patterns of Top Researchers of European Excellence

    Barbara Hoenig

    10. The Bargaining of Excellence: Who’s (Not) Appointed by Academics?

    Sabine Kradolfer and Farinaz Fassa

    11. Gendered Excellence in Physics

    Paulina Sekula, Ewelina Ciaputa, Justyna Struzik, Ewa Krzaklewska

    12. Excellent and Care-less?: Gendered Everyday Practices of Early Career Scholars in Germany and Austria

    Kristina Binner and Lena Weber

    Is Excellence really so Excellent?: An Afterword

    Myra Marx Ferree


    Fiona Jenkins is a Professor in the School of Philosophy at the Australian National University and the Convenor of the ANU Gender Institute in Canberra, Australia. Her work on the status of women in philosophy has developed into a wider concern about how excellence is measured in academia. She is the leader of the collaborative Australian Research Council Discovery project "Gendered Excellence in the Social Sciences". She is also an expert on the philosophy of Judith Butler. She is the co-editor of Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change? (2013) and How Gender Can Transform the Social Sciences: Innovation and Impact (2020).

    Barbara Hoenig is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Sociology at the University of Graz, Austria. Her work focuses on the sociology of science and knowledge, history of sociology, social inequalities, and European integration. She is author of Europe's New Scientific Elite: Social Mechanisms of Science in the European Research Area (2017).

    Susanne Maria Weber is a Professor of social, political, and cultural conditions of education at the Department of Education of Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany. Her research interests focus on discourse analytical, practice theoretical and creative research approaches on organising in academia, organisational networks, and social movements. She is co-editor together with Michael A. Peters of Organization and Newness: Discourses and Ecologies of Innovation in the Creative University (2019). Together with Julia Elven she recently edited the book Consultancy in Symbolic Orders (2022, German). Together with Andreas Schröer and Claudia Fahrenwald she edited the book Optimizing Organizations? – Organizational Education Perspectives (2022, German).

    Andrea Wolffram is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Sociology at the RWTH Aachen University, Germany. Her research interests include gender relations and careers in engineering and science, gender technology studies, gender and diversity policies in organisations, and organisational change. She is co-editor together with Ingrid Jungwirth of Highly Qualified Migrant Women – Participation in Work and Society (2017, German).

    "The idea of excellence not only dominates academic discourse but is used to justify the distribution of (scarce) resources and power in science and institutions of higher education. Thus, we need to better understand the relationship between gender equality and excellence. The contributions of this volume illustrate convincingly from various angles how excellence is a gendered concept, how practices of measuring excellence can be biased, and how the discourses of excellence shapes the careers of women. Thus, this book will inspire new thinking and new practices!
    This book is a must-read for anyone interested in excellence & meritocracy & gender equality in science and academia!"

    Kathrin Zippel, Professor of Sociology, Northeastern University, Boston, USA

    "Inequalities and the Paradigm of Excellence in Academia, edited by Fiona Jenkins, Barbara Hoenig, Susanne Weber and Andrea Wolffram, interrogates the paradigm of excellence and its rise with the entrepreneurial university to pose epistemological questions of social responsibility and justice in relation to gender equality. The discourses of gendered equality are examined from a variety of perspectives using critical sociology, discourse analysis, and feminist institutional theory. This book is an important contribution to understanding the value of academic work by women in a post-COVID world."

    Michael A. Peters, Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University, China

    "Higher education is committed to excellence. Yet academic relationships are defined by persistent inequalities, not least between men and women. This substantial volume brings together empirically grounded and theoretically informed perspectives on the difficult relationship between excellence and equality. This is a must-read for anybody who wants to critically account for academia as a gendered social world today."

    Johannes Angermuller, Professor of Discourse, Languages and Applied Linguistiscs at Open University (Milton Keynes, UK)

    "This is a brilliant collection. The struggle for gender justice takes us into the heart of academia and the basic truth that its customary systems and calibrations, neutral in form, have been fashioned for some at the expense of others. Women who push against the dead weight of academic structure and win through open up the universities for all who are excluded and point the way towards the regime of inclusion and epistemic diversity that we need so very much."

    Simon Marginson, Professor of Higher Education, University of Oxford and Director ESRC/OFSRE Centre for Global Higher Education

    "This excellent volume shows that the socially constructed standard of 'excellence' still is charged with gender-specific aspects. In competitions for excellence, the norms of meritocracy and of gender equality still play out in gender-structured games for recognition. This compilation of empirical studies of Europe´s academia shows, that in arenas of excellence production, a gender habitus still is at work. The cases provided clearly show the ambivalences and habitually gender-structured games in the battlefield of excellence."

    Prof. Dr. Tanja Paulitz, Institut für Soziologie, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany