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Fri 28. 8.  11:00 - 12:30
room FA 548

A Tough Job But Someone Has to Do It: Exploring the Experiences of Gender Equality Experts in European Higher Education


Peterson, Helen
University of Gothenburg, Sweden

This paper draws on experiences reported by gender equality experts active in European Higher Education Institutions. The intent of the paper is to identify hindering and facilitating factors for these experts in their attempts to exercise efficient change agency aimed at changing organizations and institutions towards increased gender equality. The data was collected within the GenderTime project, funded by the European Commission 2013-2016. The project aims at identifying and implementing the best systemic approach to increase the participation and career advancement of women researchers. The findings reported on in this paper illustrate the multifaceted character of gender equality change agency. Change agency can be direct or indirect, long-term or short-term, formal or informal, symbolic or practical. The results also show that awareness of gendering processes in organizations, developed through day-to-day experiences of being marginalised and discriminated, is an important prerequisite for change agents for gender equality. Many women with the awareness and will to act as change agents, however, are in practice restricted by a precarious work position, which leaves them with a lack of power, influence and resources necessary to initiate change. The influence of a change agent is also dependent on his or her age, gender, network, disciplinary context and national context. The results from this study can be useful when developing gender equality strategies, policies and practices and can also be used to empower gender equality change agents that face challenges while trying to implement change in any kind of institution.