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Constructing or rejecting the notion of other in senior university management: the cases of Ireland and Sweden

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journal contribution
posted on 2014-07-03, 15:20 authored by Pat O'ConnorPat O'Connor, Anita Goransson
We focus on gender stereotypes in West European university management by comparing two countries: Sweden and Ireland. In secular Sweden there are strong policies that are implemented at all political levels supported by the public discourse; while in Ireland such measures are few and the equality infrastructures and discourse have been weakened by the state. In Sweden women have come to dominate the Rector/President/Vice Chancellor positions and each gender has between 40 and 50 per cent of the other leading positions. In Ireland there are no women in the top position and their percentage of other leading positions is between 13-25 per cent. Drawing on interview data from senior ‘manager academics’ (Deem, 2003) in Irish and Swedish universities this article shows that in Sweden traditional gender stereotypes are not credible anymore-with senior manager-academics not seeing such stereotypes as mirroring reality. Thus, even if they acknowledge the existence of stereotypes, they distance themselves from them. In Ireland traditional stereotypes still have more of a grip on manager-academics. These country differences are seen in the context of different gender orders in the respective countries. It seems that more areas are still gendered in Irish society in comparison with Sweden, and the gender order is stronger and more hierarchical. Thus it appears that by actively recruiting women in leading positions in a societal context that supports feminist values, traditional stereotypes may be reduced. On the other hand gendered stereotypes in the absence of such a context reflect and reinforce patterns that legitimise and valorise men’s and women’s positions within hierarchical gendered structures.



Educational Management Administration and Leadership;43 (2), pp. 323-340


Sage Publications





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