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The politics of knowledge: the responses to feminist research from academic leaders

Marieke Van den Brink (Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 17 August 2015




The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the knowledge on the slow gender change in academia by examining university leaders’ defensive patterns of responses to feminist knowledge. Identifying the most common responses will enable scholars and practitioners engaged in equality work in academia to anticipate them and implement specialized interventions to target these arguments.


The author developed a reflexive, composite methodology, combining participatory action research, documentary analysis and auto-ethnography. It is an explorative study, based on author’s own interpretations and experiences while talking about gender inequality issues in the academic setting. Data are drawn from discussions stemming from public lectures and encounters in the academic setting where academic leaders were present between 2009 and 2015.


Three patterns of responses are identified: two defensive patterns and one which provides opportunities for change. The two defensive responses resisted the feminist knowledge on the basis of methodology/epistemology or the study’s findings. The pattern of commitment shows promising opportunities for change.

Research limitations/implications

For future research, it could be interesting to further explore the role of leaders in gender equality work. The author examines leaders who are gender aware and analyze how they champion gender equality in their organizations and what actions they take to increase equality. The actual leadership work that has to be done to create gender equal or inclusive work places is an under researched premise.


Hitherto, little is known about the way the feminist knowledge is received within in the academic community. This paper zooms in on this knowledge transfer and investigates a moment where feminist knowledge and academic leaders meet and learning opportunities occur. In addition, this paper shares the hard task we have as feminist scholars, and the feelings this brings to ones one identity as a scholar.



The author would like to thank Joanne Martin for the valuable advice to write about encounters with academic leaders, and develop more knowledge about organizational change processes toward gender equality.


Van den Brink, M. (2015), "The politics of knowledge: the responses to feminist research from academic leaders", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 483-495.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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