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Excellence and gender: Playing the game of scientific excellence or being played by the game? The Swiss example

Farinaz Fassa (Institute of Social Sciences, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




Discussing the Swiss case, the purpose of this paper is to examine how gender equality policies deal with the present requirements for scholars to be considered “excellent”. It aims to pinpoint the lines of tension or coherence between excellence, meritocracy and gender politics.


In order to specify the norms of academic careers and their different renditions, the author draws on two studies (at local and national levels) to illustrate where the changes and resistances are taking place.


The translations of a number of demands of feminist movements into the policies set up to favour equality between the sexes may combine to challenge the norms of academia as a gendered realm. Nevertheless, without strong pressure from feminists at local level and the conduct of research pursuing the enterprise of deconstructing norms, top-down policies may prove less “corrective” than affirmative action. This pressure is not only useful to build gender equality in science but also to broaden the spectrum of knowledge that can become a common good.

Research limitations/implications

As neither the names nor the positions of the experts who select the candidates at national level are made public, we had to opt for other, less satisfactory means.


The originality of the paper lies in the link made between the enhancements brought by Equalities policies and the changes they bring. It attempts to bring to light the extent to which gender equality policies conform to the neo-managerial order or challenge its norms to build a world that is more just.



The author wishes to thank the Editors and anonymous reviewers for their constructive guidance and most valuable comments. The author is also grateful for the helpful advice of his colleague Sabine Kradolfer.


Fassa, F. (2015), "Excellence and gender: Playing the game of scientific excellence or being played by the game? The Swiss example", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 37-54.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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