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Positive action plans in Italian universities: does gender really matter?

Giovanna Galizzi (University of Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy)
Benedetta Siboni (University of Bologna, Forlì, Italy)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 6 June 2016



The European university context reveals a high degree of gender inequality. In Italy, the overall female employment rate is significantly lower than in the rest of Europe; nevertheless, gender equality in universities is consistent with the European average. In 2006, the Italian Government required public organisations (thus state universities) to formulate positive action plans (PAPs) and disclose the positive actions planned for the following three years to promote gender equality. However, the law does not provide any guideline for the contents of the PAPs. The purpose of this paper is to analyse gender equality disclosure in PAPs to investigate whether and how Italian State Universities (ISUs) are taking a role in promoting gender equality.


The paper uses content analysis to investigate contents of gender disclosure in 28 PAPs. The authors developed a coding instrument based on the Guidelines for Gender Equality Programmes in Science.


The paper found that most PAPs are focused on creating a favourable environment for women inside the organisation, while little attention has been paid to creating gender awareness in research and teaching activities, as well as in supporting women’s leadership. The paper concludes that ISUs are failing as key players in the cultural change of the society toward gender equality.


First, the paper contributes to the accounting literature by providing an analysis of accounting for gender by universities. Second, it adds to the debate on positive actions for gender equality in the university sector.



The authors wish to thank the anonymous referees for their precious suggestions and the participants in the SIDREA International Workshop (SIW) Meditari Accountancy Research European Conference and Doctoral Colloquium 2015 (Forlì, Italy) for their encouraging comments.


Galizzi, G. and Siboni, B. (2016), "Positive action plans in Italian universities: does gender really matter?", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 246-268.



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