Dilemmas of an academic feminist as manager in the neoliberal academy: Negotiating institutional authority, oppositional knowledge and change

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Abstract

While still rare, women are achieving important leadership roles as managers inside universities. This article explores the practical and theoretical dilemmas posed for academic feminists who enter such positions in the age of the rise of the ‘neoliberal academy’. These are familiar dilemmas for feminist bureaucrats – femocrats – working inside political, governmental, judicial and economic institutions but have been less explored with respect to the academy. What can academic feminists do when they take on middle or senior management roles? How do they experience being simultaneously the embodiment of institutional authority (to manage, regulate, quantify, monetise) as managers, as well as a source of oppositional knowledge as feminists? To what extent are there opportunities to work with the grain of an institution to challenge the gendered status quo from within? Or are academic feminists who manage inevitably co-opted and compromised? The article takes an autoethnographic approach to reflect upon the author’s experience as a ‘tempered radical’ in third tier management (as an executive dean and head of school) in a public research-intensive UK university, and to offer lessons about the radical potential of insider strategies of change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Studies Review
Early online date10 Nov 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • academic feminist managers
  • feminist change
  • women in the profession
  • tempered radicalism

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