When Gender Equality in Academia Takes a Toll on Agency and Well-being


  • Giulia Arena University of Genoa




gender equality in academia, work-life balance, gender equality plan, choice feminism, leaking pipeline


The present paper aims to investigate the limits surrounding the implementation of gender equality in academia and the correlation between gender measures and the consequences on personal well-being. Despite the efforts to build more inclusive and equal environments, fatigue seems to affect all the university’s components, especially regarding the uncertainties of an academic career, seen as stressful, delusional, impossible to conciliate with motherhood. Even appropriate measures cannot deal with the fatigue of what is considered a “double presence”: they only allow complying with those standards. Moreover, emotional issues are deriving from choices seen as gender deviant, like not being the major caregiver in the family, and the personal agency is often diminished. The purpose of this study is to show how gender measures in universities are not as neutral and unambiguous as they may seem, but rather fall into one of four approaches to gender inequality itself. These four approaches can be identified as neoliberalism, gender mainstreaming, work-life balance, and the capabilities approach. Agency and well-being could be seen as pivotal aspects and the mix of those elements in each approach results in a different level of fatigue, which, along with stress and mental charge, could play a major role in diminishing the effectiveness of gender equality measures. The significance of this four-sided framework lies in the possibility to reclassify every single gender equality measure and the data collected to support it into one of the four approaches, alongside the opportunity to acknowledge fatigue and evaluate university politics like gender-responsive budgets and gender equality plans.