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Excellence as a Gender-Biased Concept and Effects of the Linking of Excellence with Gender Equality

Andrea Wolffram


This paper focuses on the subjectivity of evaluations of excellence in promotion and hiring processes in academia and on the accompanying factors for successful careers in Science and Technology (S&T) disciplines. Against the background of the disproportionately low rate of appointments of female scientists to professorships in Germany, the article analyses how the demands of gender equality and the concept of excellence are negotiated at a German university that was successful in the German Excellence Initiative. The implementation of the excellence process was accompanied by a discourse of linking excellence with gender equality. This article draws on qualitative data from interviews with researchers at different levels of their scientific careers. It can be shown that researchers, regardless of their scientific experience, perceive equity measures in appointment procedures as undermining the meritocratic principle. Rather, most of them think that societal conditions outside the scientific system are responsible for the underrepresentation of women in professorships and other top positions in academia.


Social construction of excellence, meritocracy, career paths in science and technology, promotion and recruitment of women in academia

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