University and culture of excellence. More meritocratic for whom? Gender aporias in the Italian academia
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The Italian academic system has recently been the object of reforms aimed at reducing costs and increasing its efficiency, as well as promoting a new managerial culture based on performance and entrepreneurship. Based on a case study conducted in a biological sciences department of a large Italian university, this research study explores to what extent the new academic culture has affected recruitment and career advancement processes and what the implications for women are. The results suggest that the «new» academic selection criteria, based on the meritocratic ideal, have certainly contributed to modifying the «old» university model based on hierarchy and affiliation, opening up new opportunities for female academics as well. However, gender inequalities still persist: they resist changes and acquire new forms, while the mantra of excellence risks making them more invisible. Moreover, the opportunities that academic transformations are opening up tend to be the prerogative of few women: those who can economically endure years of precarity and those who make specific maternity choices. Rather than exacerbating gender inequalities, recent neoliberal transformations risk increasing inequalities among women themselves.