The Complex Interventions Necessary to Push the Academy toward Gender Equality. A Commentary on the Symposium “Don’t Fix Women, Fix Academia? Gender Inequality in National Academic Contexts”


  • Barbara J. Risman University of Illinois at Chicago



Gender structure, science, women, university, transformation


Women are under-represented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines across the globe. For decades this has been recognized as a serious problem, and many governments have funded programs that address the issue. The earliest projects, towards the end of the 20th Century, attempted to “fix women” to help them succeed. These projects failed because the causes of women’s exclusion were not simply their socialization, but rather systematic institutional discrimination. Current attempts to include women in scientific disciplines focus on re-designing the institutions. In my brief introduction to the symposium, I introduce a way to think about gender that can help us evaluate what kinds of change each essay is describing and integrate their insights and findings so that they can inform future work in the area. To do this, I introduce the framework that suggests we must think about gender as a social structure. I then use the gender as a structure framework to briefly summarize the findings of each essay and suggest directions for the future for each project. I conclude with a summary of what we have learned overall from the essays in the Symposium and how this might inform future efforts at gender transformation in universities world-wide.


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Bustelo, M. (2023). Resilience and Gender-Structural Change in Universities: How Bottom-Up Approaches Can Leverage Transformation When Top-Level Management Support Fails. Sociologica, 17(2), 17–36.

Cannito, M., Naldini, M., & Santero, A. (2023). Investigating the Glass Ceiling in Italian Academia. Women’s Strategies and Barriers to Career Advancement. Sociologica, 17(2), 93–114.

Cech, E.A. (2021). The Trouble with Passion: How Searing for Fulfillment at Work Fosters Inequality. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Correll, S.J. (2004). Constraints into Preferences: Gender, Status, and Emerging Career Aspirations. American Sociological Review, 69(1), 93–113.

Kahlert, H. (2023). A Letter from the President — or: How the German Universities Excellence Initiative Became a Driver of Gender Change in the German Science Policy Discourse. Sociologica, 17(2), 73–91.

Linková, M., Langhammerová, G., Andreska, Z., & Oliva, E. (2023). Co-creating Gender Equality in Czech Academia: External and Internal Factors. Sociologica, 17(2), 59–72.

Mcquillan, J., & Hernandez, N. (2021). Real-Life Conundrums in the Struggle for Institutional Transformation. Gender & Society, 35(3), 300–329.

Myers, K., George, S., Danell, A., & Morehead, A. (2023). Bringing the Men Back In: Catalyzing Gender Equality at Universities Through Advocates & Allies. Sociologica, 17(2), 37–57.

Risman, B.J. (2004). Gender as a Social Structure: Theory Wrestling with Activism. Gender and Society, 18(4), 429–450.

Risman, B.J. (2017). 2016 Southern Sociological Society Presidential Address: Are Millennials Cracking the Gender Structure? Social Currents, 4(3), 208–227.

Risman, B.J. (2018a). Where the Millennials Will Take Us: A New Generation Wrestles with the Gender Structure. Oxford: Oxford University Press USA.

Risman, B.J. (2018b). Gender as a Social Structure. In B.J. Risman, C. Froyum and W. Scarborough (Eds.), Handbook of the Sociology of Gender. New York City, NY: Springer International Publisher.




How to Cite

Risman, B. J. (2023). The Complex Interventions Necessary to Push the Academy toward Gender Equality. A Commentary on the Symposium “Don’t Fix Women, Fix Academia? Gender Inequality in National Academic Contexts”. Sociologica, 17(2), 115–123.



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