Published October 20, 2023 | Version v2
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Gender quotas & positive action: An attack on meritocracy?

  • 1. ROR icon University of Turin
  • 2. ROR icon Uppsala University


Taking steps to address gender imbalances is essential to ensure women's career progress and promote diverse and inclusive research environments. Positive action (sometimes referred to as positive discrimination or affirmative action) is widely acknowledged as a crucial tool for achieving this goal. However, resistance persists, and opinions diverge about which are the most effective and valid strategies. Do gender quotas or economic incentives challenge meritocracy? Can balancing the numbers really improve institutions and knowledge? 

This policy brief provides an overview of the multifaceted debate around positive action, the arguments for, arguments against, and pathways for implementation. The policy brief draws insight from the Gender Equality Plan development process of and interviews performed by MINDtheGEPs. It ends by presenting two case studies from Italian universities.



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Subtitle (English)
Structural incentives for gender balance in research organisations


MINDtheGEPs – Modifying Institution by Developing Gender Equality Plans 101006543
European Commission