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Louise Morley: Women Leaders in Finnish Universities: Navigating Neoliberalism, Narrating Neuroliberalism, and Nurturing New Imaginaries. Open Speakers Series lecture

PaikkakuntaKanslerinrinne 1, 1st fl., 33100 Tampere
Tampere University, Pinni B, lecture hall B1096


Women Leaders in Finnish Universities: Navigating Neoliberalism, Narrating Neuroliberalism, and Nurturing New Imaginaries

Professor Louise Morley, University of Sussex in the UK

Time: Tuesday, 22 October 2019, NB! at 14:15-15:45
Place: Tampere University, Pinni B, lecture hall B1096,
Kanslerinrinne 1, 1st fl


Louise Morley and Rebecca Lund

While some women are flourishing as leaders in the global academy, others are subjecting leadership to critical scrutiny and disqualifying it as an unattractive career option involving compliance with the political economy of neoliberalism that often conflicts with feminist values and epistemologies. Leadership, for many feminists, implies epistemic splitting, frictions, and limited subject positions. In a context where welfare has slipped into wellbeing, neuroliberalism, or the governing through affect can be a dominant modus operandi. Feminist change interventions can be restricted to the affective, rather than the structural – mentoring, soothing and mediating the toxic effects of competitive individualism and performance measurement. We ask what ways of knowing can allow us to think differently about gender and leadership, and what circulation of affects, shapes women´s leadership priorities, practices and identities? What possibilities are emerging from the assemblages and relational potential of policy interventions, global speaking back to patriarchal power, the revisioning of gender, and the inclusion of women in higher education leadership. This paper is based on 10 interviews with women university leaders in five universities in Finland- a Nordic country with a sophisticated policy architecture for gender equality. Theoretically, the study intersects feminist affect notions, gender performativity, neoliberalism and neuroliberalism. Areas of affective intensity that participants reported included: gendered authority, financialised performance cultures, conflict and unpopular decision-making, precarity, and ageism. We conclude that while there is substantial evidence of gender inequalities in higher education, and problematic restrictive gender binary categories, more attention should be paid to imagining and leading post-gender universities. The politics of representation i.e. counting more women into neoliberal universities, are not necessarily a counternormative force and should be replaced with a politics of vision, and indeed, of hope.

Biographical Information

Louise Morley FAcSS is a Professor of Higher Education and Director of the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER) (http://www.sussex.ac.uk/education/cheer/) at the University of Sussex, UK. Louise has an international profile in the field of the sociology of gender in higher education. She has conducted research in South and East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Central, Eastern, Northern and Southern Europe, and has delivered keynote presentations on five continents. Her current research interests focus on internationalisation and equity, the equity and affective implications of the neoliberal university, women in higher education leadership, the Roma in higher education, and higher education as a public good. Louise is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, and a Fellow of the Society for Research into Higher Education. She was a Guest Professor at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden (2016-18), a Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Gender Excellence, University of Örebro, Sweden (2011), and the 2013-2014 Inaugural Chair, Women’s Leadership Centre, Universiti Kebangsaan, Malaysia. In 2018-2019, she is a Guest Professor at the University of Tampere, Finland. Louise has published extensively in the field of higher education studies. See Sussex Research Online http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/view/creators/461.html.


The Speakers Series is a series of Studia Generalia Lectures in the Study of Society organized weekly by Tampere University Institute for Advanced Social Research (IASR) in cooperation with the New Social Research Programme (NSR). The lectures are given by the Research Fellows as well as the distinguished guests of the IASR and the NSR. 

For the programme, please check the IASR website https://research.tuni.fi/iasr/event/iasr-nsr-speakers-series-fall-2019/. Most doctoral students can also get 2 ECTS for attending a minimum of six IASR Lectures, altogether 6 ECTS at the maximum. These 2 ECTS for attending 6 lectures can be earned during two successive terms. 



Tampere University Institute for Advanced Social Research (IASR) in cooperation with New Social Research Programme (NSR)


Marjukka Virkajärvi, marjukka.virkajarvi@tuni.fi, 050 318 6697