'I wanted more women in, but...': Oblique resistance to gender equality initiatives

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Owain Smolovic-Jones
  • Nela Smolovic-Jones
  • Scott Taylor
  • Emily Yarrow

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Open University
  • University of Portsmouth


Despite many interventions designed to change the gender demographics of positional leadership roles in organizations and professions, women continue to be under-represented in most arenas. Here we explore gender equality (GE) interventions through the example of positive discrimination quotas in politics to develop an understanding of resistance to them. Our case is the British Labour Party, analysing interviews with the people who designed, implemented and resisted the system of all-women shortlists. We develop the notion of ‘oblique resistance’ to describe an indirect form of resistance to the erosion of patriarchal power, which never directly confronts the issue of GE, yet actively undermines it. Oblique resistance is practised in three key ways: through appeals to ethics, by marking territory and in appeals to convention. We conclude by considering the conceptual and practical implications of oblique resistance, when direct and more overt resistance to GE is increasingly socially unacceptable.


Original languageEnglish
JournalWork, Employment & Society
Early online date20 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Aug 2020


  • all-women shortlists, gender inequality, patriarchy, politics, positive discrimination, quotas, resistance

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