Research database

ISAW - Academic Worker: Navigating Gender Bias and Unraveling Gender Dimensions Ideal STEM

18 months (2025)
Principal investigator(s):
Project type:
Non-EU international research
Funding body:
ALTRI ENTI EUROPEI (Fondation Paris Dauphine)
Project identification number:
PoliTo role:
Sole Contractor


This research initiative aims at exploring the enduring underpinnings of gender biases within STEM academia, particularly emphasizing the shaping and perpetuation of the 'ideal worker' archetype. Drawing inspiration from Acker's (1990) seminal work on gendered organizations and ideal worker model, reprised by Williams (2001), applied to both general academia (Benschop and Bourns, 2003; Lund, 2020; Van Der Brink and Benschop, 2012) and STEM academia (Hart, 2016; Hill et al., 2014; Sattari and Sandefur, 2019), we postulate that although STEM academia outwardly conveys a sense of gender neutrality, the evaluation of competencies, experiences, job performance, and personal assessments, as well as career advancement, are rooted in stereotypically masculine norms that constitutes an “ideal STEM academic” model. This bias effectively penalizes individuals who do not conform to this prevailing and hegemonic gender category, first of all women. Our research is situated at the intersection of several academic disciplines, including gender studies, organizational behaviour, STEM education, and the literature on organizational studies, particularly in the context of gender disparities within STEM higher education. However, few contributions covered the identification and impact of the “ideal worker” model in specific settings and organization, and none had done it for STEM academia. Our primary objectives are to fill this gap and contribute to the ongoing scholarly conversation regarding the systemic reinforcement of gender biases within specific organizational contexts, and how these biases intersect with various work-related outcomes, particularly through the lens of organizational narratives such as the "ideal worker" concept. To achieve this, we employ a case study methodology, with Politecnico di Torino serving as our focal point of analysis, as a representative case of a STEM institution characterized by gender segregation. We have assembled a diverse and multidisciplinary research team to provide a multitude of perspectives for the analysis and interpretation of our research inquiry. As part of an evidence triangulation process, we will conduct semi-structured interviews with a diverse group of researchers affiliated with Politecnico di Torino. These interviews are intended to enrich our comprehension of the "ideal STEM academic" narrative and its gender-specific consequences within the context of our chosen analytical unit. Moreover, our study aspires to establish a methodology that can be replicated for investigating other "ideal worker" models within various organizational settings.



ERC sectors

SH1_10 - Management; marketing; organisational behaviour; operations management
SH3_6 - Diversity and identities, gender, interethnic relations

Sustainable Development Goals

Obiettivo 5. Raggiungere l’uguaglianza di genere ed emancipare tutte le donne e le ragazze|Obiettivo 8. Incentivare una crescita economica duratura, inclusiva e sostenibile, un’occupazione piena e produttiva ed un lavoro dignitoso per tutti


Total cost: € 10,000.00
Total contribution: € 10,000.00
PoliTo total cost: € 10,000.00
PoliTo contribution: € 10,000.00