Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

‘I Wanted More Women in, but . . .’: Oblique Resistance to Gender Equality Initiatives

Smolović Jones, Owain; Smolović Jones, Sanela; Taylor, Scott; Yarrow, Emily


Sanela Smolović Jones

Scott Taylor

Emily Yarrow



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.


Smolović Jones, O., Smolović Jones, S., Taylor, S., & Yarrow, E. (2021). ‘I Wanted More Women in, but . . .’: Oblique Resistance to Gender Equality Initiatives. Work, Employment and Society, 35(4), 640-656.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Aug 20, 2020
Publication Date 2021-08
Deposit Date Jan 7, 2024
Journal Work, Employment and Society
Print ISSN 0950-0170
Electronic ISSN 1469-8722
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 35
Issue 4
Pages 640-656
Keywords Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management; Economics and Econometrics; Sociology and Political Science; Accounting
Public URL