A Lacanian perspective on bias in language: How women can(not) ever ‘make it’ in academia

Anna Franciska Einersen, Florence Villesèche, Astrid Huopalainen

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In this paper, we contribute to the study of gender bias in organizations by showing how adopting a Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective helps us study bias in language while not separating language from the speaker. We use career narratives from female professors to exemplify our argument. We argue that coming into being as a performing subject means satisfying the desire of an organizational, academic other, and argue that this other’s desire rests upon a masculine ideal. To support our arguments, we present and analyze narrative excerpts and show how making it for women in academia is constrained by the continued experience of bias—manifested in language—leading to an unresolvable split between striving to be a successful woman in academia and meeting the masculine-centered standards for the ideal worker. The Lacanian approach thus allows us to show how gender bias is simultaneously contested and reproduced in the career narratives of women with successful careers in neoliberal academia. We conclude the paper by addressing the broader implications and limits of a Lacanian perspective for studying and tackling (gender) bias in organizations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-55
JournalKvinder, Køn and Forskning
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • unconscious bias
  • gender bias
  • language
  • Lacan
  • psychoanalysis


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