The Subversive Influence of Informal Institutions on Formal Equity Policies in Nigerian Universities: Gender Stakeholders' Perspectives

Informal institutions, informal selection, gender equity policies, gender policy stakeholders, Nigerian universities.


  • Oluwakemi Igiebor
    Public Policy Institute, University of Auckland, New Zealand
March 11, 2023


In an effort to address the systemic problem of gender imbalance in academic leadership, fifteen universities in Nigeria have established gender centres and adopted institutional gender policies. With these formal equity measures in place, it is assumed that women can easily progress to academic leadership; however, this has not been the case. Using interview data gathered from two purposively selected universities in Nigeria; this paper unveils the perspectives of policy stakeholders on the ‘informal rules of the game’. The gender policy stakeholders constitute selected individuals responsible for providing the context and environment for formulating and implementing the gender policy; as such, it is imperative to consider the influence this structure exerts. Informed by Feminist Institutionalism (FI), the analysis was the extent to which gender norms and practices, embodied in informal rules and institutional legacies, challenge the intent of gender equity policies. Findings revealed two major discourses: the nestedness of informal selection in the gender policy formulation process and the gendered logic of appropriateness in gender policy implementation. This paper, therefore, contributes to the FI literature, providing a broader understanding of how the subversion of formalised policies limits the prospect for a positive institutional gender change and undermines women’s academic leadership progression.