The images of genius artists, excellent scientists, influential managers and politicians have begun to become more diverse over the last decades. Diverse teams are regarded as more successful (‘added value’) in many areas of society. Simultaneously, the supposedly neutral merit criteria used to measure performance, excellence and success continue to reproduce norms of masculinity, whiteness, heterosexuality and ableism. Thus, in many places, meritocracy still fosters inequality. Moreover, excellence requirements often actually seem to counteract the idea of gender equality or diversity. This thematic field discusses ways to deal with this tension between excellence and diversity that increasingly permeates neoliberal institutions in contradictory ways.