Women as leaders in male-dominated sectors: a bifocal analysis of gendered organizational practices

O’Brien, Wendy ORCID: 0000-0002-5104-9141, Hanlon, Clare ORCID: 0000-0001-5547-5327 and Apostolopoulos, Vasso ORCID: 0000-0001-6788-2771 (2023) Women as leaders in male-dominated sectors: a bifocal analysis of gendered organizational practices. Gender, Work and Organization. ISSN 0968-6673


Women in male-dominated sectors face significant challenges to progress their leadership aspirations. While organizations have activated policies and practices that ostensibly assist women to progress, they still face entrenched gendered practices and cultures that create ongoing obstacles. In this paper, we examine the gendered social practices from insights of 15 women leaders in Australia as they attempt to advance their careers. In particular, on formal policies, informal practices, narratives and social interactions, and informal patterns of unconscious bias and merit, they negotiate in three male-dominated sectors: Trades, Sport, and Surgery. The findings indicate a disconnect between policies and their application. Women were conflicted about the importance of quotas, and often felt unable to access flexible work arrangements upon returning to work after parental leave. Career pathways were often unclear, and women felt a lack of support from their organization, particularly when they attempted to navigate dominant masculine cultures. Drawing on these findings, we argue that executive leaders are central to changing the systemic sexism and discrimination in organizations that persist in male-dominated sectors. To create organizational changes necessary for women to step into leadership roles, we propose four target areas: create accessible and visible career pathways, provide networking support, activate mentoring opportunities, and address unconscious bias.

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Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/46886
DOI 10.1111/gwao.13019
Official URL https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gwao.1...
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3507 Strategy, management and organisational behaviour
Current > Division/Research > Chancellery
Current > Division/Research > College of Health and Biomedicine
Keywords women as leaders, women in leadership, organisational practice, male dominated sectors
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