Starting from the viewpoint that career is a gender concept, the author suggests that organisational culture is a key determinant in relation to career paths, fostering success for men, and difficulty for women. Four case study organisations were investigated using repertory grid interviews with men and women managers, group discussions, and documentary evidence. In each case the organisational background, and traditional and current career paths are described, with comments on the extent to which these could be negotiated by women. Respondents outlined what is valued in managers in terms of characteristics and behaviour in their respective organisations. All these aspects are linked to the key assumptions underlying each organisational culture. In three out of the four organisations women faced serious difficulties. Only in a NHS Trust with a female chief executive was there close congruity between culture and style, and career paths open to all.
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