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Women in management: an historical perspective

Isobel McDonald (The University of Paisley, Paisley Business School, Paisley, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 1 June 2004



In pre‐industrial times women managed, not only the household, but aspects of agricultural work such as the dairy, milking, butter and cheese‐making, often disposing of any surplus through trade or commerce. In the nineteenth century women could be found running businesses such as lodging houses and shops. By 1911 women constituted 19 per cent of employers and proprietors and 20 per cent of managers and administrators and higher professionals. Many of today's women managers are “organization” women, part of the professional managerial class which emerged, in the UK, in the immediate post‐war period and it is on these women that the literature concentrates, in an effort to explain why, despite almost 30 years of equality legislation, women remain under represented in management, tend to be occupationally segregated and are paid less than male managers. This paper explores the experiences of today's women managers and compares them with those of their foremothers.



McDonald, I. (2004), "Women in management: an historical perspective", Employee Relations, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 307-319.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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