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A cultural feminist approach towards managing diversity in top management teams

Jawad Syed (Kent Business School, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)
Peter A. Murray (Department of Business, Macquaire University, Sydney, Australia)

Equal Opportunities International

ISSN: 0261-0159

Article publication date: 27 June 2008




The purpose of this paper is to challenge the customary emphasis on masculine values in top management teams (TMTs) and offer a cultural feminist approach to improving women's participation in leadership roles in organisations.


The paper builds on the theory of diversity and “difference”, instead of “sameness”, to demonstrate the relationship between feminine values, team member diversity, and team effectiveness. The paper develops a three‐tier approach to making better use of gender diversity in TMTs: unravel masculine hegemony in the workplace; create awareness of distinct values offered by women as team members and team leaders; and progress team diversity from the customary token representation to gender inclusive team structures and routines.


The paper suggests that TMTs benefit when learning to accommodate and integrate feminine values, along with masculine values, into an inclusive work culture that enhances teams’ performing capacities.

Research limitations/implications

Token representation is only one dimension of gendered disadvantage. Several complex forms of gendered disadvantage reside at macro‐level or extra‐organisational layers of life. Therefore, tackling masculine hegemony should involve a multilevel approach that tackles gendered disadvantage in domains as wide as work, organisation, and society.

Practical implications

Through the three‐tier framework for managing diversity in TMTs, the paper offers a practical way forward, moving beyond the current functional‐structured approach towards TMTs.


The paper argues that conventional diversity management practices remain influenced by a hegemonic masculine approach towards increasing women's participation in employment. Furthermore, a narrow emphasis on “sameness” instead of “diversity” of women and men reinforces male hegemony, contributing to the perpetuation of low numbers of women in TMTs.



Syed, J. and Murray, P.A. (2008), "A cultural feminist approach towards managing diversity in top management teams", Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 27 No. 5, pp. 413-432.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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