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“The wo‐men and the boys”: patterns of identification and differentiation in senior women executives' representations of career identity

Su Olsson (Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand)
Robyn Walker (Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand)

Women in Management Review

ISSN: 0964-9425

Article publication date: 1 July 2004

Abstract

Research into “corporate masculinity” suggests that executive men position their difference, status and power through discourses which involve the strategies of “identification with some men and differentiation from others, including women”. While these processes apparently place women in an antithetical relationship to power, women are increasingly achieving executive leadership. This paper examines the career representations of 30 senior women executives. Drawing on a social constructionist approach to gender and identity, examines women's positioning of self within the discourse and discusses how they deal with the apparent paradoxes or contradictions of female identity within a world dominated by corporate masculinity. Our findings suggest that women engage in processes of identification and differentiation comparable to those of men. Perhaps unexpectedly, these processes often involve an assertion and celebration of female difference that includes distinctions between “the wo‐men and the boys”. They also involve a more tentative process of differentiation from corporate masculinity through the construction of an emerging new culture, the culture of women in business.

Keywords

Citation

Olsson, S. and Walker, R. (2004), "“The wo‐men and the boys”: patterns of identification and differentiation in senior women executives' representations of career identity", Women in Management Review, Vol. 19 No. 5, pp. 244-251. https://doi.org/10.1108/09649420410545962

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited