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What makes a “good manager”? Positioning gender and management in students’ narratives

Silvia Gherardi (Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento, Trento, Italy)
Annalisa Murgia (Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento, Trento, Italy)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 17 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to address the relationships between gender and management in the narratives of students. More specifically, the authors discuss how the discourse on management is mobilized as a discursive practice able to make some form of that activity thinkable and practicable: who can be a CEO? What kind of managerial competencies are attributed to men/women CEOs? What kind of moral order is expressed in the stories told?

Design/methodology/approach

Stimulus texts have been used to elicit narratives. Students were asked to complete a short story regarding a fictive managerial character, either female or male, whose performance and attitude they were asked to evaluate.

Findings

The paper discusses how the collected stories as a whole expressed a conception of what counts as a “good manager” and how management is gendered. In the analysis, the authors discuss whether and how the relationships between gender and management are changing, or the basic assumptions about “think manager-think male” are still valid. The paper illustrates a traditional positioning of gendered management along the lines of rationality vs care, and a third positioning in which the ideal of the “good manager” has both competencies.

Originality/value

The authors designed an alternative research strategy focused on how gender and management are discursively constructed within a context of economic crisis that affects management reputation. Particularly, the authors discuss the surprising results concerning how the written stories evaluating male CEOs distrusted the masculine way of managing and positioned the female managing style within a trustworthy context.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This paper is an entirely collaborative effort by the two authors, whose names appear in alphabetical order. If, however, for academic reasons individual responsibility is to be assigned, Author 1 wrote Sections 2, 4.2, 5 and Conclusions and Author 2 wrote Introduction and Sections 3 and 4.1.

Citation

Gherardi, S. and Murgia, A. (2014), "What makes a “good manager”? Positioning gender and management in students’ narratives", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 33 No. 8, pp. 690-707. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-05-2013-0040

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited