The purpose of this paper is to focus on top women managers who act as change agents in the machista culture of Mexico. Specifically, the authors centre the attention not only on the strategies performed by these change agents to reduce inequality, but also on understanding the way in which they discursively reproduce or challenge essentialist notions of gender with respect to the cultural and organizational context.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 top women managers in Mexico who are actively involved as change agents. A feminist poststructuralist methodological framework using critical discourse analysis was used to uncover competing notions of gender and related strategies developed to promote gender equality.
The analysis reveals that the 12 change agents perform strategies for inclusion, and only half of them engage in strategies for re-evaluation. The authors were unable to recognize whether these change agents are engaged in strategies of transformation. These change agents also reproduce and challenge “essentialist” notions of gender. In some instances – based on their own career experiences and gendered identities – they (un)consciously have adopted essentialism to fit into the cultural context of machista society. They also challenge the gender binary to eradicate essentialist notions of gender that created gender inequalities in the first place.
The experience of these 12 top women managers may not represent the voice of other women and their careers. Ultimately, intersections with class, organizational level, nationality, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation must be taken into account so to represent other women’s particular interests with respect to equality.
For those researchers-consultants who may be involved in an intervention strategy, it is important to focus on helping the change agents in reviewing and reflecting on their own “vision of gender equity”. During the strategic activities of mentoring and training, these change agents could potentially “leak” a particular “vision of gender” to other women and men. Thus, part of the intervention strategy should target the change agent’s self-reflection to influence her capacity to act as change agents.
The authors contribute to the literature on change agents and interventions for gender equality. Intervention strategies usually centre on essentialist notions of gender. The study offers potential explanations for this approach by paying attention to the process of how change agents, in their efforts to promote gender equality, may be unconsciously projecting their own identities onto others and/or consciously engaging in strategic essentialism to fit into the machista context of Mexico.
Barragan, S., Paludi, M.I. and Mills, A. (2017), "Top women managers as change agents in the machista context of Mexico", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 321-339. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-08-2016-0065
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