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What makes representation of executive women in business happen?

Alison Palmer (Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Anita Bosch (Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Publication date: 15 May 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to identify the underlying organisational features, according to the gendered organisation theory, that have contributed to high levels of representation of women executives, contrary to the trend in the South African financial services industry.

Design/methodology/approach

A critical realist approach was employed, using semi-structured interviews, based on a theoretical framework of the gendered organisation. Data were aligned to the theoretical levels of critical realism.

Findings

The research found that the pool from which the successful candidates were appointed was influenced by two features. The first was the perceived attractiveness of the organisation as an employer, composed of organisational prestige, opportunity for altruism, and the sex of the CEO. The second was the role of the CEO as gatekeeper, most notably the CEO’s network and the impact of the similar-to-me paradigm during selection.

Originality/value

The utilisation of critical realism as an approach allowed for organisational features embedded in the theory of the gendered organisation to be identified and gives an indication of how the number of women at executive management level may be increased. The salient factors are the role the woman CEO played in the inclusion of more women at the executive level by virtue of her being a woman, and the attractiveness of the organisation to women employees. Organisational features identified were gendered towards the feminine.

Keywords

Citation

Palmer, A. and Bosch, A. (2017), "What makes representation of executive women in business happen?", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 306-320. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-09-2016-0071

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited