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Exit the king. Enter the maid: Changing discourses on gendered management ideals in Swedish Higher Education

Helen Peterson (Department of Thematic Studies, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden; AND Department of Sociology and Work Science, Gothenburg University, Göteborg, Sweden)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 6 July 2015




The aims of this paper are twofold: first, to explore if and how management ideals are gendered within the context of Swedish higher education management and second, to investigate if and how the gendered character of these ideals has been challenged by new managerialism.


The paper draws on qualitative semi-structured interviews with 22 women in senior academic management positions (Vice Chancellors, Pro Vice Chancellors, Deans and Pro deans) in ten Swedish higher education institutions. Discourse analysis is used to explore the constructions of the management ideal in the interviews.


The paper identifies how the interviewed women managers constructed two different management ideals: one old-fashioned and traditional masculine ideal that was superseded by a feminine ideal that they identified themselves with. The masculine ideal was presented as being replaced by the feminine ideal due to the restructuring of higher education and the reforms in line with new managerialism. However, the feminine ideal was also associated with a number of professional challenges.


The research study is limited to management in the higher education sector, but the results have general implications as it adds richness to our understanding of the gendered effects of new managerialism. However, the paper builds on a small qualitative study with women only interviews. The paper is therefore to be considered as explorative. More research is needed, especially including men.



The author wishes to thank the women who made this research possible by their participation. Financial support from Forte: Swedish Research Council for Health, Working life and Welfare is gratefully acknowledged. The author is indebted to the journal’s two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this article.


Peterson, H. (2015), "Exit the king. Enter the maid: Changing discourses on gendered management ideals in Swedish Higher Education", Gender in Management, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 343-357.



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