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Exclusion and inclusion in the Danish Military: A historical analysis of the construction and consequences of a gendered organizational narrative

Sara Louise Muhr (Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)
Beate Sløk-Andersen (Department of Ethnology, The Saxo Institute, Kobenhavns Universitet, Copenhagen, Denmark)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 8 May 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine why and how past stories of women’s insufficiency for military work survive and how they come to form a gendered organizational narrative dominant in constructing current opinions on women in the military.

Design/methodology/approach

The analysis is based mainly on archival data, but supported by interview material as well as participant observation data. The authors do this from the assumption that the culturally constructed notion of the ideal soldier is based on a historically constructed professional narrative.

Findings

The authors show how a historically produced gender narrative – based on (fictional) stories on what women can and cannot do – is perceived as true and thereby casts women as less suitable for a military career. Thus, despite the current equal legal rights of men and women in the military, the power of the narrative limits female soldiers’ career possibilities.

Originality/value

The paper is unique as it, in drawing on archival data, is able to trace how an organizational narrative comes to be and due to its ethnographic data how this creates limitations for women’s careers. This narrative is stronger and much more powerful than management is aware of. The paper therefore adds crucial knowledge about the ideological influence a historically produced organizational narrative can have on current change initiatives.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The document analysis, as well as six of the interviews, have been carried out on behalf of The Royal Danish Defence College. This paper forms part of a special section. The rhetoric and narratives in management research.

Citation

Muhr, S.L. and Sløk-Andersen, B. (2017), "Exclusion and inclusion in the Danish Military: A historical analysis of the construction and consequences of a gendered organizational narrative", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 367-379. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-10-2016-0195

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited