CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Foreword From: Gender in Management: An International Journal, Volume 25, Issue 7
A very recent two set volume of the best research papers of Women in Management (Gatrell et al., 2010, vols 1 and 2) has highlighted the historical rise of research interest in the field of gender in management. It traces these developments from the onset of the equal opportunity laws of the mid-1970s to some of the same issues highlighted in these two issues of Gender in Management. When I started working in this field in the late 1970s with my colleague Professor Marilyn Davidson, we explored the role of women managers, drawing attention to the difficulties that women experience in obtaining senior management roles, in their pay disparity with men, in the lack of support for their careers from their spouses/partners, in their problems with threatened male colleagues and in their lack of support from even the very few women in senior management roles in their own organizations (i.e. the Queen Bee Syndrome) (Cooper and Davidson, 1982). Even at that time, senior management did not necessarily mean board level appointments, merely women in middle or at the very best senior management roles! After ten years, we decided to re-assess the position and role of women in management in further work, and were surprised to find a significant lack of any real progress (Davidson and Cooper, 1992). Yes, we found that there were more women in middle management roles, but they were still be marginalised by their threatened male colleagues, given less opportunities by their senior male managers and still less supported by their Queen Bee. Although the laws were in place, in practice there was still gender inequality in pay, limited access to senior roles with the proverbial “glass ceiling” still firmly in place and gender differentiation when it came to family responsibilities.
So where are we today. (The) Economist (2005, p. 67) only five years ago described the situation in these words “The glass ceiling […] is proving particularly persistent. The corporate ladder remains stubbornly male and the few women who reach it are paid significantly less than the men they join there […]”. We have plenty of evidence that women are still substantially in the middle management levels, with an marginal increase in senior roles but a paucity of women on the boards of companies (which is different from the statutory guidelines in countries like Norway, which mandates a significant proportion of women in the boards of public companies) (Gatrell, 2008). Kumra and Vinnicombe (2008) found in their work that even after the first decade of the twenty-first century, women are noticeably absent from the board of most public and private sector bodies. Because of these disparities between the equal opportunities laws and actual practice, we will need further research in the field of gender in management, as Acker (2006, p. 43) has suggested:
[…] systematic disparities between participants in power and control over goals, resources and outcomes; workplace decisions such as how to organize work; opportunities for promotion and interesting work; security in employment and benefits; pay and other monetary rewards; respect; and pleasures in work and work relations.
There are also further challenges as well ahead. As more and more legislation is introduced in many countries providing working couples the “right to request” flexible working, we need to ensure the men play an increasing role in the family to support working women. If you look at who applies for flexible working it is predominantly women. So how do we get men to play a prominent role in family life, so that women are enabled to develop their careers during various phases of their life cycle, with men taking some of the burden of the proverbial shoulders of working women?
These two issues attempt to deal with main of the problems facing women managers, exploring such major topics as work-life balance policies, pay equity, gender and risk, how the media portray women, gender differences in leadership and empowerment, sex role stereotypes and the like. Their contribution to the problems of our time will have a major impact on policy and practice on supporting and encouraging more women into management, and at all levels of public and private sector bodies over the next decade. It is hoped that over the next decade we will see some significant movement forward, even though, as Virginia Woolf once wrote: “Even when the path is nominally open – when there is nothing to prevent a woman from being a doctor, a lawyer, a civil servant – there are many phantoms and obstacles, I believe, looming in her way”. Hopefully, research in this field will highlight these obstacles and encourage governments and employers to do something about them.
Cary L. Cooper
About the author
Cary L. Cooper, CBE, is a Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University Management School, and Chair of the Academy of Social Sciences.
Acker, J. (2006), “Ineqwuality regimes: gender, class and race in organizations”, Gender & Society, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 441–64
Cooper, C.L. and Davidson, M. (1982), High Pressure: Working Lives of Women Managers, Fontana Books, Glasgow
Davidson, M. and Cooper, C.L. (1992), Shattering the Glass Ceiling: The Women Manager, Paul Chapman, London
(The) Economist (2005), “Women in business, the conundrum of the glass ceiling”, The Economist, July, pp. 67–9 (special report)
Gatrell, C. (2008), Embodying Women’s Work, Open University, Maidenhead
Gatrell, C., Cooper, C.L. and Kossek, E. (2010), Women in Management: Volumes 1 and 2, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham
Kumra, S. and Vinnicombe, S. (2008), “A study of the promotion to partner in a professional services firm: how women are disadvantaged”, British Journal of Management, Vol. 19, pp. 65–74