Davidson, M.J. (2012), "Women in Management Worldwide: Progress and Prospects (2nd ed.)", Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 20 No. 6. https://doi.org/10.1108/hrmid.2012.04420faa.012Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Women in Management Worldwide: Progress and Prospects (2nd ed.)
Article Type: Suggested reading From: Human Resource Management International Digest, Volume 20, Issue 6
Marilyn J. Davidson and , Ronald J. Burke(Eds), Gower, 2011, ISBN 9780566089169
Any book providing a comprehensive overview of the position of women in the workforce across 19 countries is inevitably a useful reference. Marilyn Davidson and Ronald Burke, updating their 2004 edition of Women in Management Worldwide should be commended for again bringing together well-informed, predominantly academic writers who produce country-specific chapters incorporating sections on labor-force characteristics, women pursuing education, women in management, women entrepreneurs, country legislation and initiatives supporting women in the workforce.
The book’s 34 authors provide a breadth and depth of official data and research-based material which, taken together, show that the proportion of women in the paid labor force (except in China and Turkey) and in managerial and professional roles (albeit predominantly “low-level”) has increased, though the extent of change since 2004 is often marginal.
Occupational segregation remains a challenge for women in the workforce, as does the continuing pattern of woeful under-representation in senior positions.
The percentages of women students in higher education continue to increase globally (or hold steady in countries where women have already achieved or surpassed equality), and the proportion of women entrepreneurs and small-business owners has (slowly) increased in almost every country included in the book, although it remains low generally.
The editors suggest that, for the most part, their contributors are cautiously optimistic, with the proviso that legislative and other initiatives, where they exist, lack “teeth”. Importantly, Marilyn Davidson and Ronald Burke also note that globally there remains a dearth of research and statistics on subgroups of women in management, such as indigenous and disabled women.
The book contains a number of incorrect spellings, missing apostrophes, missing and extra brackets in references, incorrect and inconsistent spellings of names, extra full stops and missing words. Appearing throughout the book, these undermine the reader’s confidence in its content.
The highly structured format of the chapters tends to prevent any particular contribution from standing out. But authors who incorporate a degree of “color” and, where possible, illuminate their points with cross-country comparisons, contribute some of the more interesting sections of the book.
With just a handful of changes, the book could have offered a stronger narrative around women’s progress and prospects. For example, the chapters’ introductory sections, which most authors use to preview the structure of their contribution, quickly become repetitive. They could have been replaced by an abstract or summary of content, perhaps with a particular emphasis on what the authors – as experts in their country’s situation – believe are the key indicators and findings or, in keeping with the theme of the second edition, what progress is especially notable or where the clearest prospects for change lie. This would also have helped the editors to create a more in-depth overview and add value to the country groupings.
Although the back cover claims that the arrangement of the book “enable[s] comparisons of the data between countries and regions”, its seven parts (European Union, Europe, north and central America, Australia, Asia, south America, Africa) appear as merely structural markers, with the editors providing no meaningful connections within or between these.
Another of the stated aims of the second edition of Women in Management Worldwide is to explore what has changed in the six or seven years since the first edition. Davidson and Burke conclude, perhaps unsurprisingly, that “modest change” since 2004 is at least partly attributable to the modest interval since their previous publication. A longer interval between editions, and a more robust and better edited final version, would have been preferable.
The editors’ overview chapter ends with a clichéd quote from Kristof and WuDann’s Half the Sky: “The world is awakening to a powerful truth: women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.” The way this quote is used to frame the book appears too simplistic for a publication from two of the discipline’s most eminent academic researchers, who otherwise engage with the need for macro-societal responses and who argue for “an understanding of the values, norms and cultural issues bearing on the progress or otherwise of women in organizations”.
The subject and implications of this volume are clearly important. They deserve to be better reflected across all facets of the book.
Reviewed by Susan Fountaine, School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
A longer version of this review appeared in Gender in Management: An International Journal, Vol. 27 No. 3, 2012.