In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gender in Organizations

  • Introduction
  • Other Reference Resources: Journals
  • History and Trends: Gender in Management versus Gendering Processes in Organizations
  • Women and Gender in Management

Management Gender in Organizations
Marianna Fotaki
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0190


Gender in management and organizations is an ever-present, though somewhat marginalized, topic. Unlike sex, which is linked to biology and reproduction, gender is a social category, though the two terms are closely connected, and the latter is seen as a social expression of the former. Gender is often raised in the context of persisting inequalities in labor markets and organizations. Legislation in many countries outlaws gender-based discrimination at work, yet gender equality has not so far been achieved in most organizations—in either advanced or developing economies. Various approaches drawn from psychological, sociological, and cultural theories explain the role of gender as an attribute, focusing on the unequal treatment of women in management (WIM). These approaches assume that organizational structures, including reward and beliefs systems, shape individual identities and influence micro-level behaviors in work organizations. A related trend concerns “women’s voice” literature, accounting for women’s experiences, interests, and values. In contrast, feminist thinking influenced by social constructivism theorizes inequality by proposing a conception of gendering as an outcome of relational interactions in organizational contexts. Rather than conceiving gender as a variable, such explanatory frames focus on organizing processes by which members are judged, defining their relationships with desirable organizational outcomes. Overall, feminist theory sees gender as an effect of social processes that are amenable to change. The shift from gender as an attribute possessed by individuals or practiced in organizations to gendering as an act we perform is also underscored by the recent shift toward intersectionality. These approaches and feminist postcolonial insights criticize the assumption that the term woman has a uniform meaning, irrespective of context and history. Rejecting the concept of gender identity and organizations as immutable and stable, in Gender and the Organization: Women at Work in the 21st Century (London: Routledge, 2017), Fotaki and Harding take their inspiration from Judith Butler’s post-structuralist feminist ideas. Taken together, such perspectives explain the politics of gender by offering a more nuanced and complex account of how organizations work in a global context, and they stress the power of gendered discourses and practices in reproducing gender. The latter must be constantly performed by the subjects themselves to reinforce social norms. This article addresses topics concerning WIM, and it considers gendering as a process created and reproduced by organizations. It focuses specifically on examining the causes of gender inequality in work organizations and argues the importance of feminist perspectives to better understand these issues. The article offers a selective review of the most influential books, textbooks, and articles on a range of topics relating to both WIM and gendering in organizations. It also discusses key feminist ideas that have influenced gender scholarship in management and organizations and outlines their potential for addressing persisting inequalities in organizations and society.

Textbooks/Handbooks and Edited Collections

Gender is not a core subject in management and business schools, and no textbooks are dedicated to this area of study. In popular handbooks on organizations and management, gender features as only one among many other topics, usually in a single chapter addressing broad aspects of gender and diversity. However, important handbooks and edited collections published in recent decades have taken various approaches to gender in work organizations. The few influential ones devoted exclusively to WIM or critical approaches to gender and gendering in organizations, or both, are listed in this section. Powell 2019 offers a comprehensive review of the mainstream literature on gender and organizations, taking a historical perspective on the process of gendering. Bilimoria and Piderit 2007, written in a similar tradition, discusses women’s treatment, quality of life, and experiences in work organizations, as well as identifying directions for future research. Kumra, et al. 2014 provides a good, up-to-date overview of theoretical approaches by contributors from diverse cultures and perspectives, comprising critical approaches to the issue of gender from both mainstream and feminist perspectives.

  • Bilimoria, Diana, and Sandy Piderit, eds. Handbook on Women in Business and Management. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2007.

    This handbook aims to shed light on how extant structures and practices in society and organizations may constrain or facilitate women’s representation in management and leadership positions. Chapters in this collection examine issues concerning women in business and management, drawing on relevant scholarly literature to address various practical issues faced by women in their careers in business management. It is suitable for both graduate and postgraduate students.

  • Kumra, Savita, Ruth Simpson, and Ronald Burke, eds. Oxford Handbook of Gender in Organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    This is a comprehensive, highly sophisticated collection written with an academic audience and doctoral-level readership in mind. Uniquely, it brings together critical and mainstream perspectives. Various chapters address issues such as materiality and discourse, revisit gender advantage, and consider masculinity and sexuality at work and men in caring occupations, as well as specific issues such as the glass ceiling and glass cliff, positive discrimination and quotas, women in nontraditional occupations, and sexual harassment at work.

  • Powell, Gerry. Women and Men in Management. 5th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2019.

    Originally published in 1988, the newest edition covers a wide range of topics, including employment decisions; working in diverse teams; leadership; sexually oriented behavior in the workplace, such as sexual harassment and workplace romance; career development; managing the work-family interface; and strategies to promote a nondiscriminatory organizational culture, diversity, and inclusion. It sets the standard as a textbook for undergraduate and graduate students interested in gender in management.

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