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Gender in Organizations

Gender in Organizations

Are Men Allies or Adversaries to Women’s Career Advancement?

Edited by Ronald J. Burke and Debra A. Major

Diversifying the workforce is becoming increasingly important, with gender equality being a central feature of overall equality. Men seem to be part of the problem and a necessary part of the solution. This collection ties these themes together in the context of talent management and organizational effectiveness.

Chapter 3: Taking the obvious apart: critical approaches to men, masculinities, and the gendered dynamics of leadership

David L. Collinson and Jeff Hearn

Subjects: business and management, diversity and management, gender and management, organisational behaviour


For centuries and across many cultural traditions, the highly masculine and masculinized image of the heroic man has informed, shaped and characterized leadership practices and theories. The continuing dominance of men in leadership and leadership positions appears ënormalí or ënaturalí, and largely escapes critical analysis or commentary, even in progressive forums. Assumptions about the ëgreat maní of history (Carlyle, 1841; Hook, 1945) have defined who could be a leader, even who is a ëborn leaderí, what a leader does and how they might enact leadership. Equally importantly, they have also specified, implicitly or explicitly, who would be excluded from leadership positions. In contemporary organizations and societies, power, authority, and status are still frequently the preserve of particular men and specific masculinities. Men continue to predominate in senior organizational roles in ways that, in turn, often express and validate their masculinities and identities, while womenís voices and identities are subordinated or excluded, especially at the highest leadership levels. Although in some countries women have increasingly entered middle management and certain well established professions in recent years, this is far from universally so in all sectors and all parts of the world. Moreover, even when occupying leadership positions, women may still often be identified and marked as ëwomen leadersí or ëfemale leadersí, and indeed their leadership may be seen and evaluated in relation to, typically as similar to or different from, more established, historical forms of menís leadership.

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