Cultural stereotypes and the gendering of senior management

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Abstract

This paper asks whether place is significant in understanding the gendering of senior management and how it might be integrated into existing theories. Drawing on interviews and focus group discussions with women and men in senior management in Wales, it compares the gendering of senior management in Wales with other regions of the UK. The situation in Wales is explained by the historical legacy of a peripheral economy dependent on male-dominated heavy industries and the gender relations and stereotypes associated with this. There is a relative lack of senior managerial positions, for both women and men, and women are under-represented in middle management compared with women elsewhere. There is evidence that paternalistic masculinites are widespread in managerial cultures and that although women may find this form of masculinity easier to deal with than a more aggressively ‘macho’ masculinity, it casts them in a subordinate role at work. Cultural stereotypes such as the ‘Welsh mam’ operate in contradictory ways, in some instances holding women back and in others furthering their careers, and there is evidence that women are challenging existing gender stereotypes. A lack of geographical mobility and associated attachment to place affects progress into senior management and creates stability at middle-management level. Place needs to be taken into account in explaining the gendering of senior management because of the spatial distribution of production and the cultural patterns and stereotypes associated with different economic structures.

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