Get access

Women's Accounts of Organizational Politics as a Gendering Process

Authors

  • Kate Mackenzie Davey

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Management & Organizational Psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet St, London WC1E 7HX, UK
    Search for more papers by this author

*School of Management & Organizational Psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet St, London WC1E 7HX, UK, e-mail: k.mackenzie-davey@bbk.ac.uk

Abstract

Organizational politics is implicated in all levels of organizational functioning, from power structures and informal interaction to individual identity. This study argues that organizational politics provides an approach to examining professional women's experiences of organizations as gendered. Women graduates in male-dominated organizations claimed not to be limited by explicit discrimination, but they construct organizational politics as being masculine in character and as a barrier to their careers. These women represent organizational politics as irrational, aggressive, competitive and instrumental, leading to individual, not organizational, success. Their accounts undermine the stereotypical dichotomy of masculine rationality and feminine emotion by claiming that women behave reasonably and by focusing on emotion in men's political game playing. However, claiming to be rational and rejecting politics, while acknowledging its role in career success, is uncomfortable for ambitious women. They risk sabotaging their own position by appearing too sensitive to engage in the less savoury aspects of organizational life. Organizational political processes are seen as fundamental to gender in organizations, first, because political activity is seen as gendered and masculine and contrary to female identity; secondly, because politics is part of the informal system which constructs organization from which outsiders are excluded; and finally, because political activity is linked to the performance, achievement and maintenance of power.

Ancillary