He is a Firm, Strong-Minded and Empowering Leader, but is She? Gendered Positioning of Female and Male CEOs

Authors

  • Saija Katila,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Economics and Management Organizational Communication, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Päivi Eriksson

    1. Department of Economics and Management Organizational Communication, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
    Search for more papers by this author

Department of Economics and Management Organizational Communication, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, PO Box 27 (Latokartanonkaari 9), FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland; e-mail: saija.katila@helsinki.fi

Abstract

The article focuses on how management and gender are done in written stories about female and male chief executive officers (CEOs). The stories were written by young Finnish business school students. The logic for studying stories written by students lies in the argument that the new generation will not reproduce common stereotypes about soft, democratic and caring female managers and hard, authoritarian and strong male managers. In the analysis, we rely on positioning theory, which focuses on how the CEOs are discursively positioned, that is, what kinds of roles and duties they are assigned and how their positions shift as the story unfolds. The analysis shows that while there is little difference in the rights and duties assigned to the CEOs, the positioning of female and male CEOs construct a very different picture of their abilities as business managers and leaders of people. The female CEOs are depicted as successful business managers but lacking in interpersonal skills. The male CEOs are also successful business managers but they are constructed as naturally competent leaders of people. This finding is linked to the Finnish management context as well as to the institutionalized leadership and management discourses.

Ancillary