Talking about the job: The influence of management on leadership discourses

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Talking about the job: The influence of management on leadership discourses

Over the past decades, much research has been carried out to detail and analyse the uneven distribution of men and women in management positions (Acker 1990; Billing and Alvesson 2000; Österlind and Haake 2010). In Denmark, this has been visible in banks and building societies where men would occupy the vast majority of senior positions, and women would be predominant in lower-ranking jobs, making it extremely difficult to climb the career ladder (Ellehave and Søndergaard 2006; Holmgreen 2009; Strunck 2013). One of the reasons for this is that gender inequalities continue to exist because they are deeply embedded in social structures and organisational processes, and not least upheld by the male managers whose positions are challenged by women’s entry into management (Schein 2007). In studies, this is referred to as a gender subtext (Benschop and Dooreward 1998).
The question asked in this paper is whether it is possible to influence this situation with the implementation of management principles that encourage the development of an organisational culture in which management and leadership are constructed in ways that open up to equal access to managerial positions. Previous studies suggest that this may, in fact, be possible (e.g. Storvik 2012).
Taking its cue from these studies, the paper analyses qualitative interviews in the case study of a large Danish building society and bank which is one of the frontrunners in the Danish financial sector in creating equal opportunities in management. The analysis is carried out using Discursive Psychology, which focuses on actors’ rhetorical organisation of text and talk to construct solid and stable versions of reality (Potter and Wetherell 1987; Wetherell and Potter 1988, 1992). The analysis points towards organisational structures and career paths being barriers to equal access to management positions despite the predominant discourse at all management levels being one of equality. This emphasises that despite the dedication to discursively promote equality in all parts of the organisation, embedded social structures of inequality may pose a significant threat to the realisation of this goal.

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Holmgreen, L. 2009. Metaphorically speaking: Constructions of gender and career in the Danish financial sector. Gender and Language 3(1): 1-32.
Potter, J. and Wetherell, M. 1987. Discourse and Social Psychology: Beyond Attitudes and Behaviour. London/Thousand Oaks: Sage.
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Strunck, J. 2013. Som leder skal man komme og styre butikken. Akademisk Kvarter 6: 55-67.
Wetherell, M. and Potter, J. 1988. Discourse analysis and the identification of interpretative repertoires. In C. Antaki (ed.) Analysing Everyday Explanation. A Casebook of Method. London: Sage, 168-83.
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TitelCADAAD 2016 : Book of Abstracts
Publikationsdato5 sep. 2016
StatusUdgivet - 5 sep. 2016
BegivenhedCADAAD - Catania, Catania, Italien
Varighed: 5 sep. 20167 sep. 2016




  • leadership
  • discourse
  • gender
  • case study

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