CORP5068 – Gender Issues in Modern Organisations.

Gender Issues in Modern Organisations.

CORP5068 – Gender Issues in Modern Organisations.

CORP5068 – Critical Management in the Global Context.

De Montfort University (Leicester) – Business and Law.

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Gender issues in contemporary organisations

Acker (2006) applies the ‘inequality’ regimes concept to demystify the inequality issues prevalent in the work places especially gender-based issues. True to his work, the position of men and women in the modern workplace has been defined greatly by gender with men gaining the upper hand. In the analysis of gender as a social construction, men are often viewed as superior to women as women are accorded the tag ‘other’. As such, it is seen as the place of men to be leaders in organisations. Most of the top jobs are held by men with only few women making it to the board (Ely, 1995). In America only 3% of organisations are headed by women who are described by Mavin (2008) as abnormal (more male than female) such as HP’s CEO Meg Whitman and IBM’s CEO Virginia Rometty (Marks, 2011).

Women being Associated with Domestic Work

Ahl (2006) in her research notes that being a woman in the workplace is an inherent disadvantage. This is mostly so because the female gender has been associated with certain attributes by society that devalue the integrity of female leaders. The position of the woman is majorly pinned on domestic work. Domestic work involves duties associated with taking care of the family. Women are the ones expected to take leave from work when a baby is born and not take care of the child at a young age. There are those that try to juggle between work and family but it is hard (lecture 5). This perspective held by society diminishes the ability of a woman to work and progress career-wise.

Areas of differences come in matters such as pay, career growth issues, such as promotion, and positions in the job. Research shows that in organisations, women are often preferred as leaders in the event when dramatic actions need to be taken. The rest of the time, men are preferred as the leaders. Such a prejudice relates to the ability of women to work well as managers only under extreme conditions. An example is when get appointed into a firm when the performance is declining and made redundant as soon as the firm is on the improvement path. This concept explains the issues of women having shorter tenure in formal positions, especially top positions, in comparison to men – they are ostracised as soon as the organisation does not need them. This is despite the fact that FTSE 100 firms showed improvement when women were allowed into the board.

Women and the Glass Cliff Effect

The lag in women’s formal careers is also explained not only by social and personal pressure such as taking care of the family but also due to the glass cliff effect. This is the scenario where women not only get appointed as managers and CEOs when the organisation needs dramatic changes but also into risky positions where the chances of failure are high. Eventually, their career progress gets stalled in comparison to men. On the end of social and personal pressure, the modern workplace has helped in undoing this. Majorly, this is achieved through the government allowing for paternal leaves meaning the men can also participate in domestic duties during their career. However, this is not seen as apt by the society as men doing this are often stigmatized. In times when it works, the progress in careers for men and women can become even. Another obstacle hampering the progression in career for women is the glass ceiling. Women are unfair represented in the upper tier of the organisation. The glass ceiling which dictates ascension up the management ladder up to a certain level finds it root from prejudice, women lacking experience and commitment due to family demands (Heilman, 2001).

Inequality of Pay and Women

Inequality in pay is also an imminent issue. A study shows that women in top 5 positions earned less by 22% compared to their male counterparts despite the fact that their salaries were only 11% less than those of men. This difference emanates from the general discrimination in which case men dislike women managers, the trade-off between family and work causes women to earn less and sometimes women are found in smaller firms. In matters of investment, women are more likely to further their investments if they are in developing countries because they can access capital for women-based organisations. In developed countries though, men are more successful at startups as they can easily access initial capital for start up. The entirety of this discussion is that women are disadvantaged by their feminine nature and those successful are forced to see themselves as men so as to gain recognition in the formal employment realms (Powell and Butterfield, 1979).

Contemporary approaches to Leadership

In the contemporary organisation, the concept of leadership has evolved in many ways given the dynamic nature of the external environment surrounding firms. There are many theories that explain leadership but the ultimate convergence is that approach which can best steer the organisation forward. The broad theories of leadership include the traditional approach, the charismatic approach and the bureaucratic style. A critical point that emerges in the discussion of leadership is the need to uphold genuine and authentic leadership.

In the words of Avolio and Gardner (2005) modern business practices necessitate the involvement of genuine and authentic leadership. Fundamentally, leadership develops from instilled characteristics in an individual, from follower bestowment. Regardless of the source the leader, after the development phase, needs to gain the ability to be stern, to bounce back from failures, leaders that have optimism and can be trusted. Avolio and Gardner (2005) emphasise that a leader needs to be in good terms with everyone as he or she holds the entire organisation. The relationship between the leader and suppliers, customers, shareholders and employees needs to be sound and firm. These are the individuals that organisations are searching to recruit. Besides these, a leader needs to have the desire to lead, self-drive, intelligence, self-confidence and job related knowledge. There has also been a debate as to whether leaders should lead by example or by action rather than just words.

A leader evidently influences the success of a group and thus needs to be visionary enough. However, this can be hard to attain given the need to be considerate to followers. further, for the sustainability of a venture, a leader needs to create more leaders out of followers especially through engagement in decision making. This is a characteristic of a democratic leader who is bound to be successful in the modern organisation where performance in linked to employee engagement. Though this approach works, it is not the only way towards achieving organisational success. Leaders that are different are sometimes the successful ones, for example, Bercovici (2011) notes that some CEOs that are successful – in the fortune 500 firms – are what normal people would describe as psychopaths. An example is Al Dunlap the former CEO of Sunbeam who was notorious for crude downsizing methods. The convergence of elements of fitting leadership to the prevalent situation is Fiedler’s contingency theory. The theory notes that there should be a match between the leader’s style and the specific case where the leadership is applied. Leadership styles include task-oriented leaders whose primary concerns are product and process and relationship-oriented leaders who care about the welfare of employees.

An important aspect in contemporary leadership also lies in the fact that leaders deal with people and how to influence people. As such, people are central to leadership. This forms the basis of the servant leadership approach. Servant leadership is a concept coined by Greenleaf, a former employee of AT & T, who suggests that one needs to become a leader only when they have the desire to serve. The leader in this case does not deem himself or herself as superior to the group being led but as the first of the group he is leading. As such, the leader exercises empathy, persuasion, listening, healing, awareness, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship and people’s welfare. Beck (2010) advocates for servant leadership because the leader shows by example and mostly possesses intrinsic competence. Bass (1990) on the other hand suggests the adoption of a transformational leadership approach terming it as superior. In this case the leader, as in the case of servant-leadership, inspires the employee and places their needs as central.

In transformational leadership, the leader exercises charisma over employees and stirs them to become better and to look beyond personal interests. The transformation of employees to leaders is the measure of success for a transformational leader (Beck, 2010). The overlap between servant leadership and transformational leadership is rooted in the charismatic approach to leadership (Smith, Montagno and Kuzmenko, 2004). Charsimatic leadership occurs when the leaders possess extraordinary leadership skills that prove efficient in making employee lives better. In addressing contemporary leadership approaches, it is therefore impossible to leave out transformational and servant-leadership approaches since they dominate works of advocators modern leadership styles. Regardless, as the contingency theory maintains, every leader needs to match their skill with their situations.


Acker, J. (2006) Inequality Regimes: Gender, Class, and Race in Organizations. Gender & Society, 20(4), pp.441-464.

Ahl, H. (2006) Why Research on Women Entrepreneurs Needs New Directions. Entrepreneurship Theory & Pract, 30(5), pp.595-621.

Avolio, B. and Gardner, W. (2005) Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 16(3), pp.315-338.

Bass, B. (1990) From transactional to transformational leadership: Learning to share the vision. Organizational Dynamics, 18(3), pp.19-31.

Beck, C. (2010) Antecedents of Servant Leadership: A Mixed Methods Study. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 May 2015].

Bercovici, J. (2011) Why (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs. [online] Forbes. Available at: [Accessed 7 May 2015].

Ely, R. (1995) The Power In Demography: Women’s Social Constructions Of Gender Identity At Work. Academy of Management Journal, 38(3), pp.589-634.

Heilman, M. (2001) Description and Prescription: How Gender Stereotypes Prevent Women’s Ascent Up the Organizational Ladder. Journal of Social Issues, 57(4), pp.657-674.

Marks, G. (2011) Why Most Women Will Never Become CEO (Online) Forbes. Available at: (Accessed 7 May 2015).

Mavin, S. (2008) Queen Bees, Wannabees and Afraid to Bees: No More “Best Enemies” for Women in Management?. British Journal of Management, 19(s1), pp.S75-S84.

Powell, G. and Butterfield, A. (1979) The “good manager”: masculine or androgynous?. Academy of management journal, 22(2), pp.395-403.

Smith, B., Montagno, R. and Kuzmenko, T. (2004) Transformational and Servant Leadership: Content and Contextual Comparisons. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 10(4), pp.80-91.

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