Women and men in management : Stereotypes, evaluation and discourse

Abstract: Very few women hold top corporate positions in Sweden, and women are underrepresented as managers in all work sectors. The present thesis examined stereotypes, perceptions and presuppositions about women, men and management with a combination of perspectives from social and organizational psychology, discourse analysis and gender in organization research. Study 1 of Paper I was a content analysis of management attributes and cultural stereotypes of female and male managers. In Study 2, an inventory of these attributes was formed, and participants’ stereotype endorsements tested. Stereotypes of female managers resembled good management more than male managers, and they were rated more positively, but a masculine norm was implied. Paper II aimed to study and compare gender-related management stereotypes and evaluations of actual managers, and examine perceived gender bias. Men evaluated the female manager stereotype more positively on communal attributes, and, contrary to women, judged the male manager stereotype more positively on agentic attributes. This may help explain the scarcity of women in top management. Women perceived more gender bias favoring male managers than men. Actual male and female managers were rated similarly. Still, the Euclidian distances showed that ratings of actual managers and stereotypes were linked. Paper III examined the discourse on the lack of women in top corporate positions, explanations and links to proposed measures in a project to counter the gender imbalance. A liberal discourse with contradictions and textual silences was exposed. Gender had to be construed in line with traditional gender norms and division of labor to make sense of the proposed explanations. To conclude, one can be reassured by the largely communal portrayal of good management and positive evaluations of female managers, but also apprehensive about the masculine norm of management, perceived gender bias in favor of men, and traditional gender constructions.

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