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Triggering Feminization: An Exploration of "Doing" Feminine Leadership

Lewis, Patricia, Simpson, Ruth (2016) Triggering Feminization: An Exploration of "Doing" Feminine Leadership. In: 9th Biennial International Interdisciplinary Gender, Work & Organization Conference, 29 June - 1 July 2016, Keele, UK. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:71099)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.


Feminization is understood as the spread of attributes or qualities traditionally associated with femininity to people (e.g. managers, teachers and politicians), occupations (e.g. management, teaching and politics) and areas (e.g. business world, education and government) not normally described or understood in that way. In her ground-breaking paper Feminization Unveiled: Management Qualities in Contemporary Writings (1997), Fondas sought to make visible the feminization of managers and management. She did this by demonstrating how traits and characteristics conventionally associated with the feminine were increasingly inserted into the accounts of managerial work contained in management texts published in the 1980s and 1990s. Arguing that these texts acted as carriers of a feminine ethos to practicing managers, Fondas also highlighted the failure of these writers to name this transformation as feminization.

While Fondas unveiled the process of feminization and demonstrated how its existence revealed the gendered nature of management theorising and management practice, this paper seeks to build on her analysis by exploring the impact of one of the triggers which gave rise to the process of feminization and also consider what feminization once activated has done within organizations over the past 20 years. According to Fondas (1997: 269) ‘…redefining managerial work involves both substantive, structural change and symbolic cultural change’ and we will demonstrate that the fundamental transformation of managerial work that feminization entails is connected to the discursive formation of postfeminism (Gill, 2007) and its validation of feminine difference. Through a critical reading of the feminine leadership literature via the lens of postfeminism, the paper will do two things: first, explore the feminine leadership subjectivities that feminization gives rise to and its impact on the conduct associated with these. Second, consider what has happened to the feminist knowledge upon which feminization is based once it entered into the context of business organizations. The paper will demonstrate how feminization has given rise to a preferred feminine leadership subjectivity deemed suitable for the corporate environment and that the (restricted) take-up of feminist knowledge has contributed to the emergence of moderate feminism.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5351 Business
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Department of Leadership and Management
Depositing User: Patricia Lewis
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2018 10:48 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 12:22 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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