Negotiating Ambivalence: The Leadership of Professional Women’s Networks

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A systems perspective allows us to question popular beliefs about what women need to do to develop as leaders, or common explanations for the limited number of women in top leadership positions. For instance, much of the literature on leadership argues that the most successful leaders are those who engage in networking, or those who develop binding relationships throughout an organization. Because women have fewer opportunities to network and fewer such organizations in which to participate, it is often concluded that the paucity of such opportunities explains why there are fewer women than men in leadership positions. Gremmen and Benschop question the conclusion that networks are always beneficial, and contend that some professional women’s networks are not enabling. The general conclusion to be drawn is that not all collaborative networks are successful, particularly those that revert to power struggles rather than collaboration. From a systemic perspective, the limited value of women’s networks can be explained by the fact that they operate amidst and in interaction with a variety of other networks and dynamics, which may undermine the role it plays in subtle ways.




Gremmen, I., & Benschop, Y. (2011). Negotiating Ambivalence: The Leadership of Professional Women’s Networks. In Issues in Business Ethics (Vol. 27, pp. 169–183). Springer Science and Business Media B.V.

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