Gendered career-making practices: On 'doing ambition' or how managers discursively position themselves in a multinational corporation

  • Sools A
  • Van Engen M
  • Baerveldt C
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Abstract

Although in the last decades there have been an increasing number of female managers, few make it to top management positions. In this study we want to gain insight into the persistence of the ‘glass ceiling’ by analyzing, from an ethnomethodologically informed discursive approach, how managers discursively position themselves in career making practices. Our study is located at the Dutch site of a multinational corporation where no women were found in higher positions, despite their growing presence in management positions.We aim at unraveling the implied membership competencies to participate in career making practices. In line with research on gendered organizations we consider these competencies to be gendered. In a detailed discursive analysis of interview material we identified an underlying paradox of ‘doing ambition’. We conclude that the women in this study who are ‘doing ambition’ are inevitably caught in a double bind position. The (re)production of gender inequality can be understood in terms of this double bind that is normalized in the organization. We argue that the discursive approach demonstrated in this article, is suitable for gaining insight into the often paradoxical demands managers, and especially women, face in daily career practices.

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Authors

  • A. M. Sools

  • M. L. Van Engen

  • C. Baerveldt

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