A cultural feminist approach towards managing diversity in top management teams

Jawad Syed, Peter A. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to challenge the customary emphasis on masculine values in top management teams (TMTs) and offer a cultural feminist approach to improving women's participation in leadership roles in organisations. Design/methodology/approach – The paper builds on the theory of diversity and "difference", instead of "sameness", to demonstrate the relationship between feminine values, team member diversity, and team effectiveness. The paper develops a three-tier approach to making better use of gender diversity in TMTs: unravel masculine hegemony in the workplace; create awareness of distinct values offered by women as team members and team leaders; and progress team diversity from the customary token representation to gender inclusive team structures and routines. Findings – The paper suggests that TMTs benefit when learning to accommodate and integrate feminine values, along with masculine values, into an inclusive work culture that enhances teams' performing capacities. Research limitations/implications – Token representation is only one dimension of gendered disadvantage. Several complex forms of gendered disadvantage reside at macro-level or extra-organisational layers of life. Therefore, tackling masculine hegemony should involve a multilevel approach that tackles gendered disadvantage in domains as wide as work, organisation, and society. Practical implications – Through the three-tier framework for managing diversity in TMTs, the paper offers a practical way forward, moving beyond the current functional-structured approach towards TMTs. Originality/value – The paper argues that conventional diversity management practices remain influenced by a hegemonic masculine approach towards increasing women's participation in employment. Furthermore, a narrow emphasis on "sameness" instead of "diversity" of women and men reinforces male hegemony, contributing to the perpetuation of low numbers of women in TMTs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-432
Number of pages20
JournalEqual opportunities international
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Cultural studies
  • Equal opportunities
  • Feminism
  • Gender
  • Leadership
  • Senior management


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