'Girl disease': Women managers' reticence and ambivalence towards organizational advancement

Anne Ross-Smith*, Colleen Chesterman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


This paper addresses the theme of the special issue by drawing attention to ways in which gender scholarship can influence management and organizational studies in an analysis of the pathways to senior management. Based on an Australia-wide study of the experiences of women and men in senior management, it adds new empirical data to the body of knowledge on women's career advancement at senior levels of organizations. Many women interviewed expressed reticence and ambivalence about the advancement of their careers and their prospects for promotion, which was called 'girl disease' by one woman. Forms of ambivalence varied according to different age and sector cohorts; in particular difficulties were identified in reconciling family responsibilities with the demands of senior level appointments. We analyse expressions of ambivalence and reticence by exploring the tensions between women's gender identity and the organizational factors that shape their 'managerial' identity. We conclude by suggesting strategies to improve organizational practices in relation to women's career development and promotion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)582-595
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Management and Organization
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


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