Skip to main content

Negotiating Ambivalence: The Leadership of Professional Women’s Networks

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Leadership, Gender, and Organization

Part of the book series: Issues in Business Ethics ((IBET,volume 27))

Editors’ Introduction

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 99.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 129.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 129.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Acker, J. (1992). Gendering organizational theory. In A.J. Mills and P. Tancred (eds.), Gendering Organizational Analysis. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, pp. 248–260.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ainsworth, S. and C. Hardy (2004). Critical discourse analysis and identity: Why bother? Critical Discourse Studies 1(2):225–259.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Alvesson, M. and Y.D. Billing (2000). Questioning the notion of feminine leadership: A critical perspective on the gender labelling of leadership. Gender, Work and Organization 7(3):144–157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Alvesson, M. and Y.D. Billing (2009). Understanding Gender and Organizations, 2nd edn. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Benschop, Y. (2006). Of small steps and the longing for giant leaps. Research on the intersection of sex and gender within workplaces and organizations. In A.M. Konrad, P. Prasad and J.K. Pringle (eds.), Handbook of Workplace Diversity. London/Thousand Oaks, CA/New Delhi: Sage, pp. 273–298.

    Google Scholar 

  • Benschop, Y. (2009). The micro-politics of gendering in networking. Gender, Work and Organization 16(2):217–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bierema, L. (2005). Women’s networks: A career development intervention or impediment? Human Resource Development International 8(2):207–224.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blackmore, J. (2006). Deconstructing diversity discourses in the field of educational management and leadership. Educational Management Administration & Leadership 34(2):181–199.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brass, D.J. (1985). Men’s and women’s networks – A study of interaction patterns and influence in an organization. Academy of Management Journal 28(2):327–343.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Broadbridge, A. and J. Hearn (2008). Gender and management: New directions in research and continuing patterns in practice. British Journal of Management 19:S38–S49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burt, R.S. (1998). The gender of social capital. Rationality and Society 10(1):5–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Calás, M. and L. Smircich (2003). From the ‘woman’s point of view’ ten years later: Towards a feminist organization studies. In S. Clegg, C. Hardy, T.B. Lawrence and W.R. Nord (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Organization Studies, 2nd edn. London: Sage, pp. 284–346.

    Google Scholar 

  • Catalyst (1999). Creating Women’s Networks. New York, NY: Catalyst.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cialdini, R., R. Borden, A. Thorne, M.R. Walker, S. Freeman and L.R. Sloon (1976). Basking in reflected glory: Three (football) field studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 34(3):366–375.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Creed, W.E.D., M.A. Scully and J.R. Austin (2002). Clothes make the person? The tailoring of legitimating accounts and the social construction of identity. Organization Science 13(5):475–496.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cross, C. and C. Armstrong (2008). Understanding the role of networks in collective learning processes: The experiences of women. Advances in Developing Human Resources 10(4):1–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Czarniawska, B. (1998). A Narrative Approach in Organization Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ely, R. and I. Padavic (2007). A feminist analysis of organizational research on sex differences. Academy of Management Review 32(4):1121–1143.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ely, R. and D. Meyerson (2000). Advancing gender equity in organizations: The challenge and importance of maintaining a gender narrative. Organization 7(4):589–608.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fairclough, N. and R. Wodak (1997). Critical discourse analysis. In T.A. van Dijk (ed.), Discourse as Social Interaction, vol. 2. London: Sage, pp. 258–284.

    Google Scholar 

  • Flap, H. and B. Völker (2004). Creation and Returns of Social Capital. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fletcher, J.K. (1998). Disappearing Acts. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Forret, M.L. and T.W. Dougherty (2001). Correlates of networking behavior for managerial and professional employees. Group & Organization Management 26(3):283–311.

    Google Scholar 

  • Forret, M.L. and T.W. Dougherty (2004). Networking behaviors and career outcomes: differences for men and women? Journal of Organizational Behavior 25(3):419–437.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fraser, N. (2009, March–April). Feminism, capitalism and the cunning of history. New Left Review 56:97–117.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ibarra (1992). Homophily and differential returns: Sex differences in network structure and access in an advertising firm. Administrative Science Quarterly 37(3):422–447.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ibarra, H. (1993). Personal Networks of Women and Minorities in Management – a Conceptual-Framework. Academy of Management Review 18(1):56–87.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ibarra, H. (1997). Paving an alternative route: Gender differences in managerial networks. Social Psychology Quarterly 60(1):91–102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ibarra, H., M. Kilduff and W. Tsai (2005). Zooming in and out: Connecting individuals and collectivities at the frontiers of organizational network research. Organization Science 16(4):359–371.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kanter, R.M. (1977). Men and Women of the Corporation. New York, NY: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kilduff, M., W. Tsai and R. Hanke (2006). A paradigm too far? A dynamic stability reconsideration of the social network research program. Academy of Management Review 31(4):1031–1048.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kimmel, M. (2004). The Gendered Society, 2nd edn. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Krackhardt, D. (1990). Assessing the political landscape – structure, cognition and power in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly 35(2):342–369.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lorber, J. (2005). Gender Inequality. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mavin, S. and P. Bryans (2002). Academic women in the UK: Mainstreaming our experiences and networking for action. Gender & Education 14(3):235–250.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McGuire, G.M. (2002). Gender, race, and the shadow structure – A study of informal networks and inequality in a work organization. Gender & Society 16(3):303–322.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meyerson, D. (2003). Tempered radicals: How everyday leaders inspire change at work: Harvard Business School Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meyerson, D. (2001). Tempered Radicals. How People Use Difference to Inspire Change at Work. Boston, MA: Harvard School Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meyerson, D. and M. Scully (1995). Tempered radicalism and the politics of ambivalence and change. Organization Science 6(5):585–600.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meyerson, D. and M. Scully (2003). Tempered radicalism: Changing the workplace from within. In R.J. Ely, E.G. Foldy, M.A. Scully(eds.); the Center for Gender in Organizations, Simmons School of Management, Simmons College, Reader in Gender, Work and Organization. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 266–272.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meyerson, D. and M. Tompkins (2007). Tempered radicals as institutional change agents. The case of advancing gender equity at the University of Michigan. Harvard Journal of Law and Gender 30(2):303–322.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parkhe, A., S. Wasserman and D. Ralston (2006). New frontiers in network theory development. Academy of Management Review 31(3):560–568.

    Google Scholar 

  • Phillips, N. and C. Hardy (1997). Managing multiple identities: Discourses, legitimacy and resources in the UK refugee system. Organization 4(2):159–185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pini, B., K., Brown and C. Ryan (2004). Women-only networks as a strategy for change? A case study from local government. Women in Management Review 19(6):286–292.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Platform for Professional Women Networks (PfPWN) (2007). Guide for the Platform for Professional Women Networks. Amsterdam: PfPWN.

    Google Scholar 

  • Podolny, J.M. and J.N. Baron (1997). Resources and relationships: Social networks and mobility in the workplace. American Sociological Review 62(5):673–693.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott, J.W. (1988). Deconstructing equality-versus-difference: Or, the uses of poststructuralist theory for feminism. Feminist Studies 14(1):33–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scott, D.B. (1996). Shattering the instrumental-expressive myth: The power of women’s networks in corporate government affairs. Gender and Society 10(3):232–247.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Singh, V., S. Vinnicombe and S. Kumra (2006). Women in formal corporate networks: An organizational citizenship perspective. Women in Management Review 21(6):458–482.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sools, A., M. Van Engen and C. Baerveldt (2007). Gendered career-making practices: On ‘doing ambition’ or how managers discursively position themselves in a multinational corporation. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 80:413–435.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Van den Brink, M. (2009). Behind the Scenes of Science. Gender Practices in the Recruitment and Selection of Professors in the Netherlands. Nijmegen: Radboud University Nijmegen (dissertation).

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Emmerik, I.I.H. (2006). Gender differences in the creation of different types of social capital: A multilevel study. Social Networks 28(1):24–37.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vinnicombe, S., V. Singh and S. Kumra (2003). Making Good Connections: Best Practice for Women’s Corporate Networks. London: Cranfield School of Management and Opportunity Now.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zeijlstra, M. (2006) Ik ben niet anti-man. Delta 38(30), June 15th. (‘I am not anti-male’; Interview with the first leader of the Delft University of Technology professional women’s network)

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ine Gremmen .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Gremmen, I., Benschop, Y. (2011). Negotiating Ambivalence: The Leadership of Professional Women’s Networks. In: Werhane, P., Painter-Morland, M. (eds) Leadership, Gender, and Organization. Issues in Business Ethics, vol 27. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-9014-0_10

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics