Women in Management. Current Research Issues, Vol. 2

Women in Management. Current Research Issues, Vol. 2 – Book Reviews

Iris C. Fischlmayr

Marilyn J. Davidson and Ronald J. Burke (eds.): Women in Management. Current Research Issues, Vol. 2

2000, London: Sage. 309 pages.

Slowly but surely more and more women are becoming well educated and have positions at all hierarchical levels in organizations — but females in top management are still rare. The situation of gainfully employed women, especially of women in management, has been a research subject in different disciplines (e.g. human resource management, organizational studies, sociology, psychology) for some time.

Women in Management, Vol. 2, edited by Davidson and Burke, provides an interesting collection of articles which contribute to our understanding of female managers. The researchers (mainly from the UK and the US) deal with current issues in research across several disciplines. Although most of the literature about ‘female topics’ has been written by women, it should be stressed that the gender composition of authors in this book is well-balanced.

The introductory chapter presents the contents of the book and concludes with an excellent survey of the current situation of women in management, thereby creating interest to read the rest of the hook.

The First Section, ‘Women Managers and Entrepreneurs — A global perspective’, starts with Susan Vinnicombe’s state-of-the-art article which gives information about characteristics of female managers and entrepreneurs across European countries. This study is a valuable contribution to the field in that it is one of the few to use a common database and method to measure the differences. The conclusion, that many of the problems raised are still under-researched, should serve as a serious recommendation to other authors.

The following four articles deal with the subject of female managers and entrepreneurs in France, New Zealand, the United States, Norway and Canada. They all provide insights into the national situations, but are rather descriptive, and seldom include an outlook on the future. Of special interest are the different motivations for why women decide to start their own business in each country. However, a short introduction to the country, its population and perhaps to its culture (especially for the articles on France, Norway and Canada) would have facilitated the understanding of the texts. Additionally, success rates, national initiatives and support tools in each country could have been discussed in more depth. At the end of this part, the reader would also expect to find a direct comparison between the countries in question, and some conclusions drawn from the different texts.

The Second Part, ‘Career Development and High Flyers’, gives a picture of several issues touching women in top management positions. As networking has been identified as an essential tool for climbing the career ladder, Travers and Pemberton’s article is a valuable contribution to management literature. In particular, the gender and the cross-cultural comparisons provide new insight into that field. The survey presented could also have been expanded to include more countries. This would have provided an interesting and enriching follow-up to this article.

Revisiting Adler’s findings (Stroh et al.) per se is a good idea, but there are several questionable points. Firstly, only female expatriates have been asked. In order to make representative statements about women, comparison data about men would have been useful. Secondly, would any superior admit to being reluctant to send women abroad? Asking supervisors, especially about Myth 2 (‘Companies are hesitant to send, or are resistant about sending women on international assignments’), seems insufficient. Thirdly, much more has been written on female expatriates than the cited studies indicate. Had additional sources been provided, this would have given a broader perspective on some issues (e.g. Yurkiewicz and Rosen [1995] found that among a sample of potential expatriates, men show a higher receptiveness for foreign stays than women).

The study by Vinkenburg et al. includes a broad literature survey on female leadership, but it does not mention many implications. Future directions or more exhaustive conclusions would have been interesting — as in the Bilimoria and Wheller article, which first analyzes existing literature on female corporate directors, and then gives directions for future research. White’s article on the career paths of successful women, who are also committed to their families, provides a well-conceptualized framework for gaining a better understanding of female career stages and age-related issues. It breaks with the overall underlying assumption that it is only career issues that are central to women in higher managerial positions and that family issues are ranked lower in importance.

The third part of the book starts with a well-structured and logically argued article about working women and stress (Nelson and Burke). As psychological aspects are often missing in studies, even though they contribute substantially to the overall understanding of diverse concepts, this study supplies us with enriching considerations which should be looked at more closely. The same is true for the Fielden and Davidson article, which raises the new issue of unemployed managers who have to cope with stress. As the bulk of the literature focuses on successful, hard-working managers, this contribution is of special value.

The fact that people are categorized not only by gender, but also by race and social class, has been a study topic for a long time. Although two of the articles in this publication provide historical and socio-psychological explanations, little is said about how to avoid discriminatory behaviour.

Part Four starts with an article of the highest quality on good and bad news concerning the glass ceiling. By listing several possible personal and situational explanations, Powell is one of very few authors who is objective in accounting for why there are still only a small number of women in management positions, despite what has already been achieved. However, neither this nor similar studies include the idea that women themselves might contribute to not being selected. Role-specific models and ‘typical’ female thinking seem to hinder them: many women behave according to stereotypical expectations, underestimate their positions, and consequently, support traditional role models. They play the passive role and use a special vocabulary reflecting their lack of self-confidence. Even top female managers often have little self-consciousness and are afraid of expressing their own opinions. The most surprising fact is that women know about their own stereotypical, traditional role behaviour, yet do little to chan ge the situation, thereby remaining passive victims.

The article on managing diversity (Cassell), as well as the one on affirmative action in Australia (Hede), provide insight into specific programmes for gender issues in different countries. Collison and Hearn’s article, on the contrary, includes an exhaustive literature review of the ‘male’ management literature. These ‘male’ studies have long been challenged by feminist approaches, where women often adopt the role of victim, or fight for their rights. To overcome these tendencies, what is badly needed is objective research without a gender-specific direction is strongly required in order to overcome those tendencies.

Finally, Cooper reviews past trends to develop a future perspective of women at work. The article serves as the perfect conclusion to several topics that have been dealt with in this book. It also discusses future directions for theory and practice.

On the whole, the book is a very valuable contribution to research on women in management. It not only provides studies on very interesting topics in different fields, but also gives concrete outlooks to the future. The articles are original and of high quality. Each one stimulates and directs further research on evoked or related problem areas.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Walter de Gruyter und Co.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group