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Behind closed doors! Homosocial desire and the academic boys club



Purpose – The aim of this paper is to explore the nature and power of the academic boys club. In many organisations, the political significance of the boys club goes largely unremarked and unacknowledged. Yet, the way that male colleagues intimately relate to each other, sometimes called homosocial desire, is crucial to their success at gaining and retaining power at work. Design/methodology/approach – Feminist, poststructuralist, ethnographic, qualitative, and longitudinal data were collected over a five-year period from male and female academics in a British university. Findings – The boys club is still a powerful feature of British universities. Their apparent invisibility shrouds the manner in which they can and do promote and maintain male interests in a myriad of ways, including selection and promotion. These findings have resonances for all organisations. Research limitations/implications – Researching the intimacies between male colleagues requires time-intensive field work and insider access to men interacting with each other. Practical implications – Meaningful gender equality will not be achieved unless and until the more sophisticated forms of female exclusion are revealed and deconstructed. Originality/value – This research makes an unusual and crucial contribution to the study of gender, men and masculinities by providing longitudinal, rich, detailed data, observing men at the closest of quarters and then analysed by a feminist and poststructuralist gaze.
Behind closed doors!
Homosocial desire and
the academic boys club
Virginia Fisher and Sue Kinsey
HR & Leadership Group, Plymouth Business School, Plymouth University,
Plymouth, UK
Purpose – The aim of this paper is to explore the nature and power of the academic boys club.
In many organisations, the political significance of the boys club goes largely unremarked and
unacknowledged. Yet, the way that male colleagues intimately relate to each other, sometimes called
homosocial desire, is crucial to their success at gaining and retaining power at work.
Design/methodology/approach – Feminist, poststructuralist, ethnographic, qualitative, and
longitudinal data were collected over a five-year period from male and female academics in a
British university.
Findings The boys club is still a powerful feature of British universities. Their apparent invisibility
shrouds the manner in which they can and do promote and maintain male interests in a myriad of
ways, including selection and promotion. These findings have resonances for all organisations.
Research limitations/implications Researching the intimacies between male colleagues
requires time-intensive field work and insider access to men interacting with each other.
Practical implications Meaningful gender equality will not be achieved unless and until the more
sophisticated forms of female exclusion are revealed and deconstructed.
Originality/value This research makes an unusual and crucial contribution to the study of gender,
men and masculinities by providing longitudinal, rich, detailed data, observing men at the closest of
quarters and then analysed by a feminist and poststructuralist gaze.
Keywords Boys club, Hegemonic masculinity, Homosocial desire, Invisibility, Masculinities
Paper type Research paper
In 2011, two popular Sky sports presenters were caught making misogynistic and sexist
comments about a female match official, when they thought their microphones were
switched off. Following this “scandal”, three senior Sky women lambasted the work
culture of Sky, describing the “blokey” vibe of its “lad’s club” (The Guardian, 2011).
The comments suggest a taken-for-granted and well-rehearsed shared narrative of
women’s inferiority among the male participants; but given football’s reputation for being
a bastion of sexism and misogyny, the only surprise about “Skygate” was that the events
were (unintentionally) revealed to the public gaze rather than remaining behind the closed
doors of the “locker room”. What might be more surprising is the existence of similarly
powerful “boys clubs” at most British universities, organisations which should and often
do lay claim to meritocratic principles and gender neutrality. Numerous researchers have
identified academia as an endemically homosocial gentleman’s club (Halsey, 1992;
Maddock and Parkin, 1993; Davies and Holloway, 1995; Morley and Walsh, 1995; Bird,
1996; Roper, 1996; Brooks, 1997; Morley, 1999; Hearn, 2001; Blackmore and Sachs, 2001;
Mavin and Bryans, 2002; Harley, 2003; Bagilhole, 2007; Kantola, 2008; Fisher, 2007, 2011;
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 28 October 2012
Revised 4 May 2013
8 July 2013
Accepted 1 October 2013
Gender in Management: An
International Journal
Vol. 29 No. 1, 2014
pp. 44-64
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/GM-10-2012-0080
van den Brink and Benschop, 2012). But it has been hard to demonstrate the nature
and operation of this boys club and its contribution to maintaining the dominance of men
and masculinities, in universities as in other organisations (Gregory, 2009; Mooney and
Ryan, 2009; Pesonen et al., 2009; Broadbridge, 2010; Knights and Tullberg, 2012). We use
the metaphor of the “boys club” to denote the shared discourses and practices amongst
men which institutionalise men’s dominance over women (Bird, 1996) but which remain
covert or are dissembled as harmless social interactions. Whilst the boys club
phenomenon is often mentioned in the context of gender research, its insidious and
powerful operation has received little scrutiny, and it is rarely deconstructed either as a
linguistic term or as a material phenomenon. Similarly, the homosocial desire
(Sedgwick, 1985; Roper, 1996), the often emotionally charged and intimate energy
which fuels the “chemistry” of these interactions is equally underexplored. We believe
that the boys club has received far less attention than its contribution to unfair sex
discrimination would suggest it should do for a number of reasons. First, historically
gender studies have concentrated primarily on womenas the central focus and it is only in
recent years that there has been a growth in research that has placed men and
masculinities under the research microscope (Collinson and Hearn, 1996; Kerfoot and
Whitehead, 1998; Martin, 2001; McDowell, 2001; Simpson, 2004). Second, as women’s
workplace representation and contribution has ostensibly increased, an “indignant”
discourse has emerged (evidenced particularly in this university case study) that the
increased visual presence of women means thatmen are being treated unfavourably (for a
discussion of this phenomenon in the UK higher education sector see Fisher (2007)). Third,
for many feminist researchers, there is an understandable fear that by focussing on men
and masculinities, women will yet again be excluded from mainstream research agendas
(Cockburn, 1991; McDowell, 2001). Finally, identifying and highlighting the centrality of
intimacies between male colleagues is time heavy and potentially risky research territory:
it is time heavy because it requires long periods of insider and ethnographic type
involvement in the field, necessitating insider access to men interacting with one another
(in a relaxed manner). A woman researcher might find such access more difficult than a
man, whilst a male researcher might lack the awareness or motivation to do it or see it.
Similarly, a male researcher might not want to risk losing the “patriarchal dividend”
(Connell, 1995) through reporting on “insider activities”. As Whitehead (2000, p. 133)
observes, research into masculinity and gender encroaches onto the personal and
confronts our very identities as complex gendered beings, and “the feminist critique of
masculinity puts men their behaviours, attitudes and practices under the critical
spotlight. It is not surprising that it is ignored”. Gender in management research is rather
precarious and very far from being an established and secure area of endeavour in most
universities and business schools (Broadbridge and Hearn, 2008).
Aims, objectives and contribution to the study of women in management
It is the main aim of this paper to contribute to the breaking of silence (Collinson
and Hearn, 1996) about the often damaging performances of masculinities in the
workplace and in particular the significance of the boy’s club. Connell (1995, p. 71)
argues that:
[...] masculinity, to the extent that the term can be briefly defined at all, is simultaneously a
place in gender relations, the practices through which men and women engage that place in
gender and the effects of these practices (our italics).
Following Connell’s observations we seek to reveal the places in which the boys club
exists and occurs; the practices in which men engage which constitute the boys club;
and the effects of the boys club for men, women and organisations. Whilst the
overarching aim of this paper is to explore and expose the phenomena of homosocial
desire and the boys club, three specific objectives flow from this aim:
(1) To investigate manifestations of the boys club, its consequences, and the ways
in which women are excluded from those groups and activities.
(2) To identify the influence of the boys club on organisational decision making
such as selection, promotion and the construction of job roles and performance.
(3) To observe the key characteristics of male homosocial desire and the challenge
it presents to the notion of men as “rational/logical” entities.
This research makes an unusual and crucial contribution to the study of gender and
management, men and masculinities in higher education (and elsewhere) by providing
longitudinal, rich and detailed data, specifically applying a feminist and
poststructuralist gaze to observations of men’s interactions, and women’s experiences
of them, at the closest of quarters. It gives space to male academics, not to reinforce their
privileged position, but to name it as privileged. This is essential to challenge the claims
that issues of gender inequality have been “solved” and that the absence of women in
power is merely the result of individual (not gendered) choices because the system is fair
(Lewis and Simpson, 2010; Broadbridge and Simpson, 2011). The paper is organized as
follows. First, we develop the theoretical background, including a discussion of
hegemonic (and other) masculinities and the genesis of notions of homosocial desire in
the workplace. Second, we describe the organizational context and methodology of this
research. Third, we present the analysis of our findings, including observations of
critical incidents and the voices of the interview participants as they reflect upon the
meanings and performances of masculinities and male bonding. This section is
separated into two parts; which relate to research objectives one and two. Finally our
conclusion reviews the intended research aim and objectives and in particular, considers
the key characteristics of male homosocial desire as evidenced by this study.
Theoretical background: gender and masculinities in academia
Despite popular mainstream views, merely changing the numbers of women in academia
(the “add women and stir” solution) is not likely to change sex inequality in any
organisation, let alone universities (Martin, 1994; Ely, 1995). Gender discrimination
against women often takes relatively sophisticated and veiled forms which are difficult to
identify and challenge. A particularly elusive aspect is the dominance and yet apparent
invisibility of masculinities. Masculinity is almost always invisible in shaping social
relations.Its significance is masked by its constitution as the universal, the axiomatic and
the neutral. Masculinity assumes the banality of the unstated norm, which does not require
comment or explanation. Its very invisibility illustrates its privilege (Kimmel et al.,2005).
Whilst there is an established body of literature which has put the analytical spotlight onto
the performances of men and masculinities (Collinson and Hearn, 1994, 1996;
Connell, 1995; Kerfoot and Knights, 1993; Martin, 2001; Simpson, 2004), there is little
research which explores the nature and operation of the boys club.
Masculinity (like femininity) is commonly given an essentialist label and referred to
as the innate qualities of men and also those that distinguish men from women.
Men’s biological destiny also results in political, economic and cultural privileges. This
“masculine advantage” is apparently reflected in a genetic predisposition to aggression
(in contrast to the passivity of femininity), physical strength (in contrast to the
weakness of femininity) and sexual drives (in contrast to the sexual reserve of
femininity). Feminist scholarship has long critiqued the political convenience of
explaining gender inequality and hierarchy in terms of men’s natural superiority. But it
is only in the last 20 years or so that the social construction and significance of
masculinity in the workplace has been analysed rather than taken for granted (Connell,
1995; Collinson and Hearn, 1996; Martin, 2001). Even more recently there has been an
acknowledgement of a poststructuralist perspective which explores the dynamic
nature of masculinity: how it is constructed and reconstructed, how it is experienced on
a subjective level and how multiple masculinities exist in relation to the dominant
(hegemonic) form. This perspective suggests that masculinity may well be divided,
ambiguous and contradictory. In this context, critical masculinity studies suggests
that it is very difficult to define masculinity, as it is plural, changing and historically
informed around dominant discourses or ideologies of masculinism (Whitehead and
Barrett, 2001, p. 15).
Connell’s (1995) definition of masculinity emphasises three issues:
(1) masculinity is not the property of men;
(2) that we should be wary of using the terms “men”, “male” and “masculinity”
interchangeably; and
(3) discourses of masculinity are available to, used by and imposed upon both
men and women.
Understanding masculinity as discourse broadens the focus beyond men and the
biological or cultural bases of their masculine nature or identity. This suggests that far
from being an essential quality, masculinity is to be identified in and constructed
through the ways of being to be found in dominant male groups in particular social
circumstances (Paechter, 2006; Dalley-Trim, 2006). An important related phenomenon
is the concept of “hegemonic masculinity” defined as:
[...] the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the
problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy, which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the
dominant position of men and the subordination of women (Connell, 1995, p. 77).
The concept of hegemonic masculinity notes the diversity within masculinities, the
notion of multiple masculinities (Kimmel et al., 2005) and enables us to acknowledge
that masculinity is constructed, but that all masculinities are not equal. Hegemonic
masculinity represents a dominant, normative form of masculinity which suppresses
both women and subordinate forms of masculinity, and may be understood as a
pattern of practices which enables men’s dominance over women to continue (Connell,
1987; Bird, 1996; Connell and Messerschmidt, 2005). It could be described as:
[...] the dominant and dominating forms of masculinity which claim the highest status and
exercise the greatest influence and authority and which represent the standard bearer of what
it means to be a “real” man (Dalley-Trim, 2006, p. 201).
The original use of the term suggested that even those men manifesting non-dominant,
non-hegemonic versions of masculinity would complicitly receive the benefits of
patriarchy (the “patriarchal dividend”, Connell (1995)). Whilst Beasley and Elias (2006)
challenge this notion, claiming that dominant forms of masculinity may or may not
legitimate men’s power and those that do may not be common or celebrated. But whilst
accepting that this is contested terrain, the concept is still useful in understanding how
masculinity in whatever form can confer considerable power, over women, on to all
men (Connell and Messerschmidt, 2005).
In the organisational context, Collinson and Hearn (1994, p. 12) have attempted to
unpick these “tensions between the collective power of men and masculinities, and
differentiation amongst men and masculinities”. Nonetheless they argue that various
masculinities are central to the exercise of gendered power in the workplace. They propose
five discourses and practices of masculinity that are endemic in many organisations:
authoritarianism; paternalism; entrepreneurialism; informalism and careerism.
Authoritarianism “celebrates a brutal and aggressive masculinity” whilst paternalism
“draws upon the familial metaphor of the ‘rule of the father’ who is authoritative,
benevolent, self-disciplined and wise” (1994, p. 13). Entrepreneurialism “articulates a
‘hard-nosed’ and highly competitive approach to business and organisation and is
associated with more recent management styles”. Careerism suggests an obsession with
hierarchical success, particularly in the case of middle class masculinities where men
define themselves (and are defined) “as the privatised breadwinner whose primary
purpose is to ‘provide’ for their families” (Collinson and Hearn, 1994, p. 15). Finally,
informalism reveals the nature of the informal networking between men based on shared
masculine interests and values. Whilst the first four of these discourses have been well
discussed elsewhere, the final discourse of informalism has received very little focus. It is
this process, encapsulated in the metaphor of the boys club and charged with “homosocial
desire”, and its significance with regard to supporting hegemonic masculinity, which
forms the central theoretical theme of this research. The following section discusses the
genesis of this phenomenon.
Homosocial desire, informalism, and the boys club
The shared interests and values which constitute Collinson and Hearn’s (1994)
“informalism” are not necessarily just related to possessing similar class origins or
schooling, as is often suggested by the term the “old boys network”. Instead they are
associated with what might be described as “locker room” exchanges around work, sex,
sport, cars and alcohol, which can unite men and exclude women in a variety of occupations
and organisations. The exclusion of women from these powerful decision-making
networks has negative consequences for women’s careers (Gregory, 2009; Mooney and
Ryan, 2009; Pesonen et al., 2009; van den Brink and Benschop, 2012). Since the 1970s an
increasing number of researchers have made reference to both how, and the consequences
of the way, men bond at work, not least of all because, arguably, male bonding is how men
obtain power and how they keep it (Lipman-Blumen, 1976; Kanter, 1977; Morgan, 1981;
Witz and Savage, 1992; Collinson and Hearn, 1994; Roper, 1996; Bird, 1996; Martin, 2001;
Gregory, 2009). However, there is little close empirical scrutiny of the covert, behind the
scenes operation of the boys club, or of the observations of women who glimpse its
operation and effects.
Early work by both Kanter (1977) in her study of a large US Corporation,
and Morgan (1981) in his study of British academia highlighted the tendency of men
to feel more comfortable with other men. Kanter anticipated the phenomenon of
homosocial desire as she described organisational processes (referred to as both
“homosexual reproduction” (1977, p. 48) and “homosocial reproduction” (1977, p. 63))
whereby men of Indsco (her case study organisation) actively preferred to reproduce
themselves in their own image and when recruiting or promoting staff. The managers
at Indsco “were not exactly cut out of the same mould like paper dolls, but the
similarities in appearance were striking” (Kanter, 1977, p. 47). It was easier to be with,
work with, and talk to, those of “one’s kind” and the rationale for these preferences was
the need to control the uncertainties of managing organisations. Thus, Kanter
construed this behaviour as less about gender and power, and more about a rational
response to the insecurity and unpredictability of organisational life. It is because of
this that Collinson and Hearn (1996) argue that whilst her study helps us describe how
male power may persist, it is less useful in analysing this power. Consequently,
although her work has been described as path breaking, it did not relate this need for
control to the need to sustain a shared masculine identity. It has been for other writers
to make sense of the link between management and men through the search for a
secure and stable masculine identity (Collinson and Hearn, 1996).
Lipman-Blumen (1976) developed a “homosocial theory of sex roles”. Male
homosociability suggests that men recognise “the power their male peers have, find
one another stimulating, exciting, productive, attractive and important, since they can
contributeto virtually all aspects of one another’s’lives” (Lipman-Blumen, 1976,pp. 30-31).
Thus, the exclusion of women from organisations is part of a larger pattern of a male
homosocial world: women are excluded because their lack of resources makes them less
useful and less interesting to men and (ultimately) to other women too. Building on this
notion, Morgan’s (1981) study of British universities, discusses the mechanics of male
homosociability in academic settings, exploring how far the dominant academic discourse
is in fact a male discourse which hides behind the labels of rationality, scientific and
scholarliness. He introduces the notion of academic machismo (the competitive display of
aggressive maleskills, similar toCollinson and Hearn’s (1994) authoritarianism) which he
argues is maintained by the forces of “homosociability” (Morgan, 1981, p. 102), observed
in the faculty club or the staff bar or the daily conversations about sport or cars or hi-fi
equipment. This operates to exclude newcomers and outsiders without physically nailing
a “men only” sign onto each and every front door (Morgan, 1981, p. 103). Thus, far, as
Kanter surmises (1977, p. 68), there seems to be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy
about the operation of male bonding. The more closed the circle, the harder it is for
outsiders to break in and their very difficulty in entering can be taken as a sign that the
insiders were right to lock the door because the assailants are obviously incompetent.
Roper (1996, p. 212) rejects the terms “homosexual reproduction” (Kanter, 1977) and
male homosociability (Morgan, 1981; Witz and Savage, 1992) arguing that they fail to
capture “the aspects of desire that give male bonding in management its peculiar
intensity”. He prefers Sedgwick’s (1985) concept of “homosocial desire” which better
encapsulates the “energy” and “chemistry” which flows between some men at work and
can influence their decisions about who succeeds whom. It isa phrase which highlightsthe
“ambiguities between the ‘social’ and the ‘sexual’ in men’s networks” (Roper, 1996, p. 213).
Martin (2001) refers to the ways in which men collectively “mobilise masculinities” at
work, investigating men’s behaviour “not primarily directed toward women, but enacted
in the presence of women, that men see as natural or harmless but women often experience
as harmful” (Martin, 2001, p. 589). As Martin (2001, p. 606) describes it, there is only
“liminal awareness” of masculinities by the men who perform them. She identified two
types of mobilisation, “contesting” and “affiliating” masculinities. Affiliating includes
visiting: when men visit each other informally in corridors and other places, superficially
appearing to be a recreational endeavour but often providing support, access, inclusion
and opportunities. This is redolent of Collinson and Hearn’s (1994) informalism whereby
men build networks and “bond”. Interestingly, this phenomenon of male bonding, of
masculinity which is affiliative, intimate, informal and charged with emotional energy
represents a challenge to dominant ideas of male organisational identities. Roper (1996)
has identified a lack of research which investigates the intimacy between men in
management and how it can ensure the exclusion of outsiders, particularly women,
arguing that this neglect is related to the endurance of the organisational model where
masculinity is rational and impersonal and not emotional. What constitutes the masculine
has become associated with power, control, rationality, measurement and objectivity
(Kerfoot and Knights, 1993; Martin, 2001;Fournier and Kelemen, 2001) whilst the feminine
is identified as emotional, affiliative, intimate, sexual (Fournier and Kelemen, 2001; Grant,
1988). This myth of the organisational “rational man” will only be challenged once
researchers investigate and highlight the intimate and emotional practices of men
towards other men in the workplace.
This study draws on all these perspectives about the performance of masculinity
and male bonding. It is the notions of mobilising masculinities and male homosocial
desire which have been particularly useful. The notion of mobilising masculinities
highlights the sheer variety of different ways (and for different audiences) that men
bond together with the resulting beneficial organisational outcomes for the men
concerned. The concept of homosocial desire is particularly attractive as it names the
emotional and irrational power in this male bonding behaviour which crucially
undermines the ubiquitous nature of the “men as rational” discourse which dominates
the study of organisations. Largely unrecognised, invisible, taken for granted, these
behaviours are nevertheless about power and exclusion: “the public staging of a
seemingly unintelligible language of relatedness is not only a tour de force of male
exclusivity but also is a collective display of power” (Kaplan, 2005, p. 592).
The context of this study and its methodology
Universities are sites where there are still strong associations between men, power and
authority: academic identities are drenched with images of various masculinities which
set the human template against which the “other” (including women) will be judged.
At the same time the number and percentage of women employed in higher education
in the UK, particularly in academic roles, has grown steeply in the past 20 years (AUT,
2004; UCU, 2013). Yet on average women are paid less than men and are segregated
both occupationally and vertically. Women make up 46.8 per cent of non-professorial
academic staff but constitute only 19.8 per cent of professors (UCU, 2013). Thus, the
UK HE context offers a rich site for exploring the operation of masculinities and the
boys club. This ethnographic data presented here is drawn from a large new university
and specifically from its Business School, which we have named “Matrix”. During the
period of study women academics constituted 25 per cent of the total academic staff of
The empirical data upon which this paper is based was collected over a five year
period in the mid-2000s. This research draws upon both feminist and poststructural
perspectives. Whilst there is tension between those positions there is also synergy. Our
intention is to embrace both positions and create a useful and fruitful relationship for
this research. Poststructuralism enables feminism to look imaginatively at power,
selves, knowledge production and how the language of power operates. But it does not
mean that feminism needs to abandon “women” as a political category (Ramazanoglu
and Holland, 2002) or the values and principles which lie at the heart of the feminist
project (Francis, 2002). Feminists may have to accept the instability of the category
“women”, but that does not mean that the category should not be used politically (Butler,
1990, p. 15). The most significant point for us about attempting to integrate feminist and
poststructuralist research is that whilst we accept that there is no “truth” to be found,
this particular story is not often heard out loud because it is from the standpoint of the
women (and some men) academics, as told to (and interpreted by) us, feminists working
in a business school.
During the research one of us conducted a focus group of eight women academics,
maintained detailed field notes from public meetings, committees, informal and social
events, and a research diary. We also interviewed 25 academics, a quarter of whom were
men (it is worth noting that several men declined to be involved whereas women readily
participated in the research). Each interview was open ended and based on a set of
prompts in order to deal with a range of topics. All interviews were recorded and then
transcribed verbatim by us. They were long and intense, most lasted between 2 and 3
hours. The focus group lasted 3 hours and was also recorded and transcribed. By the end
of the transcribing there were several hundred thousand words to analyse and reflect
upon. Denzin and Lincoln (1994) describe qualitative research as “bricolage” or
quilt-making, implying that researchers will utilise many different strategies and
methods to collect and analyse “data” and this mirrors our eclectic approach.
The approach to the data analysis was framed by our overall theoretical, ontological and
epistemological stances. Consequently, the data review was strongly informed by critical
discourse analysis, which aims to move beyond a surface level examination of discourse
“to show how it simultaneously produces and hides ‘deep structure’ relations of power and
inequality” (Mumby and Clair, 1997, p. 183). There were multiplediscourses at playin this
organization, pervading, legitimating, creating and justifying the talk of the participants.
An example of one of the discourses identified through this analysis was that of
the linguistic constructions of entrepreneurialism. This particular discourse was
underpinned by masculinised terminology, like “penetrating markets”, “increasing sperm
counts”, “strap lines” and so on. The analytical approach also borrowed from other
techniques and sources, for example, coding key words and phrases to build themes
whilst being sensitive to the use of narratives and stories by our participants (Coffey and
Atkinson, 1996). An example of coding the data was the incidence of references to the
“academic as entrepreneur” (coded as AE). Similar codeswere linked together into a theme
which identified the impact of new managerialism in this Business School. These different
analytical techniques sit comfortably with the overarching anti-realist paradigm of the
research (meaning that we deny that there is an external reality awaiting a definitive
portrayal by us), but their use offered us alternative insights into the data.
The following sections present the findings, drawn from the analysis of this data.
The structure of the findings section follow the research objectives listed in the aims
section at the start of this paper.
Findings: the manifestations of the boys club at Matrix
Being “in the company of men” can be a daunting experience for many women in the
workplace (Ozga and Walker, 1999). Organisational cultures are often described as
“the way we do things round here” which constructs the “we” as the norm, forgetting
about exclusions and bias. We contend that male homosocial desire is the glue that holds
together a multitude of different performances of masculinity by different men at
different times and supports a current form of hegemonic masculinity which is inscribed
in the culture of the organisation. Discourses of masculinity imbue certain cultures and
produce various exclusionary practices which “keep women in their place” (Blackmore,
1999, p. 131). Thus, identifying the “places” in which the boys club exists may be
challenging given its ubiquity and embeddedness. Nevertheless, the practice of
homoerotic male bonding activities amongst some male academics is at times highly
visible. This can be at the pub during and after work, via corridor conversations,
“matey” greetings, pats on the back or handshakes at the start of committee meetings,
exam boards or departmental meetings. It can also be found in less visible forms.
The following is an extract from a research diary entry:
As an aside to another, different, conversation, my newish colleague in the HR team, Carl, just
told me that he belongs to a business school men-only e-mail network of football news, jokes and
discussions about financial investments. He did not actually say that women were excluded but
we realised that it must be the case when I asked him who was on the distribution list and who
had invited him tojoin. He was most embarrassed but unwilling to raise the issue of exclusivity
with the network. Being a keen football fan, I was so surprised and disappointed that this
relatively new member of staff belonged to a network about which I (as a member of staff for
decades) knew nothing. I asked all my female colleagues and none of them had heard about it.
Mooney and Ryan (2009, p. 203) in their study of the hotel industry, reported male only
networks which were built on sports events or drinking sessions, but which were also
events where important organisational information was shared. Similarly, at the
business school a “drinking club”, glimpsed more publicly, but nevertheless closed to
women participants exists. The following recalls supplementary field notes from an
interview with a male member of staff:
It is well known at the business school that there is a regular drinking haunt after work at the
Blue Dragon public house. It is frequented by a group of male academics and women are not
invited. According to Jack and Tony, it has been the scene of many good times, particularly
the scathing but “humorous” attacks on the appearance and clothing of the new female dean.
After one recent session, Louis (who “confessed” that he had been invited as a new male
member of staff), offered to show me his mobile phone pictures of the event. He was rather
surprised about the drunkenness and general behaviour, although admitted that he was still
pleased he had been invited to this inner circle, and knowing of my research, thought I would
be interested. He had entered academia later than most and had spent some years as a lorry
driver. He said he was shocked to find a “boys club” mentality amongst academics that was
similar to his experiences of lorry driving.
Similarly for at least 20 years, there has been a male-only football team called the
“the codgers”. It is comprised of male academics and male caretakers and an important
part of the codgers is the after-match drinking. It is common to overhear detailed
discussions of matches and drinking sessions in the corridors, in reception (the morning
after) and before meetings, and several of the female interview participants reported
having done so. Jane, for example, reported:
You always know when they’ve been on the lash after the match as they sport their
hangovers and bruises as trophies.
These diary entries are specifically about the exclusion of outsiders (usually women)
from boys club activities. All men are welcome to join, and new male employees will be
specifically invited. The interactions are intimate, sparky and humorous but ultimately
exclusive, and the activities themselves are often only glimpsed accidentally or
partially by non-participants. Male homosocial desire is fundamental to this system
which results in women’s subtle exclusion from the informal network. There is nothing
new about the existence and power of male bonding in universities and there are some
popular humorous novels written by male academics (Amis, 1954; Bradbury, 1975;
Jacobson, 1983; Lodge, 1985) which dramatically illustrate how this has operated
within British universities for many decades (Oakley, 2001). Other sites of boys club
performance include specific role activities, particularly the entrepreneurial activities
associated with income generation and external business contracts. As Sonia
It’s a stitch-up: it’s blokes serving their own interests, lining their own pockets and keeping
their mates comfortable, and they don’t share it, and you know that Jane is better at external
relationship building than the whole lot of them put together.
Thus, the entrepreneurial domain is constructed as a masculine space from which women
are excluded and offer a site for homosocial informalism as well as entrepreneurialism
(Collinson and Hearn, 1994). In the encroaching climate of new managerialism, an
entrepreneurial discourse has been given a higher priority in terms of strategic objectives
and teaching hours made available to staff who are involved in these “income generation”
activities. Interestingly the discourse of entrepreneurialismseems to encompass an image
of masculinity that is located literally in the arms ofmale homosocial desire. In particular
the qualities that seem to be required for “making contacts” and “getting business” are
constructed as being contingent upon male networking and chemistry. It is an image of
masculinity that is common in the media, especially through the 1980s, with its mixture of
the macho, virile and flamboyant entrepreneur. Witness this account of the language
deployed by Simon, principal lecturer for income generation:
He gave a presentation at our departmental meeting today about his plans for our subject
area. The words and phrases he used about “getting business” generally involved a
combination of “strap, bottom and base lines”, “bullet-proofed approaches” and other macho
and “masculinised” commentary. He even excitedly applauded the work of the HR “guru”
Gary Hamel who had recently urged HR practitioners to “battle the forces of the status quo”,
“seize new opportunities” and to combat organisations who “suffer from a low corporate
sperm count” (Hamel, 2002, p. 9). All of this was given, at length, by Simon with a completely
serious face and met with looks of disbelief on the faces of the women academics.
Until recent years, this entrepreneurial identity has not been an image readily associated
with university academics (unless you include the writing of the fictional Jamie Targett,
Director of Strategy, at the fictional University of Poppleton THES (2013)). It is usually
associated with “selling” type occupations and commonly associated with the use of
highly heterosexualised language (“penetrating markets” and “getting into bed with
suppliers”, “low corporate sperm counts” and so on). There has been a sea change in this
and other British universities (Morley, 2003; Davies, 2003) and such macho
entrepreneurial discourses and the (often male) academics that deploy them are taken
far more seriously. Kerfoot and Knights (1996, p. 83) have demonstrated how
“corporate capitalism is both the vehicle for the expression of this masculinity and a
major driving force”. Thus, the dominant and legitimacy-garnering performance of
masculinity in this academic context can be seen to have shifted to a more entrepreneurial
place, but nevertheless to have continued to successfully exclude women.
An equally noteworthy phenomenon is the extent to which men may reject places
where male homosociability may not be available. A significant number of male
participants were obviously uncomfortable when they encountered two or more women
academics sitting or standing together in a meeting room or public space (although this
is quite rare as there are so few women academics). The feelings of discomfort, if not
alarm, became particularly acute when the business school appointed its first female
Dean, as this was often seen as evidence of a female conspiracy. Interestingly, whilst
male “places” remain covert or glimpsed at best, female homosocial places and arenas
are sharply remarked upon, revealed and reviled by their very female identity, although
the associated lack of power and privilege is unacknowledged:
Ralph came up to our table in the canteen today (there were three women academics from his
department sitting down together), but when invited, he refused to sit down with us because
he said that he didn’t feel comfortable sitting with a table of just women! He felt happier if
there were men too.
Similarly, Sarah recounts in her interview:
So Warren comes up to my table in the canteen at lunch time today. I’m sitting with one
female colleague. He says that he’ll sit with us today because there were only two of us now.
Yesterday he couldn’t sit with us because it was just a “ladies circle”. This is a more polite
term for a group of women sitting together as we have frequently been accused of hatching
toil and trouble. Gordon even actually called us a witches’ coven.
These examples serve to reinforce a clear message that men seem to be more comfortable
when they are with other men and cultivate and nurture opportunities for being so
(Lipman-Blumen, 1976; Kanter, 1977; Morgan, 1981; Roper, 1996; Bird, 1996; Martin,
2001; Broadbridge and Hearn, 2008; Gregory, 2009; Mooney and Ryan, 2009). In this
research, it was evident that not only were men more comfortable with other men, they
were also distinctly uncomfortable when they were outnumbered by academic women.
Thus, the location of the boys club can be seen to be everywhere in the organisation
(except where women congregate): in the formal activities, roles and processes which
constitute organisational practice, but also in the invisible, cloaked and concealed
networks of which most female organisational members are at best only liminally aware.
Findings: the influence of the boys club on decision making at Matrix
This section considers the means by which men establish the boys club; the practices
which can be seen in the way that men stand, the clothes (or unofficial uniform) that they
wear, the physical and verbal space they dominate and the topics they discuss. Such
public performances can feel particularly exclusionary to any women who are present.
The following excerpts from the interview transcripts and detailed field notes suggest
that a variety of manifestations of male homosocial desire are an essential element of the
social mechanisms in this workplace, through which men both reproduce themselves in
their own image and construct managerial practices which create a “close and gendered
circle” (Savage and Witz, 1992, p. 15). Several of the following excerpts refer to the tactic
of “masculinist exclusion” (Blackmore, 1999) where casual and formal conversations are
dominated by (supposedly) men’s interests and littered with sporting metaphors
(“caught off side” and “close of play”). This is something that has been referred to as the
“football league model of leadership” (Eisenstein, 1996). Kelly graphically reports a
canteen conversation “hijacked” by two male colleagues:
Did you see how the conversation was taken over? It was so obvious that the moment they
arrived we were going to have to listen to their latest success story and all that mutual
appreciation and wanking each other off.
Others however identify more concerted yet unofficial practices which offer potential
privilege to their male participants:
Some male colleagues often talk about going to see the new male Dean for a “chat” about their
career prospects or their achievements. Today Warren was talking about a meeting he’d just
organised with the Dean. It reminded me that both Jack and Simon have discussed doing this
on a number of occasions and don’t view it as anything unusual. When asked, most female
colleagues find these “man to man” chats with the Dean rather surprising, exclusionary and a
little intimidating. Brenda remarked that she had never been to see the dean about her career
and that “surely the dean just wants us to get on with our jobs, doesn’t he?”.
Thus, the affiliative performance of masculinity (Martin, 2001) extends across
hierarchies and serves to support male progression and careerism (Collinson and
Hearn, 1994). Just like all the UK HEIs (UCU, 2013) and internationally too (van den Brink
and Benschop, 2012), the professoriate (at school and university level) is an
overwhelmingly male institution. Connie is the first and only female professor
(of seven in total) at the business school. This university professoriate has a male to
female gender split of 87:13. In her interview Connie reflected upon how difficult it was
for her to become part of the professoriate’s male club:
Larry (a fellow male professor at the business school) is quite a “mans man”, he’s not
comfortable with women, particularly when he was outnumbered on the senior management
executive. When the professors here go for a research lunch it’s a male thing and the likes of
Paul (a fellow male professor) and Larry are quite happy going on about football or whatever.
There’s a certain kind of talk, a certain kind of maleness, a certain level of comfort. There’s no
“new manness” going on there, it’s a male thing.
Thus, affiliation across a certain level in the hierarchy remains exclusionary to female
members. Similarly, Sonia found being the first female head of a male-only strategy
department rather painful in the way that the men had historically “bonded” together
to organise work patterns in a way that suited them. Timetables were constructed
around various social arrangements between groups of male colleagues. Sonia faced
ferocious (at times quite nasty) opposition when her decisions disrupted these work
patterns. Her experiences indicate her discovery of the power of the homosocial
bonding operating within that department:
There are these clans that protect each other. They seem to be remnants of an old boy’s
network, although not of a public school type.
Interestingly, she identifies the group as a clan or network, emphasizing both the
informal and the affiliative nature of the group’s behaviours: a group in which she was
the only female member, and failed to benefit from the “clan” privileges. She was aware
of significant opposition to her becoming the new head of department from the men,
and one even articulated his rejection of her candidacy:
When it came out that I would be applying for Head of Department, one male colleague said
to me, well my only objection to that is that I’m going to have a female manager!
The whole issue of women being successful in senior management and other
appointments caused something of a male backlash, even though when men were
appointed no comments were ever made that the majority of successes were usually
men and always had been. In a similar vein, when yet another woman academic was
appointed as a lecturer in the HR department; a senior male academic was appalled.
Kath reflected upon this in her interview:
Remember when Jereni was appointed, Robert wasn’t at all happy because he was really
agitated and walking up and down the corridor saying “we need more men, we need more
men, we don’t need any more women”!
Many male academics were just much more comfortable working closely with other men
(Kanter, 1977; Morgan, 1981), and would often publicly “sponsor” favoured candidates
for jobs and promotions, invariably male, but cloaked in the neutrality of competence or
merit: witness Charlie, a long-serving and powerful male head of department discussing
his “boy” in a forthcoming promotion selection process:
It’s definitely Steve’s turn; he deserves a crack of the whip.
Consequently, when some women were being successful at selection panels then there must
be something wrong with the “fair” process whichhadirrationallyallowed(yetanother)
woman to be appointed. A constant theme of the male criticism of the female head of
department appointments was the implication that now there were women in senior
positions (including the Dean), they would use their power in a gender-motivated way and
would appoint women. The fact that for the whole of the historical existence of the business
school, male managers had always appointed other men and that actually after the briefest
of windows, it was now back to “business as usual” was not worthy of any comment by
male colleagues! The theme of male academics believing that there were unfair selection
practices being exercised by gender-motivated female managers (especially the Dean) is
reflected in the following transcript excerpts from Zoe (a Programme Manager and Senior
Lecturer) and Jane (a Head of Department). Zoe argued that whenever a woman is
appointed, there is speculation that the reasons are other than job competence. Jane argued
that it is lazy and inaccurate to suggest that the female Dean was biased towards women as
there was not enough evidence. This is what Zoe and Jane had to say in their interviews:
If a man appoints a woman, it’s because he fancies her; if a woman appoints a man, it might
be because she fancies him or he might be the best for the job; if a man appoints a man, it’s
because he’s the best for the job (not that he’s appointing in his own likeness) and finally, if a
woman appoints a woman, she probably favours women because she’s a woman herself.
The common thread would appear to be, that when women are doing the appointing
and women are then appointed to jobs, there must be speculation about their lack of
rational and objective decision making abilities:
After the appointment of Bridget as Dean and Alison as Associate Dean, Larry began
complaining because the executive team was all women and him and that the meetings were
like the Women’s Institute. You’d often hear, “you’ve got to be a woman to get on round here”.
When I got the head of department job, a male colleague said that I’d got it because I was
female. Larry said to me “oh you’ll be alright because you’re a woman”. It’s too easy to say she
just appoints females. There’s no evidence. Look, now there’s an all male executive, but none
of them remark on that.
There was no similar commentary when the senior executive became all male once more.
Blackmore (1999) has argued that masculinist hegemony is fought for, contested and
reformulated through a range of discursive practices and discoursesof denigration about
femininity in general. The focus on women as the “problem” has deflected attention
away from the intimate connections between discourses of masculinity, rationality and
leadership. White, middle-class, heterosexual males continue to wield cultural and
financial power derived from current educational discourses that exist about “good”
leadership – discourses that link masculinity with economic rationality, being strong,
making “hard” decisions and entrepreneurship (Blackmore, 1999). The notion of the
organisational “rational man”continues to be extremely powerful and despite examples to
the contrary, some men in this study continued to discursively distance themselves from
any notion of men tomen emotional behaviour. As Jack reported in his interview when he
described the “rational talk” of men compared to the emotional “chat” of women:
Guys talk about crumpet, football, and cars. Corridor conversations amongst guys tend to be
about the malaise of the organisation. We don’t “chat”, like women do. I wouldn’t seek a male
colleague out to have a chat. Guys just don’t share like that; they talk about personal ego
driven and career driven things. A small percentage would be to do with people, which
I should imagine would be a significant percentage of the information that women share.
Guys just don’t talk about these things.
The new female Dean was clearly considered to be incapable of making “rational”
selection decisions. Hence her recruitment of women in general and the fact that the
senior executive was dominated by women meant that meetings “degenerated” into
discussions about “irrational” topics like curtains and wallpaper. The only male
professor on the executive (Larry) at that time, was frequently reported as saying he
disliked being the only man in a group of women. The problem is not identified as
being the undermining of male bonding; it is the suspect selection decisions which
result in the appointment of women and that women in senior roles are a “problem”.
There seems to be a form of almost invisible hegemonic masculinity that is
intimately entwined with and supported by male homosocial desire imbuing these
practices. It is self-serving and self-sustaining, and different male colleagues can and
do perform this kind of masculinity at different times but very few men will challenge
it. One thing is clear: women remain excluded, and become aware of both the practices
and their effects only when they offer a challenge to the boys club or find themselves
marginalised or alienated by it.
Conclusion: the key characteristics of male homosocial desire at Matrix
This paper aimed to explore the nature of male homosocial desire and the boys club in one
business school over a period of five years in the first decade of the 2000s. There was
plentiful evidence of male bonding and a boys club to which women were not welcome.
The recorded observations by women and men participants regularly witnessed
intense and passionate displays of male homosocial desire at the business school.
These were the sticky substances that united their version of hegemonic masculinity and
so “this performance of pleasure serves to empower and privilege male social and
organisational networks” (Kaplan, 2005). It has a long history and is referred to in many
ways, “male bonding”, “male-to-male relatedness”, “the locker room”, the lads club,
“homosexual and homosocial reproduction”, “homosociability”, “homosocial desire” and
“mobilising masculinities”. It seems particularly apposite to focus on male homosocial
bonding now when, as more women have reached management positions, they do not
enjoy the same advantages of homosocial desire and do not habitually cooperate or
support each other in the manner of men (Mavin, 2008; Mavin and Williams, 2011). It
might appear that there is something of a paradox here at Matrix. On the one hand,
during the course of this study, we have seen an increased representation of women at
senior management levels. Yet on the other hand, we have seen the continuous operation
and influence of homosocial desire and the boys club. It is true, that briefly (for perhaps
two years) there were more women in the senior management team than ever before in
the history of Matrix. This was so visible and different that it was remarked upon by
most academic staff. It seemed to trigger an unusually vocal and visible display of male
homosocial behaviour and bonding, which in turn, sparked the original research (for a
Fuller discussion, Fisher (2007)). When the senior management team returned to
“normal”, that is, all male, some of the more overt displays of homosocial desire and
bonding returned to “normal” and went “behind closed doors”. Throughout the whole
period of this research, women remained as only 25 per cent of the total academic staff
and there should be no surprise to discover that these women were largely concentrated
into to one academic subject area, people and organisations.
Like Roper (1996) we have preferred the term homosocial desire (Sedgwick, 1985)
because of the palpable sparks of energy, flushed-face excitement and desire between
men when they are together, in both formal and informal work situations. These public
displays of intimacy may be physical (shaking hands, slapping backs, holding arms),
verbal (hello mate, jokes and humour, even insults) and/or subject-specific (sport, DIY,
cars, even sexual banter or “crumpet” to quote one male colleague). They discharge an
invisible membrane of closeness between the individual men involved and that excludes
all outsiders (mainly women and very occasionally some dissident men). These men
really liked to be together, felt most comfortable when they were surrounded by other
men and uncomfortable when there were just too many academic women around!
The difficult question to answer with certainty is whether male bonding such as this
influences decision making and other organisational “effects” in the organisation. How
can a researcher “prove” something that no-one involved would ever confess or be
aware? It was however, absolutely clear that the public male antagonism towards more
women being appointed (particularly at senior levels) became a hostile questioning of
the legitimacy of those women who had been successful. Additionally, what was clear
was that where women were aware of the activities of the boys club, even if they
did not name them as such nor recognise the homosocial desire at play in its support
and maintenance, they reported feeling excluded, marginalised, sidelined, patronised,
and ignored. The overwhelming dominance of male appointments, at all levels, was
never questioned by any man in this research. We would contend that the way most
men found one another more comforting, exciting and attractive and ultimately useful
(so that there was a complicity even from dissenting men), supports the view that
homosocial desire affects decision making in favour of the recipients of that desire.
From the evidence of this research, the key characteristics of male homosocial desire
at the business school can be described in six different ways. Emotional: the bonding
between these men exudes a chemistry which is intimate and emotional. It might take
place through humour or insults, backslapping or handshakes, but it is a public display
of seduction and belonging (Kaplan, 2005). It undermines the myth of the non-emotional
organisation man (Roper, 1996). This aspect was most evident through the observation
of corridor conversations and informal moments during critical events. The physical
touching, the excited recall of sporting or drinking moments, the warm “matey”
greetings, face to face, hand to arm, which include the insiders to the group and exclude
everyone else. Invisible: although often demonstrated in public spaces, the identification
of male performances as being by men or being masculine is often not verbalised, either
by men or women. When asked at interview about their identity, the Matrix men did not
identify themselves as men. Only one believed that being a man had influenced his
career at all and the rest thought it irrelevant. As Whitehead (2001, p. 77) observed of his
academic male participants when asked about their masculinity:
[...] they appeared never to have reflected on themselves, as men, indeed, never felt the need
to reflect on themselves as men. Their manhood, maleness, masculinity was a given,
a universal “fact”. It was as if all else revolved around this, with them as the centre. It was like
questioning the existence of the sun, sky or air we breathe.
When interviewed, the Matrix women all immediately identified as women and saw it
as the key factor in their career progression. When the senior executive team of the
school was mainly women it was continually made reference to, by men because of its
gender split. When the senior executive team became all male once more, as in all the
decades before, this was never a subject for commentary. This invisibility is a powerful
feature of the nature of discourses around gender. The rationale of gender equity
policies is usually based on the evidence of female disadvantage. However, the
discourse of female disadvantage breaks the “relational link” to male advantage.
The invisibility of masculinities at play in the business school masks the significance
of male advantage. Feminists have not engaged sufficiently well with the level of
investment most men have in maintaining existing gender relations (Cockburn, 1991)
and the capacity of hegemonic masculinity and the operation of homosocial desire to
deflect attention away from itself has been a major barrier to effecting change in
gender relations (Connell, 1987). In-denial: the men denied that they were close,
intimate or emotional in their exchanges with each other, as Jack said “we don’t chat,
like women do”. The myth of the rational man was maintained (along with the
emotional woman). Men talk about things not people. Complicit: not all men are
comfortable with what may be seen as the dominant and successful ways of being a
man and thus may not like being part of some male bonding sessions. Men do not have
to perform their masculinities in the same way, and some clearly are not comfortable
with certain expressions of masculinity, but do not openly rebel and thereby still
benefit from the advantages of membership. Their “complicity” makes those versions
of masculinity stronger simply because they remain unchallenged in public spaces, and
consequently it could be argued that these “men who receive the benefits of patriarchy
without enacting a strong version of masculine dominance could be regarded as
showing a complicit masculinity” (Connell and Messerschmidt, 2005, p. 832). As Carl
If you are male you can blend into the background when you are with a bunch of other males.
You are camouflaged. I don’t enjoy conversations with men, I don’t like some of their bigoted
views, but I listen, although I wouldn’t say anything to contradict them.
So long as they keep quiet about their disquiet then they remain part of the inner
sanctum. In fact they can acquire kudos as being “new men” but they still benefit from
hanging out with the “old men”. Organisationally powerful: this invisible,
unacknowledged daily stream of emotional and irrational male “love-ins” is very
powerful. Key career decisions are made, whether it is through selection or appraisal or
promotion or networking, all underpinned by male bonding. It is impossible to “prove”
and it happens with one section of the workforce not necessarily knowing anything
about it, not being involved and with no-one acknowledging that anything so
“emotional” has happened that has influenced the “rational” decision making. As Charlie
said, “it is definitely Steve’s turn; he deserves a crack of the whip”. The exclusionary
effect of masculine information and support systems affects women candidates in all
phases of the appointment process (van den Brink and Benschop, 2012, p. 87).
Unintentional: from the perspective of the Matrix men, the exclusionary impact of the
public display of homosocial desire was unintentional. As Martin (2001, p. 606) reported,
there was only liminal awareness of the masculinities by the men who performed them.
Most of our male participants struggled to see their behaviour as a form of male bonding
and certainly would not see it as a deliberate act of gender exclusion.
The main aim of this paper was to contribute to the “breaking of silence” by exploring
and exposing the nature and power of the academic boys club. This is a challenging
endeavour for all the reasons previously stated, but in our view, we have presented
compelling evidence that the boys club is still very much alive and kicking, at least in the
university backwater of Matrix, if not elsewhere in the UK. These interactions could
seem to be about innocent pleasure but this disguises their importance in reinforcing
hegemonic male organisational networks. Like Morgan (1981) suggested, the men of this
business school did not have to physically nail a “men only” sign to every office door on
the campus, in order to make it clear who was inside and who was outside. It appears that
there is more in common between the blokey world of sports journalism and the
cardigans of academia than we might care or want to believe.
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About the authors
Virginia Fisher is an Associate Professor in the HR & Leadership Group in the Business School
of Plymouth University. She is the Programme Manager of the MA in HRM. Virginia Fisher is
the corresponding author and can be contacted at:
Sue Kinsey is an Associate Professor in the HR & Leadership Group in the Business School of
Plymouth University. She is also the Head of Group.
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... This social support remained largely invisible, allowing men to appear self-sufficient, whereas women appeared "needy" when they tried to develop their own support networks. In UK universities, Fisher and Kinsey (2014) found evidence of male homosocial bonding, which remained unacknowledged by the actors but contributed to the promotion of male interests. Van den Brink and Benschop (2014) demonstrated that networking practices in the recruitment of professors in the Netherlands were underpinned by a masculine model of career success that contributed to the persistence of gender inequalities in academia. ...
... Drawing on the notions of tie strength and tie direction , this chapter has examined the relationships between earlycareer scholars and higher-ranked academics and the resources that circulated within these relationships in support of the former's transnational career move. As previous studies have shown, the distribution of social career-related resources is gendered (Fisher & Kinsey, 2014;van den Brink & Benschop, 2014) and women's professional networks are less resourceful than those of men in similar positions (McDonald, 2011;McGuire, 2002;Rose, 1989). My work confirms several of these studies' results while pushing the notions of tie strength and tie direction. ...
... Occupational and career research has brought to light the interactional mechanisms underlying these differences. In particular, it has shown that gendered representations of men as more competent than women are (re)produced in academia, in interpersonal interactions and workplace practices, and affect the distribution of social resources in different institutional and national contexts (Bagilhole & Goode, 2001;Fisher & Kinsey, 2014;van den Brink & Benschop, 2014). However, there is still a lack of understanding of the gendered mechanisms through which social resources are distributed within early-career academics' transnational social networks. ...
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Much of the work on the networks of migrants and their descendants concentrates mainly on the ethnicity of the persons in the network; however, if we are interested in the way networks reinforce ethnic inequalities or foster social mobility, other dimensions may be at least as important as the ethnic composition. In this chapter I describe how migration itself, rather than ethnic identification, shapes social networks. Even in times of electronic communication, space has effects on social relationships, for many social transactions (from child care to commensality) fundamental for maintaining social relationships are difficult or impossible at a distance. Migration is age-selective and this has effects on ties formed in the place of immigration. Labour migration has strong effects on the neighbourhoods migrant families end up in, and these in turn affect the schools their children go to and who they play with outside the home. Most migration is class-selective, forming networks more class-homogeneous in the place of immigration than in the place of departure. So a series of factors linked specifically to ‘the migration process’ have structural effects on the social networks of migrants and their descendants. In this chapter I draw on studies of internal and international migration to show that these effects are important even where citizenship is not at issue. I argue that there are, in fact, marked similarities in the networks of internal and international labour migrants, for example, in the tendency (under certain conditions) to form networks made up primarily of persons from the same place of origin. So I suggest that “the migration process” may affect migrants’ social networks as much as ethnic dynamics. And that this throws light on the social mechanisms behind the forms of inequality documented in many migration contexts. Drawing on qualitative interviews with different types of (internal and international) migrants, I show that the initial social ties used to achieve one’s transfer from one place to another (e.g. a classic migration chain, or professional contacts) have lasting effects, and that these explain some differences between the networks formed by “skilled” and “unskilled” migrants (more work-based in the former case, more kin-based in the latter). I also show how the networks formed by children of migrants are shaped by the specific conditions (net of class) of labour migration.
... Occupational and career research has brought to light the interactional mechanisms underlying these differences. In particular, it has shown that gendered representations of men as more competent than women are (re)produced in academia, in interpersonal interactions and workplace practices, and affect the distribution of social resources in different institutional and national contexts (Bagilhole & Goode, 2001;Fisher & Kinsey, 2014;van den Brink & Benschop, 2014). However, there is still a lack of understanding of the gendered mechanisms through which social resources are distributed within early-career academics' transnational social networks. ...
... This social support remained largely invisible, allowing men to appear self-sufficient, whereas women appeared "needy" when they tried to develop their own support networks. In UK universities, Fisher and Kinsey (2014) found evidence of male homosocial bonding, which remained unacknowledged by the actors but contributed to the promotion of male interests. Van den Brink and Benschop (2014) demonstrated that networking practices in the recruitment of professors in the Netherlands were underpinned by a masculine model of career success that contributed to the persistence of gender inequalities in academia. ...
... Drawing on the notions of tie strength (Granovetter, 1973(Granovetter, , 1983 and tie direction (Ryan, 2011(Ryan, , 2016, this chapter has examined the relationships between earlycareer scholars and higher-ranked academics and the resources that circulated within these relationships in support of the former's transnational career move. As previous studies have shown, the distribution of social career-related resources is gendered (Fisher & Kinsey, 2014;van den Brink & Benschop, 2014) and women's professional networks are less resourceful than those of men in similar positions (McDonald, 2011;McGuire, 2002;Rose, 1989). My work confirms several of these studies' results while pushing the notions of tie strength and tie direction. ...
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Moving across borders to take up academic positions is one form of occupational mobility (or migration), one that is often presented as constitutive of an academic career. Drawing on biographical and qualitative egocentric network interviews with early-career academics working in Switzerland and the United States, this chapter shows that the transnational career moves of young scholars are embedded in social relationships in subtle ways. The analysis reveals that it is mainly one type of social tie that is important: vertical ties with higher-status academics. But the support these ties provide varies according to discreet and inconspicuous gendered mechanisms in which institutional resources also play a role. On the one hand, traces of strong male support networks persist in obtaining transnational academic positions. On the other, the digitalisation of academic labour-markets, fellowship schemes, and dual-career support make it possible to advance in one’s academic career while relegating vertical ties to a secondary role.
... This social support remained largely invisible, allowing men to appear self-sufficient, whereas women appeared "needy" when they tried to develop their own support networks. In UK universities, Fisher and Kinsey (2014) found evidence of male homosocial bonding, which remained unacknowledged by the actors but contributed to the promotion of male interests. Van den Brink and Benschop (2014) demonstrated that networking practices in the recruitment of professors in the Netherlands were underpinned by a masculine model of career success that contributed to the persistence of gender inequalities in academia. ...
... Drawing on the notions of tie strength and tie direction , this chapter has examined the relationships between earlycareer scholars and higher-ranked academics and the resources that circulated within these relationships in support of the former's transnational career move. As previous studies have shown, the distribution of social career-related resources is gendered (Fisher & Kinsey, 2014;van den Brink & Benschop, 2014) and women's professional networks are less resourceful than those of men in similar positions (McDonald, 2011;McGuire, 2002;Rose, 1989). My work confirms several of these studies' results while pushing the notions of tie strength and tie direction. ...
... Occupational and career research has brought to light the interactional mechanisms underlying these differences. In particular, it has shown that gendered representations of men as more competent than women are (re)produced in academia, in interpersonal interactions and workplace practices, and affect the distribution of social resources in different institutional and national contexts (Bagilhole & Goode, 2001;Fisher & Kinsey, 2014;van den Brink & Benschop, 2014). However, there is still a lack of understanding of the gendered mechanisms through which social resources are distributed within early-career academics' transnational social networks. ...
Full-text available
This chapter presents an overview of how migrant networks have been researched and theorised. In so doing, we highlight some persistent gaps in knowledge about how migrants, and their descendants, forge networks and generate particular kinds of resources, especially in accessing the labour market and developing careers, and we explain how the chapters of this book tackle these issues. By looking not only at migrants but also at the second generation, we reflect on opportunities, but also enduring inequalities, and the ways in which networks may be mobilised to support employment strategies across different sectors and in different European countries. The chapter discusses the importance of disentangling social capital and social networks. Relatedly, we discuss the need to look beyond the ethnic lens and simple binaries of ‘bonding’ versus ‘bridging’ capital, to explore how ties to different kinds of actors, in varied social positions, may facilitate or indeed hinder career development. Referring to new empirical data and theoretically informed analysis, in the various chapters of this book, we build upon but also complicate understanding of ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ ties, not as fixed ties, but rather as a continuum of dynamic relationships that may ebb and flow over time. In the concluding section, we highlight the contribution of this book and also consider the need for further cross-fertilisation of conceptual and empirical innovations beyond migration studies to avoid a silo-effect in social network research.
... We instead believe our results should flag opportunities for structural changes that promote gender parity in social networks. When networks are left to form only through informal social processes, women are often subject to exclusion (Cyr et al., 2021); "boy's clubs" are still prominent features of workplaces and business schools (Cullen & Perez-Truglia, 2021;Johnson, 2009;Kinsey & Fisher, 2014). In turn, these features of informal social networks can influence positions in the formal authority hierarchy of organizations. ...
Gender disparities in negotiation outcomes contribute to inequality in the workplace and beyond. Explanations of gender gaps in negotiation often focus on internal barriers women face as a consequence of contending with stigma in the workplace and other historically male‐dominated environments, such as stereotype threat and apprehension about negotiating. However, stigma is also associated with relational consequences that may influence success in negotiations. This research compared internal and relational mechanisms for gender disparities in negotiation performance. Seventy‐seven MBA executives reported their apprehension about negotiating, stereotype threat in negotiations, mindset about negotiation‐related stress, and class social networks. Participants were then randomly paired to complete a series of one‐on‐one negotiations based on real‐world scenarios. Overall, men outperformed women in negotiations. Significant gender differences emerged in stereotype threat, stress mindset, and social network centrality. However, only network centrality—specifically number and strength of ties—significantly mediated the relationship between gender and negotiation performance. Position in informal social networks may play an important role in negotiation outcomes, particularly in a shared social environment like the workplace. Although efforts to explain the gender gap in negotiation performance often center internal psychological mechanisms, this research suggests that relational explanations, such as disparities in social networks, merit further attention. Limitations and recommendations for future research and policy are discussed.
... op hoe een gebrek aan kennis bij docenten over beperkingen en voorzieningen tezamen met een gebrek aan aanpassingen in het onderwijs, leidt tot belemmeringen in de studievoortgang van studenten met beperkingen (Van denBroek et al. 2017). Internationale studies wezen hetzelfde uit, en onderstrepen het belang van het vinden van gelijken om een ondersteunend netwerk op te kunnen bouwen(Gibson 2012;Moriña 2017).MedewerkersMeerdere studies onderstrepen het belang van sociaal kapitaal voor een wetenschappelijke carrière (Van denBrink en Benschop 2014;Valentine en Wood 2018).Aangezien netwerken vaak langs lijnen van gender, ras en klasse lopen, hebben historisch ondervertegenwoordigde groepen minder toegang tot de voordelen die supportnetwerken met zich meebrengen(Fisher en Kinsey 2014). Vrouwelijke onderzoekers en onderzoekers van kleur ervaren hierdoor barrières bij tenure en promotie, doordat zij geen informatie ontvangen over carrièrekansen, minder goede aanbevelingsbrieven krijgen(Dutt et al. 2016), geen mentoren of sponsors hebben(O'Connor et al. 2020) of gepasseerd worden voor promotie(Jayakumar et al. 2009;Henry et al. 2017). ...
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Kernwoorden: diversiteit en inclusie, exclusie, hoger onderwijs, intersectionaliteit, ongelijkheidspraktijken D iversity and inclusion have a prominent place on the agenda of higher education institutions. As higher education institutions strive for equal opportunities, they increasingly develop diversity policies. In order to have effective policies, knowledge about inequalities in higher education institutions is crucial. Yet, this knowledge has not previously been brought together into a coherent overview. The aim of this review is therefore to provide a coherent overview of inequalities in higher education by using the concept of inequality practices, so that (1) knowledge gaps for further research can be identified and (2) recommendations can be made for more effective diversity interventions. We identify fourteen inequality practices along the analytical distinction of numbers, institutions , and knowledge (production). Our review shows that the (in)visibility of difference plays a central role in experiencing inequalities. Different social groups experience different inequality practices depending on the (in) visibility of their identity aspects. Yet, precisely because of the (in)visibility of identity aspects they might also experience different consequences of the same inequality practices. This difference in consequences can also be explained by intersectionality. Finally, we provide recommendations to become more inclusive in diversity research and practices by (specifically) paying attention to invisible differences (sexuality, gender identity, disability) and intersectionality. Abstract Naar het inclusiever (her)maken van het hoger onderwijs: een review naar ongelijkheidspraktijken
... This is in line with the findings of several scholars, including Huang et al. (2020) and Prozesky (2008), who highlight significant disparities in experience and career progression between academic mothers and their nonparenting counterparts. These disparities are often shown to relate to family and child career interruptions, resource allocations (Fritsch, 2016;Long, 1992), and access to collaborative networks (Fisher & Kinsey, 2014;Rotchford et al., 1990). ...
Based on a collection of auto‐ethnographic narratives that reflect our experiences as academic mothers at an Australian university, this paper seeks to illustrate the impact of COVID‐19 on our career cycles in order to explore alternative feminist models of progression and practice in Higher Education. Collectively, we span multiple disciplines, parenting profiles, and racial/ethnic backgrounds. Our narratives (initiated in 2019) explicate four focal points in our careers as a foundation for analyzing self‐definitions of professional identity: pre‐ and post‐maternity career break; and pre‐ and post‐COVID‐19 career. We have modeled this research on a collective feminist research practice that is generative and empowering in terms of self‐reflective models of collaborative research. Considering this practice and these narratives, we argue for a de‐centering of masculinized career cycle patterns and progression pathways both now and beyond COVID‐19. This represents both a challenge to neo‐liberal norms of academic productivity, as well as a call to radically enhance institutional gender equality policies and practice.
... Women's research agendas are also less innovative and risk-taking, receive less recognition, and produce findings that are less likely to become widely visible (Santos et al., 2021). The reasons for the lower productivity of women academics and the lower visibility and innovativeness of their research agendas are often associated with the dominance within these work environments of male cliques who seek to preserve the status quo by constraining the work developed by women and hindering their career advancement, as shown in a study by Fisher and Kinsey (2014) on British universities. Women academics wait longer to be promoted and receive less pay at research universities in the United States, and this was found to hold true even when variables such as career age, rank, discipline, and institutional type were controlled for (August & Waltman, 2004). ...
Full-text available
This paper explores how women academics in Chinese higher education have been understood as a topic of research by conducting a comprehensive review of publications on the theme in Chinese national academic journals, that is, national journals written in Chinese. The study identifies publication trends and key research issues concerning academic women in China, adopting a knowledge mapping perspective that unveils research and methodological choices, including data collection methods used in Chinese national journals since the mid-1980s, when the first publication on women academics was identified. The study finds that despite the rapid expansion of the population of women academics in the Chinese higher education system, this topic has been intermittently researched: interest in it peaked in the early 2010s but has declined since then. Past interest in the topic would be largely activated by governmental policy considerations and changes, but would become relatively dormant during periods of lower policy activity. The research has been mainly focused on policy and practice, and has lacked long-term perspectives; it has not always acknowledged societal and structural challenges that academic women face, and has not engaged in theory building. The latter is probably because much of the knowledge production has been based on personal opinions and views, and has suffered from a lack of critical thinking, a reliance on largely unsophisticated methods, and findings that are not generalisable. Abstract 本文是对中国大陆中文学术期刊发表中关于高校女教师研究的综合述评。使用知识图谱分析方法,对1980年代中期以来中国高校女教师研究发表趋势、主题内容和方法等发展变化,做了较为全面和系统的考察。本文发现,尽管中国高校女教师人数迅速增加,但高校女教师的研究文献数量却是起伏变化的。首先,在20世纪10年代初,相关研究达到顶峰,此后研究文献数量有所下降。政府政策考虑和变化在很大程度上影响了高校女教师研究的主题变化及文献数量。在政府相关政策驱动匮乏时期,研究文献的数量相应较少。其次,具有较强的问题意识,强调研究的政策性和针对性,长远性和系统专题探讨不足。最后,对高校女教师发展面临的结构性障碍认识不足,也没有相关的理论构建。后者可能是因为以往大部分研究都是基于研究者个人的意见和观点推理,研究方法相对单一,缺少批判性,因而研究结论不够概括.
This study explores the implications for the Education 5.0 framework on promotion opportunities for female academics in Zimbabwean universities. The framework emphasises research, lecturing, community service, innovation and industrialisation as job performance areas for a university lecturer. The qualitative research adopted a multi-case study design and purposively sampled 24 female lecturers from two universities in Zimbabwe. Data were collected through in-depth interviews, focus group discussions and analysis of official documents like staff-list records and research repositories. The study reveals that the expectations of the Education 5.0 framework are gender blind and tend to obstruct the promotion opportunities for female academics. Lack of funding in research activities, training in scientific writing, functional innovation hubs as well as the burden of domestic chores were the main obstacles to female academics’ promotion chances. The study recommends provision of research funds, training in scientific writing and establishing functional innovation hubs to fully operationalise the Education 5.0 framework.
Research shows that despite improved access of women to higher education, there remains many educational inequities for women as faculty, for example, most are concentrated at lower rungs of the academic ladder and very few women reach managerial and leadership positions. Feminist scholars have identified that explanations such as the woman’s ‘double burden’ and conflict between the personal and professional roles, are not sufficient in explaining women’s exclusion from senior academic roles. Instead they see Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are gendered in their organisational structures and have a built-in glass ceiling. In India, the gap between women and men in the corporate world is being bridged through efforts to increase the proportion of women employees and women in senior roles. Indian media consistently highlights these developments. Yet HEIs appear to be untouched by these developments. In response, the University Grants Commission (UGC) initiated a nationwide orientation and training programme for women faculty, cutting across discipline areas. The aim of the UGC programme was to support gender inclusivity in Indian HEIs by highlighting the gendered nature of institutions and building their capacity to overcome both internal constraints and barriers, as well as systemic barriers to career advancement. The programme has had a significant impact on the participants and helped to establish a broad-based network of women faculty. Several of the programme participants have become visible, claimed their rightful place in senior roles in Indian HEIs, and several more are ready to leave the ‘sticky floor’. This chapter will discuss the programme’s aims, processes and successes in supporting Indian HEIs to become gender inclusive.
In the last 2 decades, the Latin American university has embarked on a shift toward increasing scientific production, following a pattern common to much of the Global North. Few studies have analyzed how this process has had a differentiated impact on male and female scholars. In dialog with previous studies, we explore the changing nature of the “ideal academic,” accounting for its gendered character in an historically and culturally specific context. Based on a qualitative study, we describe the crisis of a model that idealized theoretical work and exclusive dedication to academia, and show that, in a broader context of feminist mobilizations, a critical discourse is emerging, stressing the need to bridge academic life and professional and political concerns. We seek to contribute to studies on changes in the Latin American academy illustrating the gendered ways through which the neoliberal university ends up being contested in the Global South.
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briefly review the respective insights of critical studies: of managment and of gender / each of these overall perspectives provides a partial critical analysis of the interrelations between hierarchical and gendered forms of power and control in organizational practices / considers the relatively few critical studies that have sought to develop a more integrated analysis of gender, men and managments dominant discourses / management without gender / gender without management / gender, men and management / men as managers, managers as men (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Breaking the silence: On men, masculinities and managements Most managers in most organizations in most countries are men. Yet the conditions, processes and consequences of men's historical and contemporary domination of management have received little scrutiny. There has been a strange silence, which we believe reflects an embedded and taken-for-granted association, even conflation, of men with organizational power, authority and prestige. This book examines why and how the association of men and managements persists both in ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ and explores the consequences of these interrelationships for organizations, employees and managers themselves. Acknowledging the multiple and diverse meanings of management, the volume brings together a wide variety of contributions from three continents to examine management theories, the institution and occupation of management itself, and the power, functions and practices of men as managers and managers as men. By highlighting the interrelations of men, masculinities and managements, this book seeks to ...
This study examined how women's proportional representation in the upper echelons of organizations affects professional women's social constructions of gender difference and gender identity at work. qualitative and quantitative data were used. Results suggest that sex roles are more stereotypical and more problematic in firms with relatively low proportions of senior women, This research also found that women responded to these constraints in a range of ways and identifies five response profiles. The study challenges prevailing conceptions of gender as an objective property of individuals synonymous with biological sex and universal across organizational settings; instead, it supports a more complex view of gender as an ongoing social construction, the meaning, significance, and consequences of which vary as a function of the power differences reflected in the sex composition across levels of an organization's hierarchy.