Sub-theme 51: Feminist Enlightening for More Ethical, Socially and Ecologically Sustainable Organizations

Regine Bendl
WU – Vienna University of Business and Economics, Austria
Alicia Hennig
Southeast University, Nanjing, China
Ian Melville McGregor
University of Technology Sydney, Australia

Call for Papers

Despite a strong feminist movement starting in the early 1960s in most Western countries and proposals for feminist bureaucracy (Ferguson 1984, Ashcraft 2001), a domination of hegemonic masculinity still prevails in most major businesses and other large organizations. The focus in Academia (reflecting a broader societal trend) has also not been on “Feminist Organization Theory” and “Feminist Organizational Theory” used in only 283 articles on Web of Science. Feminist Organization Theory posits that institutions are guided by unexamined masculine principles that work to exclude women and impede their success and advancement (Carrigan et al., 2011). Despite the wide range of feminist approaches to organization theory based on first and second wave feminism (see Calás & Smircich 1992; Bendl, 2005; Calas & Smircich, 2006), organization theory still remains largely male biased guided by the fact that these pro-male gender biases are unconscious (Goldin & Rouse, 1997; Kesebir, 2017). Postfeminist organizational approaches (Lewis et al., 2017) indicate repudiation and reinforcement of traditional gender based norms, while posthumanist postfeminist perspectives (Calás et al., 2017) open a way for rethinking organizations profoundly.
“Women and Leadership” has been more of a focus with 3334 articles with this phrase; however, the overwhelming evidence from most Western countries indicates that women are still hugely under-represented at the top levels of major businesses (Boards and CEOs), Government and most other organizations. However, much of this literature is focused on a neo-liberal hegemonic masculine agenda (Benschop & Verloo, 2015; Knights & Tullberg, 2012 ). In fact, there continues to be overwhelming evidence of the lack of progress of feminism and the inclusion of feminist, queer and other more inclusive values and intersectional perspectives beyond the existing binaries (male-female, homosexual-heterosexual, young-old, abled-disabled, etc.) in most organizations, exemplified by

  • Continuing sexual harassment (Harvey Weinstein case, etc.)

  • Continuing general harassment/discrimination of women in a wide range of workplaces

  • The struggle of successful women at higher positions to identify with feminist values themselves due to adaptation to a masculine organizational environment

  • Lack of women representation on major Corporate/Company Boards, in major public listed companies and in major spheres of influence (UN, Governments, etc.), the not-for-profit sector has done a bit better – e.g. Oxfam, Amnesty, etc.

  • Masculine/male cultures leading to huge corporate problems – Enron, BP (Horizon, etc.), VW (emissions scandal) – all corporations with male dominated top management

  • Lack of paid family leave in the US and many other countries, failure to keep women (and men?) engaged in the organization during maternity leave

  • Hidden unconscious gender (Goldin & Rouse, 1997; Kesebir, 2017) and other masculine, hetero-normative biases (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005)

This sub-theme aims to continue developing and rethinking feminist organizational theory, offering a complex look over various ways hegemonic masculinity still dominates in most organizations as well as highlighting research results beyond managerial hegemonic masculinity. Areas of interest for contributions may include, but are not limited to the following notions:

  • Recent developments in feminist organization theory (e.g. postfeminist, posthumanist postfeminist perspectives)

  • Changes in organizational culture not only to be more feminist and more generally inclusive of diversity but also to be beyond the gender binaries

  • Feminist- and diversity-oriented praxis in leadership and management approaches

  • Gendered and gendering power distribution within organizations (Isaac et al., 2009; Schwarzwald, Koslowsky & Bernstein, 2013), also beyond the binary gender divide

  • Communication styles and barriers to effective communication including gender and other diversity of the individuals within organizations (Gamble & Gamble, 2014; von Hippel et al., 2011)

  • Effective gender equality policies and breaking through “glass ceilings”

  • Gender and diversity in organizations in the digital age

  • Gender/diversity and its role in sustainable organizations

We welcome conceptual and empirical papers and reflections that critically examine various aspects of feminist organization theory. Papers with diversity and intersectional perspectives are highly welcome as well as papers which enhance leadership and management in all types of organizations with their inclusionary approaches.


  • Ashcraft, K.L. (2001): “Organized dissonance: Feminist bureaucracy as hybrid form.” Academy of Management Journal, 44 (6), 1301–1322.
  • Bendl, R. (2005): Revisiting Organization Theory. Integration and Deconstruction of Gender and Transformation of Organization Theory. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang.
  • Benschop, Y., & Verloo, M. (2015): “Feminist organization theories: islands of treasure.” In: R. Mir, H. Willmott & M. Greenwood (eds.): The Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organization Studies. London: Routledge, 100.
  • Calás, M., & Smircich, L. (1992): “Re-writing Gender into Organizational Theorizing. Directions from Feminist Perspectives.” In: M. Reed & M. Hughes (eds.): Rethinking Organization. New Directions in Organization Theory and Analysis. London: SAGE Publications, 227–253.
  • Calás, M., & Smircich, L. (2006): “From the ‘Women’s Point of View’ Ten Years Later: Towards a Feminist Organization Studies.” In: S.R. Clegg, C. Hardy, T.B. Lawrence & W.R. Nord (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organzation Studies. London: SAGE Publications, 284–346.
  • Calás, M., Smircich, L., & Ergene, S. (2017): “Postfeminism as New Materialisms: A Future Unlike the Present.” In: P. Lewis, Y. Benschop & R. Simpson (eds.): Postfeminism and Organization. London: Routledge, 197–228.
  • Carrigan, C., Quinn, K., & Riskin, E.A. (2011): “The gendered division of labor among STEM faculty and the effects of critical mass.” Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 4 (3), 131–146.
  • Connell, R.W., & Messerschmidt, J.W. (2005): “Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept.” Gender & Society, 19 (6), 829–859.
  • Ferguson, K. (1984): The Feminist Case Against Bureaucracy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Gamble, T.K., & Gamble, M. (2014): The Gender Communication Connection. London: Routledge.
  • Goldin, C., & Rouse, C. (1997): Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of “Blind” Auditions on Female Musicians. NBER Working Paper No. 5903. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Isaac, C.A., Behar‐Horenstein, L.S., & Koro‐Ljungberg, M. (2009): “Women deans: Leadership becoming.” International Journal of Leadership in Education, 12 (2), 135–153.
  • Knights, D., & Tullberg, M. (2012): “Managing masculinity/mismanaging the corporation.” Organization, 19 (4), 385–404.
  • Kesebir, S. (2017): “Word order denotes relevance differences: The case of conjoined phrases with lexical gender.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113 (2), 262–279.
  • Lewis, P. (2014): “Postfeminism, femininities and organization studies: Exploring a new agenda.” Organization Studies, 35 (12), 1845–1866.
  • Lewis, P., Benschop, Y., & Simpson, R. (eds.) (2017): Postfeminism and Organization. London: Routledge.
  • Schwarzwald, J., Koslowsky, M., & Bernstein, J. (2013): “Power tactic usage by gender at work and home: past, present, and future.” International Journal of Conflict Management, 24 (3), 307–224.
  • von Hippel, C., Wiryakusuma, C., Bowden, J., & Shochet, M. (2011): “Stereotype threat and female communication styles.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37 (10), 1312–1324.

Regine Bendl is Professor and Head of the Institute for Gender and Diversity in Organizations of the WU – Vienna University of Business and Economics, Austria. She got national and international awards for her research and publishes in edited volumes and international peer reviewed journals like the ‘British Journal of Management’. Besides several editorial journal positions, Regine was editor of ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion – An International Journal’ from 2010 to 2015. Together with Inge Bleijenbergh, Elina Henttonen and Albert Mills, she edited the “Oxford Handbook on Diversity in Organizations” (Oxford University Press, 2015).
Alicia Hennig is Associate Professor [research only] of Business Ethics at Southeast University, Nanjing, China, and Visiting Lecturer at the Business School of Greenwich University, London, UK. Her focus is on corporate social responsibility and sustainability in the finance sector. Furthermore, Alicia is doing research on ancient Chinese philosophy, i.e. Daoism, and its contributions to contemporary business and management.
Ian Melville McGregor is Lecturer in Management at the University of Technology Business School, Sydney, Australia. He has a wide range of international experience, most recently working with the LDCs [Least Developed Countries] Group within the UN negotiations leading to the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. In this role, he encountered a number of interesting gender and other diversity issues. Ian’s professional experience has included senior strategy, research and management consulting roles both based in Europe and Australia.