BUSINESS CLASSIC: Men and Women of the Corporation

One of the few female management gurus to come out of the seventies argued power structures needed to change, or women would stay marginalised at work.

by Stefan Stern
Last Updated: 02 May 2014

Men and Women of the Corporation
Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Basic Books, 1977

There are not enough female management gurus. But this one, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, can perhaps explain why. She set out the reasons in her breakthrough book published almost 40 years ago.

In Men and Women of the Corporation, Moss Kanter showed how unchanging power structures and relationships could keep women (and other 'minorities') marginalised and powerless at work. A few token women might occasionally be offered a senior role, she said, but if they succeeded they were an exception, whereas if they failed they represented all women.

Trapped in a subservient position, women tended to be given one of three roles: a mother figure, a seductress, or a pet (or mascot). Moss Kanter argued that while people themselves might not change very readily, organisations perhaps could - and would have to.

In a follow-up book, The Change Masters, Moss Kanter did indeed find examples of companies that learned how to find room for talented people whatever their background or gender. But the depressing thought is that the world of the 1970s that she captured really has not changed very much at all. Men are still in charge of the corporation, while women wait for change to come.

- Stefan Stern is visiting professor at Cass Business School. Follow him on Twitter: @StefanStern


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