A realistic agenda?: women only programs as strategic interventions for building gender equitable workplaces

Jennifer De Vries

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated text] This thesis examines an organizational change intervention designed to build more gender equitable workplaces. The intervention relies on what could be considered a tried and true gender equity strategy: a women only (WO) development program. However, while women only programs remain popular as a gender equity strategy, few would consider that WO programs represent a challenge to the gendered nature of organizations themselves. Rather, WO programs are criticised for being exactly the opposite – ways of maintaining and sustaining current gender inequalities by focussing on women as the problem to be fixed (Meyerson & Kolb 2000). The work of reconceptualizing and putting into practice a WO program that is designed to challenge and change the status quo, as I will outline in this thesis, becomes an attempt to rehabilitate WO programs. Are they capable of contributing to the transformation of workplaces that is called for by feminist scholars such as Cockburn (1991) Meyerson and Fletcher (2000) and Sinclair (1994)? This thesis draws heavily on the work of Joan Acker (1990) and her theory of the gendered organization in defining the problem of gender inequality and the nature of the transformative change required. Fortunately others, in particular researchers associated with the Centre for Gender in Organizations (CGO),1 have preceded me in designing and implementing organizational interventions building on the work of Acker. I have used their experience as a launching pad for developing the 'bifocal approach'. Rather than a sole focus on the women, this approach includes a focus on the organizational change that is needed to achieve gender equity goals. The bifocal approach is therefore underpinned by the engagement of individual women and men as change agents, harnessing, in the words of Kolb (2003), 'constituencies for change'. This thesis examines the ‘bifocal approach’ as applied by the Leadership Development for Women program (LDW
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2010


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