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Scand J Caring Sci. 1999;13(3):153-8.

Being female in a health care hierarchy. On the social construction of gender and leader identity in a work organization having a predominance of women.

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Department of Educational Sciences, University of Stockholm, Sweden.


The aim of this paper is to illuminate the situation of women working in hierarchical organizations--patriarchal systems where male values and characteristics are normative--especially when the majority of employees in the organization are female. Do organizations where women make up the majority of the work force offer specific opportunities for women? How does the predominance of women affect the social construction of gender and leader identity? These questions are examined from a feminist perspective. Two concepts, gender system and the logic of personal relationships, provide the point of departure. Empirical support is drawn from studies, primarily of health care institutions, one of them an ongoing study by the author. The conclusion is that the hierarchical system seems to be self-generating among both women and men. A more flexible and anti-authoritarian work organization gives greater opportunities for women to develop in their work and to accept leading positions. The benefits of certain female characteristics, summarized in the concept of responsible rationality, in organizational life are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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