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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: January 2010

11 - Gender inequalities in power in organizations


Even in postindustrial societies, a considerable male–female power gap has remained in most organizations. Men are more likely to be the bosses and women the secretaries, clerks, and assistants. Although some women are present in lower- and middle-management positions in most organizations, they are considerably less well represented as top executives. One can quibble about types of power and say that women, even when in subordinate roles, have power that they exert informally as the secretary sometimes influences her boss and controls others' access to him. However, the secretary's decision-making power is paltry in comparison to that of her boss. It is this typical gender imbalance in organizational power that we examine in this chapter, with a focus on its causes and possibilities for amelioration.

Our claims about men's greater power are easily validated by statistics on managerial roles, which we present for our own countries, the USA. and the Netherlands, to illustrate common situations in Western industrialized nations. In the United States, 42 percent of “legislators, senior officials, and managers” are women, compared with 26 percent in the Netherlands (United Nations Development Program, 2006, Table 25). Within the context of industrialized nations, this representation of women is relatively high in the USA and low in the Netherlands. The comparable statistics for other nations are, for example, 36 percent in Canada, 35 percent in Germany, 33 percent in the United Kingdom, 31 percent in Sweden, and 29 percent in Norway.

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