With a growing recognition of issues of gender bias and barriers, and the limited ability of individual women to achieve gender equality, women in developed nations are building feminist agency in order to overcome barriers and challenge embedded structures. Such feminist agency is rooted in efforts by women to demonstrate the limitations of management practices and organisational structures, which are heavily influenced by masculine discourses, including the potential negative outcomes of excessive masculinity for business effectiveness (Metcalfe and Linstead, 2003). This hence relies heavily on modern feminist analysis to demonstrate the importance of gender discourses in influencing management practice, and overcoming associated issues such as excessive aggression and risk taking. This is reflected in Syed and Murray's (2008, p. 413) argument around the importance of "learning to accommodate and integrate feminine values, along with masculine values, into an inclusive work culture", and the performance benefits this offers. This is also supported by Schor et al (1994), who demonstrated that the development of more feminist cultures could support more desirable organisational outcomes in terms of performance, risk management and organisational culture development, thus making a valid case for the use of feminist agency.
The value of feminist agency can also be observed at organisational level, where it links to the concept of diversity management as a driver of improved outcomes for women. For example, Joseph’s (2013) study on feminist networks shows that when corporations and businesses act to create special networks to encourage women's participation and the development of female talent, this improves the opportunities available to women and boosts levels of employee engagement for female employees. This relationship is found even for women who are not a part of the network or involved in other initiatives. The existence of such initiatives seems enough to support the belief that feminist values are appreciated and that women are able to succeed without having to adopt traits that are more masculine. For example, Singh Deo (2009, p. 102) carried out a study of HSBC, showing that the organisation "has effectively used workforce policy and culture in creating a gender diverse organizational structure in one of its departments". These efforts were shown to improve levels of engagement across employees of both genders, and help to achieve higher levels of performance and achievement by female employees within the company.
However, whilst this is a major approach to the achievement of equality for women in many developed economies, it is undermined by a lack of a coherent gender theme, which will support more universal recognition of gender bias and thus ways to overcome it (Lehman, 2012). This limits the value of feminist agency as a mechanism through which to achieve broad understanding of equal opportunities and discrimination, with feminist agency instead being applied to individual narratives such as single organisations or business units (Ross-Smith and Huppatz, 2010). This has again resulted in the development of individual feminist structures, aimed at representing and supporting women within a specific business environment, rather than addressing wider embedded social conceptions of gender. Whilst this approach helps to incorporate social learning and competency development into women's employment, it is also limited by the focus on one organisation, and the potential issues this may create for women in business as a whole (Swan et al, 2009).
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