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Women in Technology Leadership | Organizational Structure

Over the past several decades, academic scholars set out to analyze the life history of organizations based on a commonality of organizational forms (Child & Rodrigues, 2003; Hsu & Hannan, 2005). Hsu and Hannan (2005) wrote that the result of this process can benefit existing and future organizations by providing standards and theoretical foundations common to those organizations that have experienced some measure of success. Child and Rodrigues (2003) wrote that the study of organizational form is a frequently explored theme in management and business literature. However, no agreed upon definition of organizational form exists (Hsu & Hannan, 2005). Organizational structure, or organizational form, is defined by Dijksterhuis, Van den Bosch, and Volberda (1999) as “aligning organization and environment by integrating the enterprise’s existing resources to current demand” (p. 569). Manzanares, Rico, and Gil (2008) offered an alternate definition of organizational form by suggesting it is the structure created to achieve objectives that were developed in a rational manner.

According to Wieck, Sutcliff, and Obstfeld (2005), organizational forms are based on one of the broad management logical structures, which are assumptions made about the nature of the organization and a means of justifying control. When analyzing the structure of organizations, the three generally accepted schools of classification are classical, modern and postindustrial (Dijksterhuis, et al., 1999). Classical management is closely aligned with closed, rational, post-modern systems (Scott & Davis, 2007). Child and Rodrigues (2003) stated that research attention has shifted from rational bureaucracies to post-modern organizational forms that contain no organizational boundaries. Hsu and Hannan (2005) argued that the development of standard organizational forms presents challenges because the scope of standardization is limited to the organization being studied. The authors wrote that organizational forms are mere abstractions of the “uniqueness of individual organizations and the typification of commonality” (p. 477).

Manzanares, et al. (2008) found that the “profound social, technological, and cultural changes taking place in contemporary societies require new forms of organization” (p. 87). The form of an organization plays an important part in the method responding to changes resulting from internal needs or external market forces (Dijksterhuis, et al., 1999). Organizations develop structures to align their operations and processes with their strategic objectives (Child & Rodrigues, 2003). According to Child and Rodrigues (2003), hierarchy has generally been the approach used by most organizations to control the execution of strategic objectives. In this context, hierarchy is used to define delegation of authority (Child & Rodrigues, 2003). The authors determined that hierarchy “minimizes information distortion by insulating top management from all the rent-seeking that would take place in a less hierarchal organization because subordinates are required to channel all upward communication through their immediate superiors” (Child & Rodrigues, 2003, p. 340). Organizations are beginning to move away from hierarchy to a more distributed network of knowledge because high-value knowledge is no longer exclusive to top managers (Child & Rodrigues, 2003).

Gender and Organizational Forms

Gender and gender-related behavior are important considerations of organizational forms (Olsson, 2001). As cited in Young and Hurlic (2007), Ridgeway and Smith-Lovin (1999) argued that gender is a system of social expectations created “within the context of socially constructed interpersonal interactions” (Olsson, 2001, p. 146). According to Page (2005), “organizational designs, practices, and cultures are constructed within economic, social, and cultural processes that are gendered” (p. 24). Perceptions of gender are brought into the workplace and deviations from historical expectations of gender roles are judged negatively (Laslett & Brenner, 1989; Ridgeway & Smith-Lovin, 1999; Young & Hurlic, 2007). Scherer and Petrick (2001) investigated gender and team performance within organizations and found that teams that are not composed of a dominant-gender had greater performance than those that did not. The authors suggested that this study confirms that gender plays a role in work outcomes and should be a consideration in organizational design strategies (Scherer & Petrick, 2001).
Gender within organizational forms consists of how organizations define the division of labor between males and females (Alvesson & Due Billing, 2009). In a study that more clearly investigated gender in organizations, Alvesson and Due Billing (2009) argued that gender is frequently referred to in literature as a reference to the inferior position held by women when compared to men in organizations. The authors suggested that gender in organizations is a much more complex phenomenon that has differing degrees of integration of organizational cultures, depending on the industry (Alvesson & Due Billing, 2009). Alvesson and Due Billing (2009) argued that support for gender equality in organizations is not a major consideration in organizations by males when a woman has a leadership role far removed from the daily work life of the male. Alvesson and Due Billing (2009) stated that male attitudes turn negative when the female leader becomes a direct manager of the male.

Gender and Paths to Leadership in Organizations

Many studies investigated the differences in paths to leadership between men and women within organizations (Carter, 2007; Dainty & Lingard, 2006; Ryan & Haslem, 2005). Dainty and Lingard (2006) argued that gender differences exist given that women find their paths to leadership are more “influenced by their life state and family expectations, as well as the interplay of structural organizational policies and culture” (p. 108) when compared to the paths taken by men. The authors argued that while women may have challenges in pursuing career paths because of family, societal expectations may discourage some women from pursuing certain careers regardless of their prerequisite education and experience. Schneer and Reitman (2002) provided a contrasting view to women seeking a comparable career path as men. In a study of men that did not have a spouse in the labor force, Schneer and Reitman (2002) found that those men achieved greater success than men or women whose spouses work. In other terms, men with a spouse that did not work had greater organizational success than both men and women whose spouses worked. Dainty and Lingard (2002) suggested that the research presents a challenge for women, as it shows that a woman’s success will possibly be at the cost of a traditional family life.

Femininity, as defined by Holmes and Schnurr (2006), is a term that has negative connotations as a result of “the exaggeration of features which are associated with the construction by women of a normative gender identity” (p. 32). Holmes and Schnurr (2006) explored the various forms of femininity within organizations and argued that women are generally held to a set feminine standard although “femininity is an ambiguous concept with complex associations” (p. 32). The dominant male images invoke a negative view of feminism or “femaleness” (p. 32), thus leading to informal barriers being presented to women seeking career advancement through established male paths to leadership (Holmes & Schnurr, 2006). Dainty and Lingard (2002) stated that women have dualistic expectations, conform to femaleness and “comply with male-oriented work practices” (p. 112). The authors argued that the designation of traditional male and female management roles and work practices are based on the traditional societal image of men and women, including the typical career pattern that “proceeds uninterrupted through education, to fulltime employment and retirement” (p. 110). Dainty and Lingard (2002) stated that this thinking is outdated, as in the last 60 years, the role of a woman remaining at home in a family care role is the exception today rather than the norm.