Syed, Jawad and Murray, Peter A. (2008) A cultural feminist approach towards managing diversity in top management teams. Equal Opportunities International, 27 (5). pp. 413-432. ISSN 0261-0159

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to challenge the customary emphasis on masculine values in top management teams (TMTs) and offer a cultural feminist approach to improving women's participation in leadership roles in organisations.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper builds on the theory of diversity and “difference”, instead of “sameness”, to demonstrate the relationship between feminine values, team member diversity, and team effectiveness. The paper develops a three-tier approach to making better use of gender diversity in TMTs: unravel masculine hegemony in the workplace; create awareness of distinct values offered by women as team members and team leaders; and progress team diversity from the customary token representation to gender inclusive team structures and routines.

Findings – The paper suggests that TMTs benefit when learning to accommodate and integrate feminine values, along with masculine values, into an inclusive work culture that enhances teams’ performing capacities.

Research limitations/implications – Token representation is only one dimension of gendered disadvantage. Several complex forms of gendered disadvantage reside at macro-level or extra-organisational layers of life. Therefore, tackling masculine hegemony should involve a multilevel approach that tackles gendered disadvantage in domains as wide as work, organisation, and society.

Practical implications – Through the three-tier framework for managing diversity in TMTs, the paper offers a practical way forward, moving beyond the current functional-structured approach towards TMTs.

Originality/value – The paper argues that conventional diversity management practices remain influenced by a hegemonic masculine approach towards increasing women's participation in employment. Furthermore, a narrow emphasis on “sameness” instead of “diversity” of women and men reinforces male hegemony, contributing to the perpetuation of low numbers of women in TMTs.