Catch-22: Token women trying to reconcile an impossible contradiction between organizational and societal expectations

Maryam Aldossari, Sara Chaudhry, Ahu Tatli, Cathrine Seierstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Extending tokenism theory, and Kanter’s (1977a & b) work on numerical representation specifically, we emphasize the external, societal context of gender inequality in order to understand token women’s lived experiences at work. Based on analysis of 29 in-depth interviews in a multinational (MNC) situated in the distinctive socio-institutional setting of Saudi Arabia, the paper expands Kanter’s (1977a) typology of roles, to capture token assimilation in a context embedded way. In particular, we explore the contradictory interaction of a seemingly Western MNC espousing liberal values, rules and norms within the enduring patriarchal and traditional context of Saudi Arabia. Further adding texture to Kanter’s (1977a & b) theory, this study reveals that the organizational context cannot be seen as fundamentally neutral and inevitably interacts with the societal context, resulting in unique manifestations of tokenism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 28 Jun 2021

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