Extending tokenism theory, and Kanter’s work on numerical representation within organisations, we emphasise the 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 article expands Kanter’s typology of roles, to capture token assimilation in a context-embedded way. In particular, we explore the interaction of a seemingly Western MNC espousing liberal values, rules and norms with the enduring patriarchal and traditional context of Saudi Arabia. Further adding texture to Kanter’s theory, this study reveals that the organisational context cannot be seen as fundamentally neutral and inevitably interacts with the societal context, resulting in unique manifestations of tokenism.
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- gender inequality
- role traps
- Saudi Arabia