Is it all tough talking at the top? A post-structuralist analysis of the construction of gendered speaker identities of British business leaders within interview narratives

Judith A. Baxter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This paper uses a feminist post-structuralist approach to examine the gendered identities of a sample of British business leaders in Britain. While recent national surveys offer many material reasons why women are acutely under-represented as business leaders, the role of language is rarely addressed. This paper explores the ways in which ten senior women and men construct their sense of leadership identities through the medium of interview narratives. Drawing upon two poststructuralist models of analysis (Derrida’s 1987 theory of deconstruction and Bakhtin’s 1927/1981 concept of double-voiced discourse), the paper shows how both females and males are able to shift pragmatically between interwoven corporate discourses, which demand competing cultural allegiances from one moment to the next, allegiances constantly tested by the rapid change and uncertainty that characterise global business. While male leaders experience a relative freedom of movement between different cultural discourses, female leaders are circumscribed by negative and reductive representations of female speech and behaviour. In sum, senior women are required constantly to observe, review, police and repair their use of leadership language, which potentially undermines their confidence and authority as leaders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-222
Number of pages26
JournalGender and Language
Volume2
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

First publication by Gender and Language and Equinox

Keywords

  • feminist post-structuralist approach
  • gendered identities
  • British business leaders
  • language
  • poststructuralist models of analysis
  • competing cultural allegiances
  • global business
  • leadership language
  • leaders

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