Keith Murnighan* and Dora Lau
Group faultlines are hypothetical dividing lines that may split a group into subgroups based on one or more attributes. An example of a strong faultline is a group of two young female Asians and two senior male Caucasians. Members’ alignment of age, sex, and ethnicity facilitates the formation of two homogeneous subgroups. On the other hand, when a group consists of a young female Asian, a young male Caucasian, a senior female Caucasian, and a senior male Asian, the group faultline is considered weak because subgroups, regardless of how they are formed, are diverse.
As a relatively new form of group compositional pattern, the group faultline is associated with subgroup formation, and these subgroups, rather than the whole group, can easily become the focus of attention. When members strive to obtain more resources and protect their subgroups, between-subgroup conflict, behavioral disintegration, lack of trust, lack of willingness to share information, and communication challenges are likely. As a result, group performance is often negatively affected, and sometimes groups may even be dissolved. These results were repeatedly found in studies of experimental groups, ad-hoc project groups, organizational teams, top management teams, global virtual teams, family businesses, international joint ventures, and strategic alliances.
Elisabeth Anna Guenther, Anne Laure Humbert, and Elisabeth Kristina Kelan
Gender research goes beyond adding sex as an independent, explanatory category. To conduct gender research in the field of business and management, therefore, it is important to apply a more sophisticated understanding of gender that resonates with contemporary gender theory. This entails taking the social construction of gender and its implications for research into consideration. Seeing gender as a social construct means that the perception of “women” and “men,” of “femininity/ties” and “masculinity/ties,” is the outcome of an embodied social practice.
Gender research is commonly sensitive to notions of how power is reproduced and challenges concepts such as “hegemonic masculinity” and “heteronormativity.” The first highlights power relations between gender groups, as well as the different types of existing masculinities. The latter emphasizes the pressure to rely on a binary concept of “women” and “men” and how this is related to heterosexuality, desire, and the body. Gender research needs to avoid the pitfalls of a narrow, essentialist concept of “women” and “men” that draws on this binary understanding of gender. It is also important to notice that not all women (or men) share the same experiences. The critique of Black feminists and scholars from the global South promoted the idea of intersectionality and postcolonialism within gender research. Intersectionality addresses the entanglement of gender with other social categories, such as age, class, disability, race, or religion, while postcolonial approaches criticize the neglect of theory and methodology originating in the global South and question the prevalence of concepts from the global North.
Various insights from gender theory inform business and management research in various ways. Concepts such as the “gendered organization” or “inequality regime” can be seen as substantial contributions of gender theory to organization theory. Analyzing different forms of masculinities and exploring ways in which gender is undone within organizations (or whether a supposedly gender-neutral organization promotes a masculine norm) can offer thought-provoking insights into organizational processes. Embracing queer theory, intersectionality, and postcolonial approaches in designing research allows for a broader image of the complex social reality. Altogether management studies benefit from sound, theoretically well-grounded gender research.
Corporate governance is a central issue in business and economics. However, governance in financial institutions is more complicated than in other fields because of the nature of financial services and instruments. Financial organizations are similar to other businesses in terms of their purposes of establishment, but confidence in management and complex risk structures are more important in financial organizations than in other businesses. In financial institutions, there are various areas in which problems arise that are related to corporate governance, including the agency problem and stakeholder protection. The importance of good governance for sound performance of financial institutions was reconfirmed during the 2008 financial crisis, raising the need to understand the agency problems and the efficiency of various corporate governance mechanisms in mitigating them. International organizations, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Basel Committee, the International Finance Corporation, and the International Organization of Securities Commissions, have been working with regulators and policy makers to improve corporate governance practices both in nonfinancial and financial institutions. Corporate governance, especially in financial institutions, is essential in guaranteeing a sound financial system, capital markets, and sustainable economic growth. Governance weaknesses at financial institutions can result in the transmission of problems across the finance sector and the economy. Consequently, the effectiveness of governance mechanisms of financial institutions and capital markets after financial crises had significant importance in a period that witnessed an intensive discussion of corporate governance issues with new regulations and the related academic works.
Intersectionality is a critical framework that provides us with the mindset and language for examining interconnections and interdependencies between social categories and systems. Intersectionality is relevant for researchers and for practitioners because it enhances analytical sophistication and offers theoretical explanations of the ways in which heterogeneous members of specific groups (such as women) might experience the workplace differently depending on their ethnicity, sexual orientation, and/or class and other social locations. Sensitivity to such differences enhances insight into issues of social justice and inequality in organizations and other institutions, thus maximizing the chance of social change.
The concept of intersectional locations emerged from the racialized experiences of minority ethnic women in the United States. Intersectional thinking has gained increased prominence in business and management studies, particularly in critical organization studies. A predominant focus in this field is on individual subjectivities at intersectional locations (such as examining the occupational identities of minority ethnic women). This emphasis on individuals’ experiences and within-group differences has been described variously as “content specialization” or an “intracategorical approach.” An alternate focus in business and management studies is on highlighting systematic dynamics of power. This encompasses a focus on “systemic intersectionality” and an “intercategorical approach.” Here, scholars examine multiple between-group differences, charting shifting configurations of inequality along various dimensions.
As a critical theory, intersectionality conceptualizes knowledge as situated, contextual, relational, and reflective of political and economic power. Intersectionality tends to be associated with qualitative research methods due to the central role of giving voice, elicited through focus groups, narrative interviews, action research, and observations. Intersectionality is also utilized as a methodological tool for conducting qualitative research, such as by researchers adopting an intersectional reflexivity mindset. Intersectionality is also increasingly associated with quantitative and statistical methods, which contribute to intersectionality by helping us understand and interpret the individual, combined (additive or multiplicative) effects of various categories (privileged and disadvantaged) in a given context. Future considerations for intersectionality theory and practice include managing its broad applicability while attending to its sociopolitical and emancipatory aims, and theoretically advancing understanding of the simultaneous forces of privilege and penalty in the workplace.
Pierre-Yves Donzé and Rika Fujioka
The luxury business has been one of the fastest growing industries since the late 1990s. Despite numerous publications in management and business history, it is still difficult to have a clear idea of what “luxury” is, what the characteristics of this business are, and what the dynamics of the industry are. With no consensus on the definition of luxury among scholars and authors, the concept thus requires discussion. Luxury is commonly described as the high-end market segment, but the delimitation of the lower limit of this segment and its differentiation from common consumer goods are rather ambiguous. Authors use different terminology to describe products in this grey zone (such as “accessible luxury,” “new luxury,” and “prestige brands”).
Despite the ambiguous definition of “luxury,” various companies have described their own businesses in this way, and consumers perceive them as producers of luxury goods and services. Research on luxury business has focused mostly on four topics: (1) the evolution of its industrial organization since the 1980s (the emergence of large conglomerates such as Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE or LVMH, and the reorganization of small and medium-sized enterprises); (2) production systems (the introduction of European companies into global value chains, and the role of country of origin labels and counterfeiting); (3) brand management (using heritage and tradition to build luxury brands); and (4) access to consumers (customization versus standardization). Lastly, new marketing communication strategies have recently been adopted by companies, namely customer relations via social media and the creation of online communities.
Jacqueline A. Gilbert
Organizational diversity is regarded positively, but haphazardly embraced. The absence of a cultural mandate at work (one which includes an emphasis on managing differences) can result in minority assimilation, and in either unintended bullying or in intentional abuse. Declining stock price, loss of goodwill, inability to recruit qualified candidates, and internal havoc marked by perpetuation of firm dysfunction may occur. These outcomes are especially alarming in the face of transformative population growth, in which minorities are predicted to become the demographic majority within the United States.
Inattention to employee misconduct prevents firms from experiencing enhanced productivity. Encouraging civil behavior is thus essential to engendering camaraderie in a diverse workforce, in which incivilities, or micro-inequities, are disproportionately targeted at minority groups. Management modeling of appropriate behavior (and swift action toward perpetrators for non-compliance) are necessary to achieve human capital integration.
Jeff Hearn and David Collinson
Even though gender and gender analysis are still often equated with women, men and masculinities are equally gendered. This applies throughout society, including within organizations. Following pioneering feminist scholarship on work and organizations, explicitly gendered studies on men and masculinities have increased since the 1980s. The need to include the gendered analysis of men and masculinities as part of gender studies of organizations, leadership, and management, is now widely recognized at least within gender research. Yet, this insight continues to be ignored or downplayed in mainstream work and even in some studies seen as “critical.” Indeed the vast majority of mainstream work on organizations still has either no gender analysis whatsoever or relies on a very simplistic and rather crude understanding of gender dynamics.
Research on men and masculinities has been wide ranging and has raised important new issues about gendered dynamics in organizations, including cultures and countercultures on factory shopfloors; historical transformations of men and management in reproducing patriarchies; the relations of bureaucracy, men, and masculinities; management-labor relations as interrelations of masculinities; managerial and professional identity formation; managerial homosociality; and the interplay of diverse occupational masculinities. Research has revealed how structures, cultures, and practices of men and masculinities continue to persist and to dominate in many contemporary organizations. Having said this, the concepts of gender, of men and masculinities, and of organization have all been subject to complex and contradictory processes that entail both their explicit naming and their simultaneous deconstruction and critique. This is illustrated, respectively, in the intersectional construction of gender; the pressing need to name men as men in analysis of organizational dominance, but also deconstruct the category of men as provisional; and in the multiplication of organizational forms as, for example, interorganizational relations, net-organizations, and cyberorganizations.
These contradictory historical and conceptual namings and deconstructions are especially important in the analysis of transnational organizations operating within the context of globalization, transnationalizations, production, reproduction, and trans(national) patriarchies. Within transnational organizations such as large gendered multinational enterprises, the taken-for-granted nature of transnational gendered hierarchies and cultures persists in management, maintained partly through commonalities across difference, gendered horizontal specializations, and controls. Transnational organizations are key sites for the production of a variety of developing forms of (transnational) business masculinities, some more individualistic, some marriage based, some nation based, some transcending nation. These masculinities have clear implications for gendered practices in private spheres, including the provision of domestic servicing often by Black and minority ethnic women. The growth of the knowledge economy brings further complications to these transnational patterns, through elaboration of techno-masculinities, and interactions of men, masculinities, and information and communication technologies. This is particularly relevant in the international financial sector, where constructions of men and masculinities are impacted by the gendering of capital and financial crisis, and gender regimes of financial institutions, as in men financiers’ risky behavior. Further studies are needed addressing the “gender-neutral” hegemony of organizations, leaderships, and managements, especially in transnational arenas, and organizations subject to changing technologies. Other key research issues concern analysis of neglected intersectionalities, including intersectional privileges, male/masculine/men’s bodies, and the taken-for-granted category of “men” in and around organizations.
Organizational happiness is an intuitively attractive idea, notwithstanding the difficulty of defining happiness. A preference for unhappiness rather than happiness in an organization would be out of tune with community expectations in most societies, as would an organization that promoted unhappiness. Some argue that organizational happiness is a misconception, that happiness is a personality trait and organizations cannot have personality. Others suggest that organizational happiness is derived from, or at least dependent on, the happiness of the individuals in the organization. A third approach involves virtue ethics, linking organizational happiness to virtuous organizations. Some discussion of the nature of happiness is needed before consideration of these three approaches to the concept of organizational happiness. If one leaves aside the notion of happiness as a psychological state, there remain three main views as to the nature of happiness: one based on a hedonistic view, which grounds happiness in pleasure, one based on the extent to which desire is satisfied, and one where happiness is linked to a life of virtuous activity and the fulfillment of human potential. Some would see no distinction between all three senses of happiness and what is called well-being.
Whether or not organizations can experience happiness is to some extent determined by whether happiness is considered subjective well-being, fulfilled desire, or virtue and to some extent by one’s view of the moral nature of corporations. There are dangers in the unfettered pursuit of happiness. Empirical research is impacted by questions of definition, by changes over time for both individuals and society, and by the difficulty that arises from reliance on self-reported data. Recent decades have seen the publication of quantitative assessments of organizational happiness, despite the difficulty of constructing scales and manipulating data, and the problems of effectively taking into account cultural, organizational, and individual differences in concepts of happiness. Potential research questions fall into two groups, those that seek a better understanding of what happiness is and those that seek to collect data about happiness in pursuit of answers to questions about the benefits of happiness.
Isabel Boni-Le Goff and Nicky Le Feuvre
Professions or professional occupations have been studied through a large number of empirical and theoretical lenses over the last decades: as potential substitutes for organizations and markets, as protected labor markets, and as the site of the subjective experiences and socialization processes of their members. Combining a sociological and a gender perspective, a growing number of studies have shed new light on the growth and dynamics of professional occupations since the mid-20th century. They show how the massive entry of women into the upper reaches of Western labor markets has played a major role in the expansion and reconfiguration of the professions. However, by studying the barriers to women’s access to once exclusively masculine environments, scholars tend to show that the feminization processes coexist with persistent inequalities in income, promotion opportunities, career patterns, and access to leadership positions, popularized by the metaphor of the “glass ceiling” effect.
These contradicting trends—numerical feminization and the persistence of gender inequalities—have inspired a large range of empirical research projects and conceptual innovations. This article distinguishes three ways of framing the gendered dynamics of professional and managerial occupations.
A first way of framing the issue adopts a resolutely structural perspective, presenting feminization as a process that ultimately leads to the crystallization of traditional gender inequalities, thus confronting women with the risk of deprofessionalization or dequalification. Some of these studies observe variations in the rhythms and patterns of feminization across occupations. They reveal complex processes whereby the overall increase in women’s education levels comes with the persistence of gender-differentiated choices of study and occupation. Rhythms and patterns of feminization may also differ within a given occupation, from one specialty to another and from one type of organization to another, depending on the internal hierarchy of the occupation. Very significant gaps may also be observed according to employment status: wage labor or self-employment, for example.
A second way of framing the question adopts an organizational-level perspective; showing, for example, that a “glass ceiling” systematically hampers women’s career progression in all sectors of the labor market. These studies explore the combination of direct and indirect discriminatory processes—from the persistence of “old boys’ networks” to the legitimation of certain gendered body images of professionalism—within different organizational and professional contexts. In the face of such resistance, women’s career progression is particularly slow and arduous, both due to the prevailing symbolic norms of leadership models and due to the collective strategies of closure by male professionals at the organizational level.
Finally, a third way of framing the issue adopts a more holistic perspective, with a stronger focus on the agency of women within the occupational context and on the societal implications of changes to the gender composition of the professions. These studies insist on the potential or real changes that women may bring to the professional ethos and to the occupation-specific “rules of the game” in previously male-dominated bastions. Interested in the undoing of conventional norms of masculinity and fathering as well as of femininity and mothering, this third perspective explores a potential shift to more egalitarian gender arrangements at the organizational, interpersonal, and societal levels.
Sarah A. Soule
Do the activities of social movements (e.g., public protest, shareholder activism, boycotts, and sabotage) impact businesses, and if so, how do they impact businesses? When confronted by activist demands, how do firms respond, and does this response vary depending on who the activists are and what their relationship is to the firm? Answering these questions is critical for businesses and activists alike, as we move into an era of heightened activism directed at firms. A growing area of research that is situated at the intersection of economic and political sociology, social movement studies, history, and organizational theory, tackles these questions, in an increasingly methodologically sophisticated and nuanced manner. As a result, a number of important articles and books have been published, and several high-profile, interdisciplinary conferences have been held. This body of research shows that social movements have both direct and indirect effects on businesses, and that these effects are amplified by media attention to activism. For example, we know that activism impacts the financial performance of firms, as well as their reputation. And, we know that the activities of social movements have consequences on firm policies and practices. In turn, businesses have developed a varied repertoire of ways to respond to activist demands. While some businesses ignore activists, others decide to retaliate against activists. Increasingly, businesses concede to the demands of activists in material ways by changing policies and practices that are criticized, while others devise symbolic ways to respond to activist demands, thereby preserving their reputation without necessarily changing their activities.