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dc.contributor.authorBaumann, Heideen
dc.description.abstractThis thesis compares contemporary discourses on women and corporate leadership in Germany and the UK, examining scholarly and popular accounts. It identifies and interrogates five culturally hegemonic stories that circulate in business, academia and the public sphere: first, the story that men and women are “naturally” different and biologically suited for different destinies; second, the story that success wears high heels as (heterosexual) women can use erotic capital to get ahead; third, the story that there is a business case for gender parity because women are more effective leaders; fourth, the story that there is nothing or little left to fight for because the battle for gender equality has already been won, and finally, the story that women‘s advancement is a matter of personal choice and the only barriers to it are women themselves. These stories – codified as common sense and magnified through popular retellings by public intellectuals, journalists, and elite corporate leaders in both countries – claim to rest on science, empirical data, and theoretical proofs. Yet they are animated by a range of contradictions and rely on contested evidence and methods. My study shows that each story has a counternarrative developed by scholars from diverse disciplines and feminist critics who challenge the assertions and assumptions of the hegemonic stories. Both sets of narrators accuse each other of having ideological motives and getting their facts wrong. Counter-hegemonic narratives are inevitably less visible in the mainstream. Socialised in the context of the dominant stories, senior professional women in the UK and Germany embrace ideas of natural difference and the impossible contemporary demand that they combine all-consuming work with perfect motherhood. I interrogate how and why successful women are collaborating in paradoxical narratives: apparently agreeing, in Sheryl Sandberg’s internationally influential words, to “lean in” while also (in a paradoxical metaphorical feat) crossing “a minefield backwards in high heels”. The analysis reveals that, while some rhetorical moves and manifestations differ in Germany and the UK, there is a range of strikingly similar attitudes and outcomes. Over the past decade both countries have seen an acceleration in interest, publications, and policy interventions; the debate about women’s leadership and economic participation remains live. My study, which is the first to compare narratives of women’s leadership from the UK and Germany, contributes to the scholarly debate by isolating and analysing five key transnational narratives and providing a systematic analysis of dominant narratives of women’s leadership as they are contextualised by primarily scholarly counter-narratives.en
dc.rightsAll rights reserveden
dc.rightsAll rights reserveden
dc.subjectwomen in leadershipen
dc.subjectGender performativityen
dc.subjectGender in businessen
dc.subjectwomen corporate leadersen
dc.subjectnarratives about women leadersen
dc.titleWalking backwards in high heels: narratives of women’s (non)representation in corporate leadership in the UK and Germanyen
dc.type.qualificationnameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)en
dc.publisher.institutionUniversity of Cambridgeen
dc.publisher.collegeLucy Cavendish
cam.supervisorColvin, Sarah

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