Chapter 10

Representing the Successful Managerial Body

Kate Kenny and Emma Bell

National University of Ireland, Ireland University of Exeter Business School, UK


You will, in a real sense, be embodying the job you perform . . .

Pogrebin, 1970

What should the successful woman manager look like? What clothes, make-up, hairstyle ought she to wear; how should she stand, sit, speak, and act? In this chapter we draw on our analysis of self-help books written between 1970 and 2007 to illustrate some recurring themes in the way that women managers are encouraged to perform their bodies. We show how these issues have been interpreted by researchers in the fields of gender, embodiment, and organization and offer some suggestions as to how these norms might be questioned.

Many researchers of organization observe that the managerial body is inherently masculine (Pringle, 1989; Marshall, 1984; Collinson and Hearn, 1996; McDowell, 1997). Fitting in with such a norm is therefore a difficult, if not impossible task for female managers who tend to exhibit different bodily traits. In such contexts, female managers can feel they are required to prove themselves in a setting that perceives them as abnormal from the start (McDowell, 1997). To cope with this dilemma, women managers often turn to self-help books which promise to help them be taken seriously and to get ahead by learning how to conform. These books offer advice on many aspects of being a woman manager but in particular they ...

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