Publication Details

Barrett, M. (2009). Have they learnt to interrupt?: Comparing how women management students and senior women managers in Australia perceive workplace communication dilemmas. Gender in Management: an International Journal, 24 (6), 432-454.


Purpose - Changing language ideology and the decreased popularity of overt feminism suggest that aspiring female managers may be less influenced than senior women managers by the gender of the speaker in evaluating whether specific communication strategies are effective and probable. The study investigates this issue. Design/methodology/approach - 255 second-year female management students evaluated strategies for the same workplace dilemmas as senior women managers (Barrett 2004). Findings - For short and medium term dilemmas students, like senior women managers, regarded masculine communication strategies with a feminine element as effective. They were less influenced by the speaker's gender than senior women managers in evaluating the strategies' probability. But when seeking promotion, students avoided some strategies they considered effective, and believed men would use. Students' confidence as communicators affected their personal choice of strategy. Research limitations/implications The study investigated a limited number of dilemmas and sought information about a limited number of demographic factors, limiting the results' generalizability. Nevertheless it suggests future women managers could learn from their senior counterparts if they want to advance at work. Future research - Future research should investigate whether future male managers' reactions to these dilemmas are similar to women students and senior managers, and whether scenarios using female dyads yield similar results. Cross-cultural extensions of the research are also possible. Originality/value - This is the first study comparing aspiring and senior women managers' reactions to classic workplace communication problems. The findings show similarities between aspiring managers and their senior sisters, but also differences which could affect aspiring managers' career success.



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