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Key issues for gender research in HRD: a Multi-Stakeholder Framework for analysing gendered media constructions of women leaders

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Sharon MavinORCiD



Gender research can be a highly political process with significant impact, positively or negatively, on the researcher(s) and research participants. As a result there are key issues for consideration when preparing to undertake gender research in Human Resource Development (HRD). Gender research in HRD requires a mature level of researcher reflexivity in terms of personal understandings of gender; individual researcher values, philosophical positions and standpoints on gender; motivations for research; awareness of how gender research may construct researchers in their own professional settings and how research participants may respond to gender research. We contend that a process of researcher reflexivity, in critically reflecting upon and reviewing individual assumptions and standpoints, is essential before beginning gender research. Gender is a significant dimension of personal life, social relations and culture: an arena where we face difficult practical issues about justice, identity and even survival; where there is much prejudice, myth and falsehood, and where social sciences gender research is producing a relatively new form of knowledge (Connell, 2009). This chapter outlines key issues for gender researchers illustrated through research into gendered media constructions of women leaders. We introduce the importance of women leaders and gender aware learning and HRD and outline understandings of gender; diverse advances in gender research; consistency, harm, pleasure and power; participant-research relationships and the researcher’s position in gender research, by drawing upon our previous studies. We then present the key issues in practice, through our operationalization of a Multi-Stakeholder Framework for analysing gendered media constructions of women leaders. We utilize a mixed method design (Saunders, 2012) of statistical analysis of secondary data on women in senior positions in a UK region (geographies of gender); analysis of three Supplements of the Top 500 Influential Leaders via discourse analysis; a semi-structured interview with a media producer; group and individual interviews with selected aspiring and current women leaders and stages of on-going researcher reflexivity and accountability. We conclude with reflections on the constraints and possibilities of the multi-stakeholder framework approach. Women Leaders and Human Resource Development We follow Bryans’ and Mavin’s (2003) contention that much of what we know about learning and development has been based on the masculine norm and that management, organizing, learning and development have been historically viewed as gender neutral concepts where women’s experiences are ignored. An example of this comes through education and development in UK business and management higher education settings where curricula and leader development interventions are argued to “to collude with the status quo; simply repeating existing management theory and practice” which is gendered (Mavin and Bryans 1999:99). In terms of HRD, our assumption is that women’s leadership experiences and strategies for learning leadership should be integrated into management and leader development, thus placing gender on the agenda, problematizing traditional perceptions of manager and leader as men and supporting the move to disrupt and “dismantle sex role stereotypes in the organisations to which the students (will) belong” (Mavin and Bryans, 1999:99). While there are increasing studies investigating the gendered nature of: leadership, management and learning research, subsequent models and frameworks (e.g., Bryans and Mavin, 2003; Elliott and Stead, 2008) and investigating empirically into women, gender management, learning and leadership (e.g., Kelan, 2013; Stead, 2013), there are few studies examining social contexts and processes which influence and ‘shape the development of leadership practice’ (Kempster and Stewart, 2010: 208). The research we outline in this chapter advances contexts and processes impacting on leadership by exploring how women leaders are gendered through media representations and reporting.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mavin S, Williams J

Editor(s): Saunders M; Tosey P;

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: The Handbook of Research Methods on Human Resource Development

Year: 2015

Pages: 340-357

Print publication date: 31/07/2015

Acceptance date: 24/07/2014

Publisher: Edward Elgar

Place Published: Cheltenham


DOI: 10.4337/9781781009246.00033

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781781009239