23 January 20

Is it a man’s world? – Gender and leader roles in maritime

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Is it a man’s world? – Gender and leader roles in maritime


Title: Is it a man’s world? – Gender and leader roles in maritime
Author(s): Vedenpää, Leena
Date: 2019
Language: en
Pages: 78
Department: Johtamisen laitos
Thesis advisor(s): Ji, Young
Keywords: leadershiprole congruity theorymaritimefemale leadershipstereotypes
Location: P1 I  |  Archive
OEV Publication only in digital format

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Women still face obstacles in reaching leadership positions, despite the changes in attitudes towards equal opportunities. These obstacles are especially evident in the maritime field where only small percentage of the employees are women. This research studied the leader and gender roles in male-dominated field maritime in Finland using a framework based on the role congruity theory. In the framework, descriptive norms on what women are and do, and injunctive norms on what women should be and do, create the gender and leader roles. In the case of incongruence between these roles, women are not seen as leaders and when they reach leadership positions, they are judged on not adhering to the gender role. Research has shown that men don’t connect women and feminine characteristics to successful leaders and even though women may receive higher job performance grades, they still receive fewer promotions. Women don’t also emerge as leaders as often as men do. The leader and gender roles can be mitigated with factors related to the perceiver and the context.

In my research I interviewed eight women leaders in the field of maritime in Finland, and aimed to discover their experiences with regards to the gender and leader expectations they have faced in their careers. These women had several years of leadership experience from the field, now working office jobs, but three of them having experience from working onboard also. I used feminist research methodology to tell the experiences that these women have met with regards to stereotypes and leadership views in the maritime sector.

The leader role in the maritime sector is built on the operation of the ships; the management of things and operations in a context of high responsibility and stakes, building and agentic leader role, where decision-making is fast and orders are needed to be executed. The gender role in maritime is fairly masculine, as work on ships has been seen as work of men, as it has been tough and demanding, and women have faced the need to prove their worth in positions on board. The interviewees had faced, especially onboard, situations of prejudice, but in the office jobs these were less frequent. The women felt that is was nice to be a woman in the maritime field in Finland, and that in many ways it was easy to stand out in a good way.

In summary, women face obstacles based on gender stereotypes that could be eliminated to create more equality to male-dominated fields. However, in maritime there was also indication that in leadership positions the performance is valued more than gender once the leader had proven the capabilities. Women were able to gain advantage in their careers from combining communal and agentic leadership features, as the feminine characteristics were seen to bring a balancing feature to the masculine leadership in the maritime and there seemed to be a demand for also more communal leadership style. This combination of styles and emphasis on the communal side is also in line with the changing leadership style in business. It would seem that the gender role is thus changing onboard also, which would then reflect to positions at the office also. More women would be entering maritime professions, at the same time creating a more appealing environment for other women.

Permanent link to this item:  http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:aalto-202001121507