Making sense of female CEOs' leadership communication: does the male-female mix of the workplace make a difference?
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Commerce
This study examines how female CEOs make sense of their communication with subordinates in three different types of organisations: those with predominantly female staff, those with predominantly male staff, and organisations where neither sex predominates. As this study sought to understand how female CEOs made sense of their leader-member communication experiences, an interpretive research design was adopted. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 female CEOs from a range of sectors throughout New Zealand. Thematic analysis was applied to the data to produce a framework that explains how female CEOs experience leader-member communication in organisations with workforces of different sex compositions. This framework proposes that personal style, sociocultural background and organisational size were perceived by the CEOs as having a greater influence on leader-member communication than the sex of the CEO or subordinate. The framework also suggests that male and female gender stereotypes were being applied in some sensemaking accounts, despite CEOs’ assertions that these did not affect leader-member communication. This finding suggests the presence of an unconscious bias that is at odds with the CEOs’ stated beliefs about workplace leader-member communication. This is an important finding as it suggests a tension exists between explicit and tacit expectations, which has the potential to influence communication between CEOs and their subordinates. A major inference of this study is that CEOs would benefit from consciousness training to help identify this unconscious bias and strategize ways to minimise the effect it has on their workplace communication expectations and practices.
Keywords: sensemaking, female CEOs, leader-member communication, mix of sexes, gender-stereotypes, unconscious bias