How Organisational Culture Keeps Professional Women From Achieving

I recently reviewed Women’s Work, Men’s Cultures by Sarah Ruterford for People Management . It’s an insightful book that gets under the skin of how organisational culture is at the root of women’s lack of progress in the workplace. It asks the uncomfortable questions about what it will take to change organisational fabric to harness the potential of a truly diverse workforce.

Uniquely for books on women in the workplace, she sets the scene by detailing societies devaluation of women – through domestic violence, hyper-sexualisation and a lack of global economic equality with men. She posits: “If women are not valued and respected in wider society, organisations have a steep hill to climb if they are to insist on value, respect and fairness within their own workplaces.”

Rutherford poses insightful questions about how organisations should recognise most women have responsibilities outside of the home that far exceed their male colleagues. For example some larger employers have facilities such as dry cleaners, a gym, or an onsite convenience stor to ease domestic responsibilities largely borne by women. Do employees in Diversity have a seat at ‘the top’ or are they shouldered with ‘transforming corporate culture’ while having little real influence? Indeed, does an employer make efforts to encourage flexible working for all or is the emphasis on a long-hours culture, attractive executive assistants and sports-heavy corporate entertaining? As Rutherford points out, a corporate website can feature happy faces of racially diverse men and women, but if the drop down list of senior employees and board members are primarily white men – it belies the image they would like to portray.

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