Overcoming the glass barriers: Reflection and action in the “Women to the top” programme
Journal article, 2008
Numerous equality programmes have been launched with the aim of promoting a more gender equal work life, yet little substantial action has been reported. This article presents a study of the Women to the Top programme in Sweden, supported by the European Union (EU) and aimed at promoting more women into top management positions. The research suggests that large-scale projects assembling such heterogeneous actors as industry representatives, politicians and scholars tend to generate further reflection and discussion rather than promoting adequate and highly needed action. Drawing upon Brunsson's distinction between action rationality and decision rationality, the relatively modest effects of large-scale equality programmes are examined, not in terms of a lack of commitment or competence on the part of the participants but as a matter of the disjunction between reflection and action. Reconciling reflection and action, that is, emphasizing not only reflection on gender inequality but also privileging various forms of practical action (such as new policies, the appointment of female managers, restructuring gendered wage inequalities or new recruitment procedures), is therefore a top priority for policymakers desiring more substantial changes in the gendered outline of industry.