Exclusion and Inclusion in the Danish Military: A Historical Analysis of the Construction and Consequences of a Gendered Organizational Narrative

Sara Louise Muhr, Beate Sløk-Andersen

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine why and how past stories of women’s insufficiency for military work survive and how they come to form a gendered organizational narrative dominant in constructing current opinions on women in the military.
Design/methodology/approach: The analysis is based mainly on archival data, but supported by interview material as well as participant observation data. The authors do this from the assumption that the culturally constructed notion of the ideal soldier is based on a historically constructed professional narrative.
Findings: The authors show how a historically produced gender narrative – based on (fictional) stories on what women can and cannot do – is perceived as true and thereby casts women as less suitable for a military career. Thus, despite the current equal legal rights of men and women in the military, the power of the narrative limits female soldiers’ career possibilities.
Originality/value: The paper is unique as it, in drawing on archival data, is able to trace how an organizational narrative comes to be and due to its ethnographic data how this creates limitations for women’s careers. This narrative is stronger and much more powerful than management is aware of. The paper therefore adds crucial knowledge about the ideological influence a historically produced organizational narrative can have on current change initiatives.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Organizational Change Management
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)367-379
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Inclusion
  • Military
  • Exclusion
  • Diversity change programmes
  • Gender narrative

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