From Contradiction to Complexity: An Analysis of the Discourse Surrounding Gender Diversity, Harassment and Leadership in Professional Kitchens

Emilie Madsen Auensen & Henriette Einevoll Husby

Student thesis: Master thesis


We employ Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Feminist Post-structuralist Discourse Analysis (FPDA) to analyze interviews with chefs in Norway and Denmark. We isolate four key contradictions in the ways that the chefs we interviewed describe gender relations, harassment, and leadership dynamics in the restaurant industry. They all talk about the need for a more diverse and collaborative workplace environment, but they do so in ways that highlight the persistence of an individualized, competitive, and masculinist discourse about gender and leadership dynamics in the kitchen. While these contradictions can certainly contribute to the perpetuation of toxic kitchen cultures, we draw on Complexity Leadership Theory (CLT) to explain how, under the right conditions, they can also enable the emergence of new and more positive ways of interacting and working together. We argue that if chefs want to cultivate more adaptive ways of addressing gender dynamics and harassment, they would need first of all to recognize these contradictions and to acknowledge their role in perpetuating them. In line with CLT, we conclude that embracing and exploring these contradictions can contribute to the emergence of an adaptive space for the transformation of gender, diversity, and leadership dynamics in the kitchen. Where the role of sex and gender is found underexplored in organizational studies, we contribute by adding a gendered lens to CLT.

EducationsMSc in Strategy, Organization and Leadership, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages129
SupervisorsEric Guthey