The Dynamics of the Communicative Construction of Gender in the Career Development of Women: Trapped Between the 'Ideal Worker' and the 'Female Career'

Luise Maria Becher & Alena Eberlein

Student thesis: Master thesis


This paper examines how the communicative construction of gender plays a role in the career development of women. A qualitative study was conducted, including eleven in-depth interviews with employees of two German corporations. Drawing on a communicative perspective, we argue that gender is constructed communicatively in verbal and non-verbal communication acts and that gendered norms prevail in organizations. We describe expectations that have to be met to develop one’s career in the organizational context and explain how women make sense of their identity in the organizational context. We propose an inductively developed dynamic grounded theory model visualizing the interconnections between the communicative construction of gender, the resulting conflicting constructs of the ‘Ideal Worker’ and the ‘Female Career’, the tensions that emerge from this, as well as individual and organizational reactions. We conclude that women are exposed to mutually contradicting communication. Our study contributes to organization and communication studies by providing further understanding of women’s identity struggles in connection to career development and the prevalence of the male norm in organizations.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Diversity and Change Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages186
SupervisorsDennis Schoeneborn