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date: 27 January 2020

Men, Masculinities, and Gender Relations

Summary and Keywords

Even though gender and gender analysis are still often equated with women, men and masculinities are equally gendered. This applies throughout society, including within organizations. Following pioneering feminist scholarship on work and organizations, explicitly gendered studies on men and masculinities have increased since the 1980s. The need to include the gendered analysis of men and masculinities as part of gender studies of organizations, leadership, and management, is now widely recognized at least within gender research. Yet, this insight continues to be ignored or downplayed in mainstream work and even in some studies seen as “critical.” Indeed the vast majority of mainstream work on organizations still has either no gender analysis whatsoever or relies on a very simplistic and rather crude understanding of gender dynamics.

Research on men and masculinities has been wide ranging and has raised important new issues about gendered dynamics in organizations, including cultures and countercultures on factory shopfloors; historical transformations of men and management in reproducing patriarchies; the relations of bureaucracy, men, and masculinities; management-labor relations as interrelations of masculinities; managerial and professional identity formation; managerial homosociality; and the interplay of diverse occupational masculinities. Research has revealed how structures, cultures, and practices of men and masculinities continue to persist and to dominate in many contemporary organizations. Having said this, the concepts of gender, of men and masculinities, and of organization have all been subject to complex and contradictory processes that entail both their explicit naming and their simultaneous deconstruction and critique. This is illustrated, respectively, in the intersectional construction of gender; the pressing need to name men as men in analysis of organizational dominance, but also deconstruct the category of men as provisional; and in the multiplication of organizational forms as, for example, interorganizational relations, net-organizations, and cyberorganizations.

These contradictory historical and conceptual namings and deconstructions are especially important in the analysis of transnational organizations operating within the context of globalization, transnationalizations, production, reproduction, and trans(national) patriarchies. Within transnational organizations such as large gendered multinational enterprises, the taken-for-granted nature of transnational gendered hierarchies and cultures persists in management, maintained partly through commonalities across difference, gendered horizontal specializations, and controls. Transnational organizations are key sites for the production of a variety of developing forms of (transnational) business masculinities, some more individualistic, some marriage based, some nation based, some transcending nation. These masculinities have clear implications for gendered practices in private spheres, including the provision of domestic servicing often by Black and minority ethnic women. The growth of the knowledge economy brings further complications to these transnational patterns, through elaboration of techno-masculinities, and interactions of men, masculinities, and information and communication technologies. This is particularly relevant in the international financial sector, where constructions of men and masculinities are impacted by the gendering of capital and financial crisis, and gender regimes of financial institutions, as in men financiers’ risky behavior. Further studies are needed addressing the “gender-neutral” hegemony of organizations, leaderships, and managements, especially in transnational arenas, and organizations subject to changing technologies. Other key research issues concern analysis of neglected intersectionalities, including intersectional privileges, male/masculine/men’s bodies, and the taken-for-granted category of “men” in and around organizations.

Keywords: gender, gender relations, knowledge, management, masculinities, men, multinational enterprises, organizations, transnational


Organizations are gendered—in their formation and existence in the context of wider societal social relations, and in their internal organizational structures and processes, documentation, social texts, and everyday fabric. “The gendering of organizations” and “the gendered organization” have become established notions as ways of talking about gender relations in and around organizations. Since the 1980s there has been an upsurge of feminist, feministic, and occasionally profeminist, researches, books, and collections on gender and organizations (for example, Broadbridge & Fielden, 2015; Burke & Major, 2014; Cockburn, 1983, 1991; Collinson, Knights, & Collinson, 1990; Davidson & Burke, 1994, 2000; Ely, Foldy, Scully, & The Center for Gender in Organizations, Simmons School of Management, 2003; Halford & Leonard, 2001; Hearn & Parkin, 1987/1995, 2001; Jeanes, Knights, & Martin, 2011; Kumra, Simpson, & Burke, 2014; Mills & Tancred, 1992; Rantalaiho & Heiskanen, 1997; Wilson, 2003). The area of gender and organizations has been inspired directly and indirectly by feminism and feminist theory, and is now recognized in at least some arenas of power outside of itself, for example, in national and international science policy, as relatively more legitimate and important than previously. It has been influenced by critical developments in studies on men and masculinities, organizations and management, intersectionality, sexuality, and embodiment.

At the same time, the vast majority of mainstream, or malestream, work on organizations, leadership, and management has either no gender analysis whatsoever or is informed by a very simple and crude understanding of gender dynamics. Moreover, where gender is “brought in,” it is not necessarily done so in a progressive, feminist, or profeminist way. Even so-called critical scholarship on organizations and management, as in some “Critical Management Studies” does not necessarily engage with gender relations. It may be concerned with class, labor process, resistance, power, control, discourse, postmodernity, and so on, but it does not necessarily take gender into account. Despite their apparent criticality, the failure to problematize gender as a key intersecting aspect of organizational power relations and practices tends to reproduce gender asymmetries and consequently women’s subordination.

A second complication concerns men and masculinities in organizations. Studies of gender and organizations, of gendered organizations, even though explicitly and critically dealing with gender relations, may or may not address the critical analysis of men and masculinities. Even among critical studies, “gender” is still often read to mean, or primarily mean, “women,” and certainly so in the wider realms of organizations and management, in research and as practiced. Such complications stand alongside the social fact that in most organizations, workplaces, and industrial sectors in most countries men and certain masculinities continue to dominate, in terms of power, position, leadership, management, and pay and resources. Typically organizational power, decision making, authority, and leadership formally reside with the managerial function. In that sense, management and managerial leadership are among the primary public domain institutional forms of organizations, capitalist or noncapitalist, and what is sometimes called patriarchy. The explicitly gendered research that has developed on men and masculinities interrogates, to differing degrees, the social construction, production, and reproduction of men and masculinities in and around organizations. In turn, mainstream organizations, or key parts of them, can often be understood as “men’s organizations,” places of “men’s organizing,” full of unnamed, usually non-gender-conscious, “men’s groups.”

A third complication, or paradox, is that over recent years both “gender” and “organization” have become problematic concepts. So, just as the field of gender and organizations has become more legitimate at the overlapping of gender studies and organization studies, so the concept of “gender” has itself become more complex, more contested, less certain. At the same time, the notion of “organization” has also become less stable. So with these twin impacts working together, the gendered organization has become subject to both naming and deconstruction, perhaps even “subversion.” Accordingly, the simultaneous, and in some ways paradoxical, namings and deconstructions—of gender, men and masculinities, and organization—is a central theme of this article. These namings and deconstructions provide the basis for analysis of: contemporary production and reproduction, globalization and transnationalization; men, masculinities, and large gendered MNEs; and men, masculinities, and the knowledge economy. But before going into those complications too far, let us consider some more obvious issues.

Gendered Organizations

While there are many ways in which organizations can be gendered, we begin by noting some selected typical gendered processes, and how men and masculinities tend to be represented there. Genderings persist substantively even when organizations are completely or predominantly single sex.

  1. 1. Gendered political economy and transnational flows that proceed beyond nations and specific organizations.

  2. 2. Societal gender orders and regimes that act as the immediate context of organizations.

  3. 3. Gendered divisions of labor, both formal and informal. Women and men may through processes of inclusion and exclusion, specialize in particular types of labor, so creating vertical and horizontal, lateral and sectoral divisions within and across organizations. There are also strong gendered connections with the different functions and specialisms in organizations, leadership, and management. These gendered divisions can become deep seated in workplace structures, cultures, and practices. They are often referred to as forms of job or occupational segregation (Hakim, 1979).

  4. 4. Gendered divisions of authority. These typically involve men, or certain men, exerting more power and authority over both women and other men. These interactions of gendered division of labor and gendered divisions of authority produce, when consolidated in a formalized structure, gendered bureaucracy.

  5. 5. Gendered divisions of value and valorization, including differential valuations of forms of work, and of associated masculinities and femininities.

  6. 6. Communicative processes within organizations. These include gendered processes and practices of emotions, recognitions, symbols, and further forms of communication (and noncommunication), such as managerial language and metaphors drawn from sport, militarism, and evolution, and how they are reproduced in organizations. Communication dynamics can also reflect and reinforce gendered in-group/out-group processes in organizations.

  7. 7. Gendered processes between the center and margins of organizations. These are literal or metaphorical spatial distributions of power and activity, with the “main aim” or “core activities” of organizations tending to be predominantly performed by men and defined by men’s interests (Cockburn, 1991), while “front-line” activities are often staffed by women. Casualization, flexibilization, precariousness in employment, and the implicit dispensability of employees are also often highly gendered, and indeed aged, classed, ethnicized, or racialized; these processes may affect women workers more than men, just as they may affect Black and minority ethnic workers and, in different ways, young and older workers.

  8. 8. Gendered relations to domestic and related responsibilities. Women typically continue to carry the double burden of child care and unpaid domestic work, and may carry a triple burden of care for other dependents, such as older people and disabled people.

  9. 9. Gendered processes in the operation of sexuality and violence within organizations, as well as the place of sexuality and/or violence in the explicit or implicit tasks of certain organizations, such as sexploitation organizations or military organizations.

These key elements intersect, sometimes as more than the sum of their parts, and can be understood as part of a picture of how gendered organizations are constructed. In specific organizations, these elements interact with each other in ways that may reinforce or even contradict each other. Frequently such interactions may be ambiguous, paradoxical, and open to multiple interpretations—involving both dispersal and recouping of power. Gendered structures and processes are not singular; although men’s gendered dominance is profound, it is neither monolithic nor unresisted. It is often shot through with inconsistencies and contradictions. Consequently, men’s dominance has to be continually reestablished, and in the process it can be challenged, subverted, and destabilized. Discursive processes in defining what is and is not defined as “legitimate” or “illegitimate,” are crucial.

Furthermore, most organizations are doubly gendered, in the sense that, in the context of patriarchy, activities in public domains, and the organizations within them tend to be dominantly valued over activities in private domains and organizational structures, cultures and processes are themselves often gendered. In the case of multinational enterprises (MNEs), organizations are triply gendered, with the transnational dimension adding further intersectional gendered dominations, across time, space, culture, interorganizational powers, and virtual technologies. The leadership and management of MNEs add a fourth form of intersectional gendering (Hearn, 2015).

Men and Masculinities in Gendered Organizations

The links between men, masculinities, and organizations are many and various. They recur across all the realms noted above—from matters of global political economy and transnational flows to societal gender orders and regimes, gendered labor markets, vertical and horizontal gender divisions in and around organizations, organizational cultures, and shared leisure activities and interests. More conceptually, they are also central to questions of practice(s), discourses, communicative practices, identities, embodiments, and organizational stereotypes and symbols.

Particularly from the 1980s onward, a growing body of critical studies has focused on men and masculinities in an explicitly gendered way. These studies now range far and wide, and include those on the following topics:

  • men and masculinities on the factory shopfloor (Cockburn, 1983; Collinson, 1992);

  • the historical relations and transformations of men and management in reproducing patriarchies (Collinson & Hearn, 1994, 1996a; Hearn, 1992; Roper, 1994);

  • the relations of bureaucracy, men, and masculinities (Bologh, 1990; Morgan, 1996);

  • reconceptualizing management-labor relations as interrelations of masculinities (Collinson, 1992); and

  • the interplay of diverse occupational masculinities (Barrett, 1996; Collinson & Hearn, 1996b).

There have also been a variety of more focused studies on the following:

  • social dynamics within men’s leadership and management (Collinson & Hearn, 2005, 2014);

  • managerial and professional identity formation processes (Kerfoot & Knights, 1993; Kerfoot & Whitehead, 2000);

  • managerial homosociality and circuits of desire (Roper, 1996);

  • men managers’ routine (and potentially unlawful) discrimination against women in selection (Collinson et al., 1990);

  • pay and reward systems, with the largest pay gaps sometimes at managerial levels (Chartered Management Institute, 2016);

  • (mis)management of sexual harassment cases (Collinson & Collinson, 1989; 1996);

  • how certain masculinities can bring danger and disaster (Collinson, 1999; Maier & Messerschmidt, 1998; Messerschmidt, 1995);

  • men and masculinities in relation to diversity management (Hearn & Collinson, 2006); and

  • possibilities for men’s non-oppressive, even profeminist, management and leadership (Hearn, 1989, 1994).

Men in organizations can also be understood in terms of their domestic situation, for example, some men managers can be usefully understood as “father managers” (Hearn & Niemistö, 2012) sometimes distancing themselves from children and family. Such strategies may show corporate commitment, yet reinforce gendered stresses in families, with their own gender power relations (Collinson & Collinson, 1997).

Moreover, effective management has often assumed previously to be consistent with characteristics traditionally valued in men, despite contrary evidence. Indeed not all versions of men’s dominating leadership rely on what might be seen as traditional models of heroic leadership and management; in some contexts there seem to be movements toward the post-heroic, and the development of subordinates’ capabilities within distributed, project, and network organizing; such shifts do not, however, necessarily reduce men’s power at the structural level. While most of the critical research on men and masculinities has been driven by critical, feminist(ic) scholarship concerned with the analysis of gender power relations in workplaces, organizations, and management, some is linked to more corporate agendas on gender equity and even management development.

A wide range of research methods have been employed. Quantitative methods have been important in studying the persistent numerical dominance of men, especially at the highest levels. Qualitative methods and single organization case studies, often drawing on feminist methodologies, have been more widely used, for example, in examining gendered organizational processes: Discursive and textual methods have become more popular in recent years. There has been a consistent impact of feminist theories, and a persistent concern with the intersections of gender with class, occupation, and organizational position and status. Another fruitful methodological avenue is historical rereading of “classic” texts, management textbooks, and organizational archive materials (Collinson & Hearn, 1996c).

Yet, despite all this, the taken-for-grantedness of men and certain organizational masculinities in organizations, as unmarked categories, is very widespread in both everyday organizational practice and policy, and studies thereon. Men’s domination of organizational leadership and management is still not an explicit, gendered topic of concern in mainstream social science, not even in much critical social science. Most mainstream studies of organizations, leadership, and management do not seem to notice they are often talking much about men and masculinities: They generally do not gender men.

Namings and Deconstructions

Before going further, we need to attend to some significant tensions and contradictions around critical studies on men, masculinities, and organizations, namely, the naming and deconstructing of, first, gender; then men and masculinities; and, finally, organizations. These represent three key areas of controversy and debate on what can be thought of as the contested boundary conditions of this area of work.


First, there is the question of gender and gender relations themselves. Gender is one of the most fundamental and powerful structuring principles of most societies, and as such a shorthand for a very complex set of embodied, institutionalized structures, cultures, identities, practices, and processes. It is important to acknowledge that gender is equivalent to neither sex nor sexuality, nor, as noted, to women and femininity; rather, it equally concerns men, masculinities, and LGBTIQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and further non-normative genders and sexualities) people and movements. Gender is also relational, a matter of social relations, including gender norms constructed with local and broader gender orders and regimes (Pearse & Connell, 2016).

Recent years have seen increasing attention to diverse understandings of gender, for example, in “doing gender,” gendered practices, and processes of gendering; gendered material-discursive practices; gendered discourses and discourses of gender; plural/multiple/composite masculinities and femininities; interrelations of gendered unities and gendered differences; and intersections of gender and further social divisions, such as age, class, ethnicity, location, and religion. Accordingly, it is difficult to isolate gender from interconnections with other social divisions and inequalities, such as structures and processes. Challenges to a taken-for-granted binary view of gender have come from LGBTIQ+ social movements, queer theory, transgender studies, and intersex studies. The cross-cultural and historical applicability, or inapplicability, of particular gendered concepts for the analysis of a given society is often stressed.

Another set of issues receiving increasing attention concerns the very distinction between “sex” and “gender.” This is partly a matter of the status of the category of gender, for example, not prejudging what gender is or could be, and not assuming gender is all-determining. In particular, the sex-gender distinction has itself been subject to critical interrogation, deconstruction, and uncertainty (Butler, 1990), as in notions of gender/sex and gex (the nonequivalence of sex, gender, and sexuality) (Hearn, 2012a); it is not that gender is the cultural arrangement of sex difference, but that the sex-gender difference is a cultural arrangement, dominantly constructed in terms of the “heterosexual matrix.” Such approaches have in part been important in returning to a clearer focus on the body. On the other hand, there is a danger here that, in the concern to emphasize social construction and in the search for cultural inscription and performativity, the physical, biological, material body may be neglected, even disappear from view.1 A measured movement needs to be made toward recognizing the sociocultural formation of the gendered/sexed/gexed body; its physical, biological, material existence; and the various ways that these material and symbolic dimensions may interact and interconnect. There is not just one possible relation of the biological sex/gender and the social sex/gender, but rather many possible such interrelations. The relation of “the gendered” and “the non-gendered” has become much more open ended than was often previously assumed. Moreover, gender is not only about gender, defined narrowly; it also concerns sexuality. Organizations, at least most organizations, can be understood as sexualed, that is, having meaning in relation to sexuality, rather than specifically or explicitly sexualized (Hearn & Parkin, 1987/1995, 2001).2

Men and Masculinities

Second, there are the categories of men and masculinities. The last 40 years or more have seen a major expansion of critical studies of men and masculinities, partly as a result of the variable interrogation of the relations of men and feminism: the “man problem.” These studies have become most fully developed through what can be labeled “masculinities theory” (Carrigan, Connell, & Lee, 1985; Connell, 1995; Kimmel, Hearn, & Connell, 2005). Built on critiques of both sex role theory and categorical approaches to gender, this approach has emphasized the power-laden character of masculinities, founded relationally between both men, and men and women, and operating at different, interconnected analytical levels: global, societal, institutional, interpersonal, intrapsychic. Different forms and processes of masculinity construction have been theorized and identified: hegemonic, complicit, marginalized, subordinate, as well as ambivalent and resistant.

Particularly important here is the emphasis on the plural category of masculinities, rather than retaining some notion of a universal, essential and singular “masculinity.” This broad perspective has proved to be very influential and indeed taken up in many different ways and with many different interpretations, in different parts of the world, and with different theoretical and practical applications. This flexibility comes at least in part from the very different academic and political traditions that have informed this strand of theorizing, its variable development and evolution—ranging from Gramscian Marxism and post-structuralism, to practice theory, pluralism, and psychoanalysis (Hearn, 2012b), and more recently globalization theory. There has also been a growing range of critiques of masculinities theory, albeit from different theoretical positions, such as postcolonial and queer theories (Collinson & Hearn, 1996c). One important question here is the extent to which masculinities are assumed to be tied, exclusively or primarily, to, or are made distinct from, men and maleness, as with female masculinity. The conceptual and empirical separation of masculinities from males and men has become increasingly favored, if still an area of disagreement.

Thus, when speaking of men here it should be made clear that this does not refer to any essence or givenness of males. Rather men are best understood as both a social category formed by the gender system, and collective and individual agents, often dominant agents, together constituting the hegemony of men (Hearn, 2004a) or more widely gender hegemony. Dominant uses of the social category of men have often been restricted by, for example, class, ethnicity, racialization and (hetero)sexuality. The social category of men is created and re-created in concrete everyday life and institutional practices, and in interplay with other social divisions, such as class, ethnicity, and sexuality. The social category of men is also formed intersectionally, for example, in relation to notions of age, able-bodiedness, class, ethnicity, and racialization, as well as nationality and regional location. While these intersections can reinforce one another, they may also be in tension and conflicting. The upshot of this work is the need to both name and deconstruct both men and masculinities (Collinson & Hearn, 1994; Hanmer, 1990; Linstead & Marechal, 2015; Whitehead, 2002). This involves recognizing the theoretical and empirical significance of heterogeneity within the terms “men and masculinities”: Both men and masculinities typically take multiple forms, shaped by other important intersecting dynamics such as class, ethnicity, religion, age, and nationality.


The third naming and deconstruction concern organization(s) itself. The notion of organization may conjure up the picture of a factory, office, building—something material, physical, and visible that appears to function within four walls. However, such an organization is, in some senses, a fantasy. The picture of visible organizations does not even come from the heyday of the Industrial Revolution; it precedes that, with the relatively isolated industrial mill that could be seen. Paradoxically, the idea of “the organization,” and thus organization theory, became constituted through the passing of that organizational form to the multiple-unit “organization,” which could not be fully seen, and required less proximate means of control. By the height of the 19th-century Industrial Revolution, the isolated organization was already decomposing in and through diffusion and expansion.

As organizations grew in size, and became more consolidated and more powerful concentrations of resources, their expansion was not just upwards and outwards on the same site, within those four walls, but through horizontal and vertical connection and integration, and geographical and temporal expansion and diffusion. The organization was no longer a simple time or place. The notion of organization, and thus organizations, has become progressively more complex, diverse, differentiated, dispersed, and networked. With cyberspace and cybertime, globalization and glocalization, the notion of organization becomes more complex still. It may refer to individual organizations, but it also encompasses conglomerations, organized practices, multi-organizations, meta-organizations, transnational organizations, interorganizational relations, networks, network organizations, net-organizations, and virtual or cyberorganizations, which exist through knowledge accumulation, and may not exist in a specific time-place reality. The once relatively stable equation, for some at least, of work, organization and place, the assumed placing of work and organizations in specific places, is being disrupted, and probably further so in the future.

Such globalizing conditions create many more possible forms of gender power, predominantly, though not exclusively, for men. Though studies of gender and organizations have focused on the nationally based, single organization, there are growing moves toward more consideration of international, multinational, and transnational organizations. Multiple social divisions, intersectionalities, have become more fully recognized in recent organizational studies, partly through globalizations and transnationalizations, external intersectionalizations of organizations, and partly through circulating notions of “diversity”—what might be called internal intersectionalizations of organizations (Hearn & Louvrier, 2011, 2015). To summarize, the notion of “the organization,” and what counts as an organization, as well as homogenized concepts of “management” and “leadership,” are becoming increasingly problematic. The metaphorical conceptualization of organization simply as the organizational chart can easily neglect the multiple views from below and from the margins, including women’s experiences. Seeing organizations as collections of more complex and diffuse relations of ruling (Smith, 1990) makes for more credible knowledge from the margins (Collins, 1990).

The issues raised by these namings and deconstructions of gender, men, and masculinities, and organization—all feed into the remainder of this chapter. This examines some key questions on men, masculinities, and gender relations in organizations and management, with particular focus on the rapidly emerging arena of transnational relations and trans(national)patriarchies. More precisely, in some parts of the world economies have shifted and are shifting—sometimes gradually, sometimes dramatically—from primary and secondary production, and then to tertiary (services to people), and quaternary (knowledge about the previous forms) production. In different ways these material (and arguably immaterial) shifts are formed by and form men, masculinities, and gender relations in organizations.

Men, Masculinities, and Transnational Organizations

The transnational perspective on men and masculinities in organizations deserves greater research attention for both empirical and theoretical reasons—in the light of the widespread previous tendency to focus on the single organization, in recognition of what appear as accelerating transnational processes, and as part of the development of intersectional gender analysis. First, we outline some broad contextual matters within which organizations operate, focusing on contemporary globalization, transnationalization, production and reproduction, and trans(national)patriarchies. The following two sections examine two forms of transnational organizational development: first, the quantitative and spatialized expansion of organizations with the growth of large MNEs; and, second, the qualitative change in form and content of organizations with the growth of the knowledge economy, as in international finance.

Globalization and Transnationalization, Production, and Reproduction

Global transformations in production and reproduction are intimately connected with changes in inequalities and social divisions. In one sense all major social divisions, for example, age and generation, ethnic and racial divisions, geographical, urban-rural, center—semi-periphery—periphery locations, are affected by and affect such changes in production and reproduction. It might seem that the most obvious social division implicated in such changes is that of class, based on work, labor, and the distribution of resources; indeed this is central. However, gender relations also impact on and are shaped by shifts in production and reproduction. Gender relations are just as important in production, and in the interplay of production and reproduction, as they are in reproduction broadly defined.

Moving beyond national, societal, cultural contexts has been prompted by the expansion of global(ized) and transnational processes, and researches, over recent years. Most of these have been developed under the rubric of “globalization,” subsequently refined in the neologism “glocalization.” Globalization can be seen as gendered in terms of “gender as embedded in globalizing capitalism”; the gendered construction of the “division between capitalist production and human reproduction”; “gender as a resource for globalizing capital”; “the gendered effects of globalization”; and “masculinities in globalizing capital” (Acker, 2004). With globalization, it is assumed that economic, political, and cultural linkages are transcending the specificities of place. Globalization involves greater connectivity between people across geographical space, and at the same time provides the conditions for deepening inequalities, including gender inequalities. In his book Globalization, Waters (1995) defines globalization as a “social process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which people become increasingly aware that they are receding” (p. 3) (our emphases). However, despite these key issues, and the persistence of various forms of male dominance, even with the huge variations in the extent of that dominance, and myriad complexities and complications in gender orders, many analyses of globalization still fail to discuss gender relations.

Meanwhile, some critics argue for much more emphasis on the ways that nation-states, national boundaries, and organized labor at the national level remain important within political economy (for example, Alasuutari, 2000; Edwards & Elger, 1999; Gibson-Graham, 1999; Kite, 2004). Indeed few social processes, perhaps apart from global climate change, are fully global. Indeed, for this and other reasons, transnationalization often seems a more accurate and broader framework than globalization (Hearn, 2004b, 2015), and one within which more specific analyses, such as transnational business masculinities (Connell, 1998) can be located. Considering women, men, and further genders globally and transnationally means recognizing both stable transnational patterns and transnational processes of flux, especially in this historical period. Intensification of inequalities can proceed by extending the means for accumulation and concentration of resources around those already with more resources. This can take place through, for example, increased mobility of labor, technologies, industry, production and reproduction, the financialization of capitalism, and the concealment of wealth and profit through offshoring. Moves from managerial capitalism to financialized capitalism have led to very uneven growth and development, and intensifying financial linkages, with implications for masculinities, along with “runaway” capitalist globalization (Youngs, 2004)—an issue returned to later.

There are few signs that the world is becoming more equal, in gender or other terms. Inequalities have grown in recent years in, for example, China and many parts of Europe and North America, though not so in parts of Latin America. According to Piketty (2014), the main driver of inequality and increasing polarization, the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth of GDP, threatens to generate extreme inequalities. Fuentes-Nieva and Galasso (2014, p. 2) reported, “Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population . . . The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.” Increasing inequalities and high inequalities, including gender inequalities, slow economic growth: “a more equal society has a greater likelihood of sustaining longer-term growth” (Vandemoortele, 2013, p. 5). Greater equality, including gender equality, also brings health and well-being benefits, including for those in power (Holter, 2014; Neumayer, 2011; Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009). Moreover, “economic growth appears to promote gender-egalitarian attitudes on the part of both women and, to a lesser extent, men” (Kabeer, 2016, p. 316). This is not simply a matter of change at the individual level, but rather women’s collective agency is centrally important for promotion of social and economic change:

Changing attitudes clearly create favorable conditions for changing practices, but it is not enough. Instead, what recent cross-country analysis suggests is that collective action by women, both through their autonomous organizations and in alliance with other groups, has proven to be the single most important driving force in promoting public action on a range of women’s rights . . . It would thus appear that it is to women’s ability to mobilize collectively that we must look if changes in social attitudes are to be translated into concrete progress on gender equality.

(Kabeer, 2016, pp. 316–317)

The impacts of globalization on the gendered relations of production and reproduction are very uneven, and often contradictory, even paradoxical. Globalization has multiple, simultaneous effects. It can create, liberate, constrain, and oppress—even for the same gendered people and groups. Transnationalizations of business operate through multiple dimensions, such as transnational ownerships, assets, trading, economic activity, employment, movement of personnel, and environmental impacts.

Global restructuring has led to the movement of capital, finance, and industrial production. This in turn has facilitated the creation of large-scale, often precarious, employment, often for women as cheap labor, in some global regions in factory and sweatshop work, for example, in “Special Economic Zones” in China, export-processing plants (maquilas) in Mexico, and similar newly industrializing areas designed for foreign investment (MacLeod, 2009). Movements of women into the labor market have involved both rural-urban migration within nations and migration across national boundaries, and disruption of local gender orders and relations of production and reproduction. Reproductive care work is restructured to become the everyday responsibility of relatives and others in local communities, mirroring patterns long established in some regions, for example, Southern Africa. Gendered labor migrations based on shifts in reproductive labor include global care chains (Lutz, 2011) and global nurse care chains (Yeates, 2009). Global shifts also affect men unevenly, with the loss of the assumption of life-long employment for many men in regions formerly reliant on manufacturing, declining, or relocated industries. This in turn can have corrosive effects on an important aspect of many men’s sense of self-respect: their identity as the family breadwinner/provider. Within the global South, large-scale temporary migration of men from the Indian subcontinent has been attracted to, for example, the construction industry in the Gulf states. In some cases gendered migrations are linked to the global sex trade, with some regions becoming more specialized providers, largely of women (Jeffreys, 2009; Pyle & Ward, 2003).

A further area of gendered global change concerns gendered marketing and consumer behavior, consumption flows, online image manufacture, and transnational branding (Hearn & Hein, 2015). With the large and growing inequalities, what may be a routine purchase of, say, trainers, in one part of the world may become a reason to mug or kill in another part (Ratele, 2014).

To connect these contemporary changes to transnational gender relations, it may be useful to see gender hegemony in terms of the concept of transnational patriarchies, or transpatriarchies for short. The concept of transpatriarchies speaks of the structural tendency and individualized propensity for men’s transnational gender domination; it focuses on non-determined and dynamic structures, forces, and processes, not as totalizing unity or fixity (Hearn, 2015), but as a means of talking simultaneously about production and reproduction, patriarchies, intersectionalities, and transnationalizations. Equally, the term “transnational patriarchies” recognizes differences between men and between masculinities at transnational and global levels, and how gendered heterogeneity, including in some instances transgender (see Hearn, 2015, pp. 93–94), can be reproduced at the level of, for example, different national and transnational cultures.

Finally, transpatriarchies and transpatriarchal powers and processes develop and change through extensions of transnational patriarchal power, including processes of transnational individual and collective non-responsibility of men, and processes of surveillance (and their disruption). These changes may also bring loss of some men’s expected security/privilege, with shifts of the locus of power from individual to state to transnational. At the same time, transpatriarchies involve opportunities for processes of recouping of patriarchal power; and the processes of transnational movements and formation of transnational social, political, cultural spaces, with intensely contradictory possibilities for their experience and effects.

Men, Masculinities, and Large Gendered MNEs

Large multinational enterprises (MNEs), their organization and management within globalization, are obvious candidates for intersectional gendered analysis. MNEs operate at the intersections of international/global, national, regional, and local traditions and strategic international management, and are thus subject to contradictory gendered pressures. Concentrations of capital are increasing, with gendered forms and effects, along with greater concentrations of power in the hands of the gendered international capitalist ruling class. Pickett, Wilkinson, and de Vogli (2014, pp. 4–5) have summarized the contemporary situation:

One of the mechanisms explaining the rapid increase of global economic inequality relates to the rise of transnational corporations (TNCs) (mostly based in developed nations) that have accumulated a spectacular amount of wealth in the last few decades. A recent study revealed that 1,318 global companies collectively own, through their shares, the majority of the world’s largest manufacturing firms and blue chip companies, representing about 60% of global revenues. The same study also showed, however, that a ‘super-entity’ of 147 companies, less than 1% of the total, controls about 40% of the entire wealth in the network. When considering global financial actors such as hedge funds, private pension funds, mutual funds, investment banks and insurance companies, concentration of wealth reached even more grotesque proportions. In 2010, 6 banks—Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley—controlled about 60% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

Within international political economies, MNEs have used different intersectional gendered management strategies, with intersectional gendered production through mergers and acquisitions, restructurings, alliances, holding companies, pension funds, and interlocking directorships and corporate ownerships.

Transpatriarchies encompass the gendered transnational or multinational corporation, within and between which men routinely lead, organize, and manage. MNEs within and as transpatriarchies raise many questions. MNEs can acts as extensions of certain men’s powers beyond the nation, through historically changing forms of men’s networks, inclusions, and exclusions, even though the nation-state remains a very important context for the operations of many of the largest multinational corporations (Dicken, 2003). Men’s networks and personal relationships often fundamentally shape these processes of competition and collaboration. Many large transnational enterprises are very much men’s arenas, with clear structural gendered hierarchies, even with attempts in some companies to recruit women into middle management. In many countries, there have been significant increases in women in the professions and middle management (Walby, 2009). Relatedly, globalizing democratization and educational processes tend to increase women’s representation in political, governmental, policy, and educational institutions. Even so, the overwhelming majority of such companies are very heavily dominated by men, especially at the highest corporate levels, with relatively little gender change at that level over time (World Economic Forum, 2015). They provide definite, defined hierarchical spaces for men and women; yet they are typically constructed as genderless—in everyday discourse, research, media, and political debate.

Global and transnational corporate managerial elites are highly gendered. The “transnational capitalist class” (Sklair, 2001) is in practice very much a male transnational capitalist class (Donaldson & Poynting, 2006). Transnational taken-for-granted gendered hierarchy is usually a major aspect of men’s leadership and management in large corporations. In “top management,” “the management team” and “headquarters,” the structural power of men managers, and the relatively few women top managers, is maintained partly through commonalities across difference, gendered horizontal specializations, and managerial control often underwritten by gender divisions in education, such as engineering. At the same time, MNEs are themselves vulnerable to risks, from terrorism to financial scandals and computer viruses. This has spawned a veritable security industry, largely of men, to protect the corporate business sector (Connell, 2013) and paralleling the private military companies of men serving the state sector.

There have been various analyses of “business masculinities” (Connell & Wood, 2005) and “transnational business masculinity” (Connell, 1998): seen as a globally mobile form of masculinity marked by “increasing egocentrism, very conditional loyalties (even to the corporation), and a declining sense of responsibility for others (except for purposes of image-making).” It differs from “traditional bourgeois masculinity by its increasingly libertarian sexuality, with a growing tendency to commodify relations with women.” This pattern, however, represents only one of several versions of senior managerial men’s practices. It is premature to see this as a general form. More recently, Connell (2014) has turned to a more explicitly world-centered analysis of men, masculinities, and gender relations.

Detailed empirical work has shown major variations across national locations in how corporate leaders and transnational businessmen live their lives. For example, some appear to adopt much more conventional marriage-type social relations and lifestyles (Hearn, Jyrkinen, Piekkari, & Oinonen, 2008), with significant variation between and across national and regional contexts (Gagnon & Collinson, 2017; Reis, 2004). Leaders of multinational corporations can also remain intensely national in identification (Tienari, Vaara, & Merilainen, 2010), with hybrid forms of local/transnational leadership. This in turn raises issues about both heterogeneity and asymmetry within and between transnational business masculinities. When referring to transnational men and masculinities, it is important to recognize that these are inevitably intersectional and that they are likely to differ within and across different locations, countries, and continents. Differences are likely to include, among others, national and regional cultures, nationality, location, religion, migrant status, language, education background (Hearn, 2011, 2015). It is also significant to recognize that some elements of intersectionality within transnational business masculinities are likely to be more dominant than others. So, for example, the global dominance of certain masculine nationalities such as those of the United States, Russia, and China are likely to be disproportionately influential within the general enactment of transnational business masculinities.

A related aspect here is men’s relations to the domestic. Complex interrelations may also develop between personal, marriage, and family relations; gendered careers; transnational management; and the transnational mobility of managers, their spouses, and those who service them. Many senior managers, and their families, are supported and serviced, in domestic work and work outsourced to service industries, often mainly by migrant, Black, or minority ethnic people, typically mainly women.

Men, Masculinities, and the Gendered Knowledge Economy

The uneven global shifts in many parts of the world toward quaternary (knowledge) economy go under many different labels, each with a slightly different emphasis: global capitalism, late capitalism, financialized capitalism, informational capitalism, digital capitalism, late modernity, network society, knowledge society, information society, virtual society. Such issues can be approached in terms of loosely more macro-societal, more meso-organizational, and more micro-levels or domains. At the broad societal level, such divisions can be seen as part of the long historical development of technological expertise in management and control, within technocracy, even challenging the power of elected leaders (Armytage, 1965; Burris, 1993; Fischer, 1990). Technocratic power has often been presented as gender neutral, despite the obvious domination of what counts as expertise by certain relatively powerful groupings of men (Burris, 1996; Winter & Robert, 1980).

There is growing recognition of how dominant masculinities rooted in the power of states, military, religions, and business, are being modified and sometimes contradicted by various forms of techno-masculinity as a basis of power. Displays of technical skill and creativity (Faulkner, 2000; Lohan & Faulkner, 2004) produce new stratifications based in information, and digital divides, challenging homogeneity of gender hegemony. Techno-masculinities develop in the global economy through the agency of male actors across various tiers in the information hierarchy: ICT entrepreneurs, engineers, managers, and service workers; they also reorganize the physical location of male power, and provide alternative narratives of globalization and alternative imagery of manhood, reworking ethnic-racial foundations for male power. Moreover, gender divisions of managerial control are maintained partly through men’s domination of engineering and ICT industries, as well as education and training, even with greater dispersal away from Western centers to India, for example (Poster, 2013). In this context Chang and Ling (2000, p. 27) suggest that technology can be seen as “driving the latest stage of capitalism” through a masculine “global umbrella of aggressive market competition” encapsulated in terms of “techno-muscular capitalism.”

These developments link closely with the growing financialization of capitalism, bringing added challenges for the analysis of men, masculinities, and intersectional gender relations; in global capitalism, the finance sector, and within individual finance organizations. The financialization of capitalism has also meant that the corporate world is increasingly becoming a process of transnational deployment of legal-financial-tax apparatuses designed in particular to avoid corporate and individual tax payments and to maintain secrecy and anonymity. “Offshoring” has become a pervasive feature of contemporary societies, often characterized by secretive offshore activities also involving relations of work, finance, pleasure, waste, energy, and security. Urry (2014) concludes that these powerful and pervasive offshore worlds reinforce massive inequalities and pose huge challenges, both for governments and citizens.

The financial sector has mushroomed in recent years, so that the size of the sector far exceeds, perhaps 12-fold, the world’s GDP, and in the European Union the banking sector exceeds GDP perhaps 3-fold. On the huge foreign exchange market, about 3% is linked to internal trade and the remainder to speculation. This direction of financial activity and power to unproductive uses is recognized even in mainstream organizations, such as the Bank of International Settlement. The corporate manipulation of taxation law has led to the payment of little or no tax by some major corporate entities. More than half of world trade, and an estimated third of foreign direct investment passes through tax havens and offshoring (Shaxson, 2011).

This world of financial economics is both embodied by men, especially young adult men and men of middle years, and their masculinities in globalizing capital, and yet is increasingly disembodied in the programmed algorithms of automated transactions. Aneesh Aneesh (2006, 2009) has recognized the emergence of “algogracy” in which codes, programming, and information are the dominant forms of production, governance of firms, and labor. ICTs bring polarization of job markets, greater splitting between high-skill and low-skill jobs, and automation of many white-collar jobs (Autor & Dorn, 2012). They make some jobs redundant, change the form and labor processes of other jobs, make the work of many precarious, produce value for capital, and create jobs for some. ICT and other skills and knowledge can be disconnected from place and space, as in virtual innovation hubs. The processes of large-scale legal work and financial transactions have been much affected, with automated trades the clear majority on the stock market; men’s doing of dominance in finance is simultaneously embodied/virtual.

All these gendered matters are complicated by financial crisis, that is, gendered financial crises (Griffin, 2013; Walby, 2015). This applies in the gendered structuring of the moves to financialized capitalism, and the consequent very uneven growth and development, and intensifying financial linkages, all gendered, all the way down. Gendered analyses of financial organizings, what produces them, their effects, and the responses to them, are now wide ranging, even if often ignored in the mainstream. Critical assessments have been made of many relevant issues that are directly relevant for men and masculinities:

  • the shifting impacts of financial crisis and the gendering of capital and finance (Bettio et al., 2013; Elson, 2010; Griffin, 2013; Pollard, 2013; Steans, 2013; Walby, 2013);

  • gender regimes of stock exchanges, investment banking, and financial institutions (Ho, 2009; Kerfoot & Knights, 1993; Jones, 1998; McDowell, 1997);

  • sexism, misogyny, and face-to-face encounters between male analysts and male brokers producing “female-discriminating discourse” (Blomberg, 2009, p. 203; Enloe, 2013);

  • the proliferation of conditions in the financial sector for privilege, performance, and performativity in discourses of masculinity (Knights & Tullberg, 2014), and what might be called “financial masculinities”; and

  • gendered impacts of financial organizings on domestic economic life (Conley, 2012; Fawcett Society, 2012; Warren, 2014).

Men financiers’ risky behavior (Boyes, 2012, pp. 200–202; Enloe, 2013, pp. 56–70; Sibert, 2009) has been especially in the spotlight. In some cases, risky financial methods in turn impact on state economies, leading to huge losses, often to be later bailed out by the citizenry, in states and suprastates. For example, in the United Kingdom the Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) acquisition of the Dutch Bank ABN Amro exemplifies the excessive risk taking and associated masculinist behavior that can characterize executive decision making. Even though in 2007 this purchase was the biggest banking takeover in history, the decision was taken without any normal due diligence procedures being enacted. Occurring just as the global liquidity crisis began to bite, the deal fundamentally weakened the RBS balance sheet, not only because of the size of the acquisition, but also because of ABN’s significant exposure to the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis. Consequently, RBS had to be bailed out by the U.K. government and in 2017 the Bank was still owned by the state (Collinson, 2012).

Economic crisis also highlights gendered aspects, sexism, and biases in how economy and finance are constructed by economists, governments. and media (Enloe, 2013; Hooper, 2001), and in policy development. Finance ministers, financial boards, economists, and banks have generally maintained a “strategic silence” on gender, even with their policies having uneven effects on men and women. Women are virtually absent from many international organizations dealing with macroeconomic and transnational financial issues. This is especially so in men’s domination of supranational financial organizations (Schuberth & Young, 2011). The recurrent financial crises of capitalism are, in effect, run largely by men, both at the level of the management of regulation and deregulation, and also at the more everyday level of investment practice. Since deflationary policies are generally based on the assumption of the male breadwinner, and state cutbacks, rather than higher taxes, they tend to have less effect upon men, and more upon women (Villa & Smith, 2010; Young, Bakker, & Elson, 2011).

Questions for Researchers

We have argued that the analysis of organizations, leadership, and management is significantly enhanced by recognition of the importance of gender relations: of men and masculinities, as well as women and femininities. Conversely, the understanding of gender dynamics is also enhanced by an acknowledgment of the social, cultural, economic, and political importance and impact of organizations in contemporary societies. There are many questions on men, masculinities, and gender relations in organizations that need further investigation. As noted, men, masculinities, and their social construction and gender power relations are generally left unspoken in mainstream discussions; they are, in that sense, invisible, an “absent presence” (Hearn, 1998), even though (perhaps even because of) their dominance. Many gender issues within and between organizations, large and small, transnational, and local—gendered management, hierarchies, authority, informal relations, processes—are often left unanalyzed, as part of the taken-for-granted supposedly “gender-neutral” hegemony. These issues need to be interrogated directly and critically.

Urgent studies are needed in relation to men, masculinities, and organizations in many specific transnational arenas, such as militarism, sex trade, ICTs, international finance, oil and energy policy, global circulation of representations, transgovernmental machineries, multinational business enterprises, scientific organizations, religious organizations, and social movement organizations. There is a range of particular challenges around the study of men and masculinities in dispersed and network organizations, interorganizational and meta-organizations; the interconnections of online and offline, virtual and face-to-face interaction; artificial intelligence, and robotics. Key gender issues concern the relations of men, masculinities, and sexuality in organizations; men, masculinities, and the variety of intersectionalities, including intersectional privileges; male/masculine/men’s bodies in organizations; constructions and assumptions of who counts as a man or as men within the taken-for-granted category of “men” in and around organizations.

Finally, there is an urgent need for more research on ecological, environmental, and biophysical questions, such as “green” issues, sustainability, the ecological impact on the planet, and climate change, and how these may link to men and masculinities. These issues result at least partly from the tendency of men and masculinities to focus on domination and exploitation (over others and the planet), and their tendency to disregard the ecological consequences and effects of their actions. Men and masculinities have played a key role in environmental damage. Thus we highlight the potential and possibilities of anti-patriarchal organizational practices, and eco-leadership and management that is not focused on exercising control, domination, and exploitation and more concerned to work with the “natural” rhythms of the planet. This is both a well-developed theme in studies on men and masculinities in the context of eco-feminism (Easlea, 1983; Strange, 1983), and an urgent contemporary theme in research on men and masculinities in disasters and crisis management (Enarson & Pease, 2016; Ericson & Mellström, 2016; Hearn, 2015).


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(1.) Bondi (1998) posits the following major problems with the sex-gender distinction.

First, there is no convincing evidence that gender itself carries a necessary liberatory potential; just because gender is socially constructed does not mean that it can be changed any more easily than sex. Second, the sex-gender distinction is closely linked to other dichotomies, most obviously nature-culture, body-mind. If gender corresponds to sex, it might be asked why a concept of gender is necessary; if gender involves the transcendence of mind over body, then the question remains why this “unsexed” mind might correspond to gender if wholly disconnected from sex. It can thus be argued that the sex-gender distinction reinforces its own dichotomies, and even repositions the male/masculinity as the norm. Third, the sex-gender distinction may imply that sex and biology are pre-social or free of the social; but biology is itself constituted in the social.

(2.) This is for several reasons:

  • () Sexual arrangements in private domains provide a base infrastructure, principally through women’s unpaid labor, for public domain organizations.

  • () Rather than seeing work as something that can then be sexualized, a much closer relationship between work and sexuality is possible, in the very definitions of sexuality and work. In some contexts sexuality in organizations is a form of work. Organizations can be seen as arenas of sexual labor (not meaning “sex work”), just as they are of, say, emotional labor.

  • () “Organization sexuality” (Hearn & Parkin, 1987/1995) is not simply a product of capitalist labor processes, though they are relevant.

  • () Most organizations continue to exist through dominant heterosexual norms, ideology, ethics, and practices.

  • () Interrelations of gender and sexuality, as intimately, indeed definitionally, connected with each other. Gender occurs along with sexuality: “Without a concept of gender there could be, quite simply, no concept of homo- or hetero- sexuality” (Sedgwick, 1991, p. 31)—or indeed homo- or hetero-eroticism.

  • () Empirical distinctions between sexual and gender dynamics in organizations, for example, presence/absence of members with different sexualities.

  • () Information and communication technologies in organizations have many impacts on the constitution of sexuality and sexual violence.