Unleashing the potential of women: A case study about the perceptions of different groups of members on their in-company women’s network

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Context - Many organizations are trying, to make the workplace a fairer and more hospitable place for women. One way of doing this is by implementing formal in-company women’s networks. Objective - The aim of this study is to broaden the empirical basis of the literature on in-company women’s networks by looking at the perceptions of different groups of members of the in-company women’s network of one organization. Furthermore, this study uses the analytical lens of Ely and Meyerson (2000) to see how the network tackles or does not tackle gender inequality in the organization. Methods – In a qualitative study, 5 board members, 5 active non-board members and 5 non-active members were interviewed about their perceptions of the in-company women’s network. Results and conclusion- Overall, the non-active members were less aware of the mission and goals than active members. Non-active members were more inclined to perceive the goals as too ambitious. Non-active members perceived the events sometimes as too focussed on getting promotions. All groups perceived being connected as one of the most important personal outcomes, while career development was perceived as less important. All groups thought that the network can act as a spokesperson for all women of the organization. The network’s highest goal is to increase awareness on gender and diversity within the board of directors by being a real conversation partner for the board. This shows the fourth (a non-traditional) approach to gender (Ely & Meyerson, 2000). However, the current events are mainly focussed on the appreciation of women’s skills, characteristics and perspectives, showing the second approach (“value the feminine”).
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