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The importance of role models and demographic context for senior women's work identity development

Sealy, R. & Singh, V. (2010). The importance of role models and demographic context for senior women's work identity development. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12(3), pp. 284-300. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2370.2009.00262.x


The lack of senior female role models continues to be cited as a key barrier to women’s career success. Yet there is little academic research into the gendered aspects of role modelling in organizations, or the utility of role models at a senior level. The paper starts with a review of papers examining the construction of role models in organizational settings. This leads to the inclusion of two related areas – organizational demographics as the contextual factor affecting the availability of role models and how they are perceived, and work identity formation as a possible key explanatory factor behind the link between the lack of senior female role models and the lack of career progression to top organizational levels. Literature looking at social theories of identity formation is then considered from a gender perspective. The key gaps identified are that whilst the behavioural value of role models has been well documented, a better understanding is needed of how gender and organizational demography influence the role modelling process. Importantly, the symbolic value and possibly other values of female role models in the identity construction of senior women require further in-depth investigation. Finally this review calls for a more integrated approach to the study of role models and work identity formation, pulling together literatures on organizational demography, the cognitive construal of role models and the importance for successful work identity formation in senior women.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the accepted version of the following article: Sealy, R. H.V. and Singh, V. (2010), The Importance of Role Models and Demographic Context for Senior Women's Work Identity Development. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12: 284–300, which has been published in final form at
Publisher Keywords: Role models, identity formation, organizational demography, senior women, gender
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Related URLs:
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