Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Business

First Advisor

Dr. Margaret Linehan


Recent decades have witnessed unprecedented changes both in the world economy and in the composition of workforces internationally, resulting in a significant rise in female economic activity rates. Women’s increased involvement in the labour force is, however, not paralleled within the management levels of organisations. The persistent nature of the dearth of women in executive roles provides the context for this study. The unique focus of this thesis is women in middle-level management positions, as managers at this level are viewed as successors to senior organisational roles. Thirty female managers were interviewed, from organisations representing a wide range of industry and service sectors.

This study makes a theoretical contribution to debates within the contemporary women in management and career theory literatures. The aims of the study were to specifically investigate the work experiences, perceptions and career progression choices of women, in order to more fully comprehend their under-representation at the highest organisational levels.

The results of the study highlight that female middle-level managers face a combination of organisational and career life-cycle hurdles, which negatively impact their career aspirations. Taken together with gender disparity both in organisations and family responsibilities, these frequently obstruct female employees from reaching senior managerial positions. The dynamic between organisational culture and the age of a child/children is highlighted by this study as a significant impediment to female career progression. Role-modelling behaviour is also identified by the findings as having the potential to negatively, rather than positively affect career progression choices. This study proposes a new model of the glass ceiling. This self-imposed glass ceiling results from the interaction between organisational and individual factors that negatively impact on female career advancement. The voices of the female managers illustrate the difficulties they encounter and remind us that there is still much organisations can do to address the managerial imbalance.

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