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Ritter, J. (2000). Working with women. Free Associations, 8(1):158-179.

(2000). Free Associations, 8(1):158-179

Working with women1

Judy Ritter

Are there too few women in leadership positions outside the female domains such as nursery schools, child care centers, and nursing? And if so, why? In the following I shall discuss experiences and hypotheses concerning the feelings towards females in leadership positions and their significance for females and males in working relationships.

In the sixties and seventies the following explanation seemed plausible: the problem was boiled down to the unsatisfactory qualifications of women and the malevolence of men; in cases where women were indeed qualified for certain positions, getting the position depended upon solidarity of women with women to the exclusion of men. It seemed desirable to mobilize as many women as possible to participate actively in this struggle. The occupational and social world was seen as a force field in which the pro women forces should come to the fore in order to turn back the anti women forces. The analysis of the problem was not entirely wrong but hardly complex. Moreover, a frontal confrontation is not the most successful method of change; it is especially inefficient, if the force field has not been correctly assessed. The polarization and simplification of the sixties could not do justice to reality. The value of this approach was the heightened consciousness and sensitivity which developed. In the course of time female solidarity became more complicated and gained new facets. Most important was the fact that the number of qualified women continually rose which changed the field. The argumentational landscape on the part of the men took on a new form. Their open resistance could no longer be politically maintained, was no longer “politically correct”. More and more often both men and women expressed the view: Women prefer males in positions of authority.

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