Exploring linkages between organisational culture and gender equality work: An ethnography of a multinational engineering company

Ea Høg Utoft

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This article explores linkages between organisation-specific cultural narratives and gender-equality programme planning through the lens of the ‘historicity’ concept. The article argues that to fully understand problem definitions, programme design and organisational change processes related to gender equality, scholars and practitioners cannot focus one-sidedly on expected outcomes and effects; we must also factor in cultural narratives, because gender equality actors never arrive at their work as ‘tabulae rasae’. A community of actors always draws on shared dispositions that give sense, direction and shape to their anticipations of the future hereby guiding their actions in the present. Based on an ethnography of a multinational engineering company, the article shows how cultural narratives may serve in different ways as support factors for gender equality programme planning and implementation, if they are actively but mindfully engaged. This mindfulness is important as positive cultural narratives may entail problematic gender dimensions. On the other hand, negative cultural narratives may entail important learning outcomes that may benefit future gender equality initiatives. The analysis further points to the centrality of strategic communication, leadership commitment and comprehensive evaluation in order to mobilise the potential of cultural narratives as support factors to gender equality work. Finally, this article offers a rich example to scholars and practitioners of how to employ cultural analysis in relation to gender equality activities, and demonstrates the value of the insights produced by this analysis for the case company and its gender equality programme.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101791
JournalEvaluation and Program Planning
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

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