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Respectable femininity and career agency: exploring paradoxical imperatives

Fernando, Weerahannadige Dulini Anuvinda; Cohen, Laurie

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Weerahannadige Dulini Anuvinda Fernando

Laurie Cohen


This paper places respectable femininity at the very centre of career enactment. In the accounts of 24 Sri Lankan women, notions of being a ‘respectable’ woman recurred as respondents described how important it was to adhere to the powerful behavioural norms for women in their organizations and society. However while such respectability was vital for women's career progression, it ultimately restricted their agency and conflicted with other requirements for advancement. Based on our empirical findings, we propose that being a respectable woman was experienced as paradox, where at times it was seen as impossible to be both a good woman and a successful careerist. We highlight the implications of our findings for women's careers in South Asia and more widely.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date May 14, 2013
Deposit Date Apr 2, 2014
Publicly Available Date Apr 2, 2014
Journal Gender, Work & Organization
Electronic ISSN 0968-6673
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 2
Keywords Respectable femininity, Gender, Career, Gendered organization, Paradox
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