A Rising Female Empire? : Exploring the potential barriers women face in achieving leadership positions in the humanitarian sector

Bachelor thesis English OPEN
Eriksson, Lina Elisabeth (2015)
  • Subject: Leadership | barriers | gender | women | humanitarian | Other Humanities | Annan humaniora

This research aims to explore how women and men view and perceive potential barriers to women achieving leadership positions in the humanitarian sector. Female leadership is so far an under-researched area within the humanitarian sector, so it is unknown whether females encounter any barriers in accessing and attaining leadership positions. Three categories were identified; identity, perception and challenges through which the views and barriers are explored. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with two organisations; Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) to further understand the perceptions. The empirical findings are analysed through thematic analysis, against the theoretical foundation of the explanation of the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions and how gender impacts organisations. Findings indicate that both men and women perceive that there are a number of barriers that women face under each of the three identified categories. The majority of findings are visible under the perception category which explores the influence of the boy’s network and the cemented organizational cultures. Findings also indicate that gender and the potential barriers that women face are not openly talked about, nor perceived as important, as is the need for diversity in humanitarian settings. This thesis highlights the contradictions and ambiguity of how barriers are perceived amongst humanitarian practitioners and organisations.
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