Women’s friendships at work: power, possibilities and potential

Jannine Williams, Sharon Mavin, Nicola Patterson, Patricia Bryans

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In this paper we explore senior women’s experiences of friendships with other women at work, guided by the following research questions: how do senior women construct friendship? How do they experience friendships and intra-gender friendships with women at work and how do gendered contexts facilitate or constrain women’s friendships with women in organizations? Of particular interest to our study is the potential instrumentality of work friendships in developing women’s homosociality and/or challenging hegemonic masculinity in organizations. We draw upon qualitative data from a wider study of 81 senior women, exploring women’s relations with women at work in the areas of friendship, competition, ambition and cooperation. We begin by outlining what we understand as elements of gendered contexts: our position on gender and hegemonic masculinity, homosociality and homosocial desire within patriarchal organizations and explain homophily as social processes of friendship which take place within these gendered contexts. We then outline our qualitative research approach with senior women working in UK based organisations and present our findings, drawing upon extracts from the women’s interviews and provide our theoretical and practice contributions. Specifically we contribute to HRD and gender in management research by highlighting how senior women construct friendship and how and why they mark the social boundary of friendship inside and outside work. We consider the impact of the findings, where over half the senior women do not ‘do friendship’ at work, on women’s potential for instrumental homosociality as a means of challenging the gendered status quo in organizations and identify areas for future research. Through the process of the research itself we aim to raise consciousness to the potential of positive women’s intra-gender social relations in developing more gender balanced, diverse senior teams and subsequently organizations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2013
EventNorthumbria Research Conference - Northumbria University
Duration: 16 May 2013 → …


ConferenceNorthumbria Research Conference
Period16/05/13 → …
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