E17: Tokenism - Rosabeth Moss Kanter (Part 1)

In this episode we are joined by Dr Deborah Brewis to discuss a classic paper by Rosabeth Moss Kanter on gender in organizations - “Some Effects of Proportions on Group Life: Skewed Sex Ratios and Responses to Token Women” (1977). In this article, Kanter explores how interactions within a group or an organization are affected by the different numbers of people from distinct social types. In particular, she focuses on groups with skewed gender ratios: a high proportion of men and a small number of women – the tokens. The study is based on observations and interviews with sales teams that recently began to incorporate women in their workforce, and shows how structural factors stifled the potential of their female members.

We discuss challenges of gender integration, the theoretical underpinnings of Kanter’s framework and the relevance of the concept of tokenism in contemporary research and practice, among other things.