Promoted up but also out? The unintended consequences of increasing women's representation in managerial roles in engineering

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Engineering remains one of the most highly and persistently sex segregated occupations in the United States. Though extant literature submits thatwomen's increased access to managerial positions in male-dominated occupations should represent an important strategy for addressing sex segregation, my analysis of 61 interviews with industry engineers suggests that increasing women's disproportionate representation in managerial roles in engineering may promote the very sex segregation it is attempting to mitigate. The analysis highlights how organizations reinforce female engineers' movement into managerial roles and foster a form of intraoccupational sex segregation with unintended consequences for women. These consequences include fostering mixed identification with engineering, reinforcing stereotypes about women's suitability for technical work, and increasing work-life balance tensions. The findings further suggest that an inverted role hierarchy in engineering may explain these gendered career patterns and their unintended consequences. By inverted role hierarchy I mean the valuing of technical over managerial roles. Implications for the literatures on occupational sex segregation, women's representation in managerial roles, and the experience of women in male-dominated occupations are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-617
Number of pages21
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Female engineers
  • Gendered career paths
  • Intraoccupational sex segregation
  • Inverted role hierarchy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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