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Becoming leaders:

An investigation into women’s leadership in male-defined

and male-dominated professions.

PhD Candidate: Jillian Clare

M.A (Drama); Dip Spec Educ'n (Deaf); LSDA.

Principal Supervisor: Prof Erica McWilliam

Associate Supervisors: Dr Daphne Meadmore
Dr Karen Dooley
A thesis undertaken within the
Centre for Innovation in Education.
Submitted to the Faculty of Education,
Queensland University of Technology,
in fulfilment of the requirements of
the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Queensland University of Technology
Doctor of Philosophy Thesis Examination

Candidate name: Jillian Elizabeth Clare

Centre: Centre for Innovation in Education
Principal Supervisor: Professor Erica McWilliam
Associate Supervisors: Dr Daphne Meadmore & Dr Karen Dooley

Thesis Title: Becoming-Leaders: An investigation of women’s

leadership in male-defined and male-dominated

Under the requirements of PhD Regulation 16.8, the above candidate presented a
final seminar that was open to the public. A Faculty Panel of two academics
attended and reported on the readiness of the thesis for external examination. The
members of the panel recommended that the thesis be forwarded to the appointed
Committee for examination.

Name: ……………………………. Signature:……………………………

Panel Chairperson (Principal Supervisor)
Name:……………………….……. Signature:…………………………….
(Panel Member)

I, Jillian Elizabeth Clare, a candidate for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
at Queensland University of Technology, have not been enrolled for another
tertiary award during the term of my PhD candidature without the
knowledge and approval of the University’s Research Degrees Committee.

Candidate’s Signature:



Assemblages, assembling, re-assembling

Becoming-woman leader
Cyborgian hybridity
Female grotesque
Ironic category
Propriety and legitimacy

For Win and Alan


Becoming leaders: an investigation into women’s leadership in male dominated


This thesis examines how women perform as leaders within male-dominated

professions, including law, business, politics, the military, and the academy. In
studying women’s performances in terms of the corporeal and spectacular, the
investigation seeks to understand how particular women enact leadership through
their materiality within specific times and places. Drawing on Gilles Deleuze and
Felix Guattari’s (1988) theorising of the processes of ‘becoming’, woman-as-leader
is studied as an entity that passes from one incomplete and multiple assemblage to
another, rather than as a singular ‘developing’ identity.

The research is located within and between the paradoxes that complicate the
performances of leadership for women. One key paradox serving as a rationale for
this investigation is that, while ‘equity’ has become a truism of contemporary
leadership, it is clear from formal reports (for example, the 2002 Equal Opportunity
for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) report), that many women continue
to be marginalised and under-represented as leaders and senior managers.
Moreover, those few women who have achieved success often acknowledge
themselves as both legitimately and differently – and sometimes awkwardly, located
as leaders in the everyday enactments of their work.

The investigation of leadership within and between such paradoxes is problematic

for a neo-liberal order of thinking, and even for socially critical theory, because of
the assumptions that modernist literature makes about women’s struggle for
political legitimacy (ie, a narrative of progress, emancipation, and/or linear
cumulative historical development). It is for this reason that the conceptual tools
used in this study are drawn from post-feminist and post-structuralist theory. Such
theorising refuses literal categories in favour of ‘ironic categories’ (Rorty, 1989)
where two apparently oppositional ideas are understood to be both necessary and

To explore women ‘becoming’ leaders (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988), ‘woman-as-
leader’ is interrogated using Jean François Lyotard’s (1984) notion of
‘performativity,’ Mary Russo’s (1994) theorising of the embodied spectacle of ‘the
female grotesque’, and Richard Rorty (1989) and Donna Haraway’s (1991)
insistence on partiality, doubt, and the importance of ‘undoing’ the fixity of
modernist categories – in this instance, for women. One ironic category of
importance to the study is Haraway’s theorising of a ‘cyborgian identity’, a
technological assemblage that is part-human/part-machine. This allows
acknowledgement that women leaders inhabit realms beyond the boundaries
imposed by the same/difference, human/machine, present/past, and real/virtue

Using these tools, the performances of a number of women leaders is examined in

an empirical study that focuses on a few individual women located in male-defined
and male dominated settings. The empirical work has two key components. First, it
provides a reading of three moments in time where a female individual dys-appears
(Leder, 1990) in the public gaze, erupting as a unique spectacle in spaces that are
both enabling and constraining. It foregrounds the unique complexities of three
public performances in which women made a spectacle of themselves, while the
analysis refuses to either celebrate the individuals involved, or to bemoan the
conditions under which they did so. The analysis demonstrates the value of re-
thinking leadership in terms of its complexity for the female as embodied public

It then moves on to focus specifically on the (embodied, spectacular) tactics being

deployed by women leaders in contemporary professional work. This analysis is
located in the professions of law, business, politics, the military, and the academy.
The data-as-evidence emerging from the analysis show women leaders to be both
and neither enacting and troubling ‘proper’ (ie, traditional and/or known) leadership
conventions. The analysis provides a reading of how, through certain tactical shifts,
women work to ‘de-territorialise’ both the ‘forms of content’ and ‘forms of
expression’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988) constituting leadership performances.

It makes visible the tactical assemblages these women deploy, and the ways in
which such tactics separate, combine, and compound the same/difference,
equality/inequality, either/or binaries. The specific tactical manoeuvres for
achieving legitimacy in the public gaze cluster around four identifiable ironic
categories: (i) legitimate cross-dressing (ii) assertive defence (iii) proper blasphemy,
and (iv) humanly-machinic.

When taken together, the two components of the empirical study compel a re-
theorising of ‘woman-as-leader’ as both insider and outsider, an entity engaging in
the on-going work of diss-assembling and re-assembling a leaderly self. Woman is
shown ‘to be not one, not multiple, but multiplicities’, simultaneously (Deleuze &
Guattari, 1988). This re-theorising provides a more nuanced account of women
leaders working to maintain legitimacy, credibility, and propriety as leaders than
mainstream theorising of leadership and management currently allows.


The writing of this thesis has been supported by many people and I am pleased to
acknowledge their support and encouragement. The generous support of
Queensland University of Technology has assisted in the timely completion of the
thesis. In particular, the support that enabled me to spend three months as a Visiting
Scholar at Cambridge University (Wolfson College) where I conducted research and
interviews with significant women leaders in the UK. Also, the support of the Dean
of Creative Industries Professor John Hartley and Discipline Head Dr Terry Flew
who allowed me six months away from teaching and administrative responsibilities
to concentrate on the writing up and completion of the thesis. Without this support
this thesis would be the poorer and the demanding task of a PhD more onerous and

To Professor Erica McWilliam, whose inspiration, intelligence, and unflagging

enthusiasm infuse every aspect of this work, I give my heartfelt thanks. Her
supervision and engagement with the conceptual work underpinning the thesis has
been exciting, thorough, and supportive. To Dr Daphne Meadmore, I express thanks
for her valuable and generous support in building my confidence in handling post-
structural tools, and in helping to clarify my ideas and my writing. Thanks too, to Dr
Karen Dooley who read the later drafts with an intelligent eye.

I wish to thank the many women who have generously given of their time, thoughts,
experiences, frustrations, joys, and insights about what it means for them to be a
woman leader within male-defined and male-dominated domains. In particular I
give thanks to the women leaders who allowed me into their busy lives to interview
them personally. These interviews are a source of lasting joy and inspiration. I give
thanks to Rt Hon Lady Justice Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Rt Hon Lady Justice
Dame Brenda Hale, Rt Hon Lady Justice Dame Mary Arden, Dame Heather Hallett,
The Hon Dame Betty Boothroyd, Baroness Symons of Vernon Dean, The Hon
Glenda Jackson, Baroness Helena Kennedy of the Shaws QC, Senior Detective
Inspector Debbie Doe, Ms Deborah Lamb and women of The Women’s Unit, and
some others who will recognise their input, but who wish to remain anonymous.

In particular, I wish to acknowledge and thank Judge O’Sullivan who has
generously given of her time, shared her experiences and ideas with me, and kept
me supplied with articles and photos of women leaders in the public domain. Her
commitment to the importance of this project, as a project for women, has been
another inspiration to me.

To Dr Felicity McArdle, whose own thesis explores the ironic categories

underpinning the teaching of art in young children I give sincere thanks. Her
encouragement has given me courage and guidance in understanding how ironic
categories, as conceptual tools, can be creatively and usefully applied in research.

I thank my colleagues at Queensland University of Technology who have also been

supportive and interested in the project throughout its duration: Patsy McCarthy, Dr
Caroline Hatcher, Assoc Professor Greg Hearn, and Dr Judy Gregory have
strengthened me through their friendship and belief in my ability to conduct the
research and finish the thesis. To my friends Dr Wendy Parker and Dr Malcolm
Parker – my thanks as always.

Finally, I give my love and my thanks to my parents Win and Alan (deceased)
Walden for their belief in the importance of education, and their enduring faith in
me. To my children Emma, Timothy, Christian, Caitlin, and Annabelle, who have
generously tolerated and supported me through the arduous and often stressful
demands of managing work, study, and family, I give my love and thanks.

Table of Contents

Title page p.i

Examination Certificate p.ii
Candidate’s statement p.iii
Key Words p.iv
Abstract p.vi
Acknowledgements p.ix
Table of Contents p.xi



Frontispiece p.xix
1.0 Introduction p.1
1.1 Research Questions p.5
1.2 Aims and Objectives p.6
1.3 Context Setting p.7
1.4 Background p.10
1.5 Key Assumptions of the Study: Truth claims not truth p.12
1.6 The Theory/Method Relationship p.18
1.6.1 Post-structuralism as methodology p.18
1.7 Thesis Structure p.20
1.8 Significance of the Study p.24



Frontispiece p.26
2.0 Women as leaders: Mapping the modern landscape p.27
2.1 Assumptions p.28
2.1.1 That there has been, historically, one style of

leadership, and it is readily identifiable as
male-defined. p.28
2.1.2 That the rules of leadership are made by men to
serve men. p.30
2.1.3 That men, as well as women, stand to benefit
from understanding how gender shapes leadership
style. p.32
2.1.4 That we need to put power and sexuality
at the heart of effective leadership. p.34
2.1.5 That we need to find ways of widening
the pool of leadership talent. p.36
2.2 The roots of advocacy: Women as leaders p.37
2.3 Blame patriarchy – Yes and No p.41
2.3.1 Women, the workplace, capitalism, and a new economy p.46
2.3.2 Counting for something p.47
2.3.3 Asking ‘dumb’ questions p.50
2.3.4 New categories for speaking contexts p.52
2.3.5 Re-thinking complicity p.55



Frontispiece p.57
3.0 Introduction p.58
3.1 Breathing in ideas – ‘women are educated but who
knows how?’ p.61
3.2 Finding a ‘voice’ – Yes and No p.64
3.2.1 Talking like we talk – ‘authentically inauthentic’ voices p.68
3.2.2 Costing words p.69
3.2.3 If good managers are male, who are the bad managers? p.70
3.2.4 ‘Thinking about, thinking about’ p.71
3.3 It’s about empowering everyone. A gender perspective
benefits all – Yes and No p.72
3.3.1 A cluster of contested zones p.75

3.4 Sexuality matters – Yes and No p.76
3.4.1 ‘Telling flesh’ p.76
3.4.2 Performing leadership p.78
3.4.3 Powerful and pleasurable sites of cleavage p.81
3.5 Market-place logic: binary meltdown – Yes and No p.84
3.5.1 Symbolic nodal points and multiple F-words p.86
3.5.2 The Ruth-less world of entrepreneurial fast-capitalism p.87
3.5.3 Heterogenous ensembles p.90
3.5.4 The embodied woman and privileged accounts p.94
3.5.5 Scented with possibilities p.95
3.5.6 Slippery bodies with ‘no ends but additions’ p.96
3.5.7 Changing the subject p.97
3.5.8 Corporeality and leadership p.99



Frontispiece p.103
4.0 From Universalising to Conditional Thinking and Theory p.104
4.1 Identity as Assemblage p.110
4.2 Woman-as-leader as Assemblage p.112
4.3 Beyond Solidarity p.115
4.4 Groundless Solidarity as Methodology? p.117
4.5 Groundless Method? p.119
4.6 Ironic Methodology p.120
4.7 A Cyborgian Self? p.123
4.8 Grotesque Females and Transgressors p.125
4.9 Material Matters p.128
4.10 Making, not finding, Data p.129
4.11 Producing the Body as Assemblage p.131
4.12 The Face is the Body p.135
4.13 Turning Bodies into Data p.139
4.14 Cyborgian Bodily Performances as Research Method p.140
4.15 Phases of Data Collection p.143

4.15.1 Phase One p.142
4.15.2 Phase Two p.145
4.15.3 Phase Three p.149



Frontispiece p.151
5.0 Three exemplars of dys-appearing double acts p.153
5.1 Woman-in-box: Anna Maria van Schürman p.155
5.1.1 “Monstrum naturae” p.156
5.1.2 Shifting the terms of viewing p.157
5.1.3 Cyborgian performance p.158
5.1.4 Propriety and performance p.159
5.1.5 Re-assembling the gaze p.160
5.1.6 Expanded spaces of visibility p.162
5.1.7 Woman-in-a-box: So what for women and leadership? p.163
5.2 An amazing spectacle: Woman as living bill-board p.165
5.2.1 A disorderly-orderly political advocate p.166
5.2.2 A working assemblage p.167
5.2.3 Boxed-in spectacles p.169
5.2.4 Stunted-stunts p.169
5.2.5 Disorderly women in their place p.171
5.2.6 Cyborgian/hybrid identity p.173
5.2.7 Accumulating spectacles p.174
5.2.8 Grotesque boxes to virtually make it p.175
5.2.9 Identity-formation as hybridity p.176
5.2.10 Making a stand on a soap-box p.177
5.3 Bronwyn Bishop: Parodic woman-on-a-box p.180
5.3.1 Brought-to-book on a box (of books) p.181
5.3.2 Cartoons as social production p.181
5.3.3 Dismantling, for the naming of parts p.184

Russo, (1994), p.15

5.3.4 A line figure of a woman p.185
5.3.5 Awkward moves as unbalancing acts p.187
5.3.6 Boxing the naturally inauthentic p.189
5.3.7 Just not up to it: prostheses for elevation p.190
5.3.8 Problems solved and made p.192
5.3.9 Leadership as seen and seen through p.193
5.3.10 Prosthetically natural p.194
5.3.11 Creatures of a fictive social reality p.196
5.3.12 Boxes to enable constrained leadership moves p.197
5.3.13 Cyborg multiples must be made p.198
5.3.14 Boxes: So what, for women and leadership? p.200

5.4 Conclusion: Making spectacle speak. p.201


Frontispiece p.203
6.0 Behaving badly for the good p.205
6.1 Four Ironic Categories p.210
6.2 Legitimate cross-dressing p.211
6.2.1 Legitimacy as mixing and un-matching p.213
6.2.2 Tactical cross-dressing p.215
6.2.3 Correct dress as incorrect assemblages p.217
6.2.4 Propriety and forms of add-dress p.219
6.2.5 Assembling the dress properly p.220
6.2.6 “Visibility is a trap” p.222
6.2.7 Make-over but not made-over p.225
6.2.8 The feminine masks p.226
6.2.9 Lacking greyness – changing suits p.227
6.2.10 Corporeal elements p.229
6.2.11 Subversive strength p.231
6.2.12 Objects and detachable parts p.233
6.2.13 Breaches and trouser-parts p.235
6.2.14 ‘Facialising’ leadership p.237

6.2.15 Meaning escapes everywhere p.238
6.3 Assertive defence: p.241
6.3.1 “The face is a veritable megaphone” p.241
6.3.2 ‘Facialising’ presence p.242
6.3.3 Tactical donuts –supportive attacks p.245
6.3.4 Assemblages carefully learned p.248
6.3.5 The weightiness of correct-weight p.249
6.3.6 Breaking the rules to be the exception and the rule p.252
6.3.7 Iron in the irony p.253
6.3.8 Behaving badly for the good p.254
6.3.9 “Take it like a man and give it like a woman” p.256
6.3.10 Peerless dis-arming tactics p.257
6.3.11 Double-edged sword of working in doubles p.258
6.3.12 Bodies-in-connection p.259
6.3.13 Repeating similarity – differently p.260
6.3.14 Never the I of the storm p.262
6.4 Proper blasphemy p.264
6.4.1 The material power of language p.264
6.4.2 ‘General ideas are the General’s ideas’ p.267
6.4.3 ‘Disorderly polyphony’ p.269
6.4.4 Name games of fidelity and infidelity p.269
6.4.5 “Get yourself a speaking-part” p.273
6.4.6 ‘The best of times, the worst of times’ p.275
6.4.7 Grotesque reflections p.279
6.4.8 Becoming legitimate is becoming multiple p.281
6.4.9 Stroppiness as spectacle p.283
6.5 Humanly machinic p.286
6.5.1 ‘Women as spectacle and producers of spectacle’ p.286
6.5.2 Anything may go p.288
6.5.3 Dancing up a storm p.290
6.5.4 Sexual union – centre stage p.292
6.5.5 “Irritatingly unabsorbable” p.295
6.5.6 Yes Sir, No Sir p.297
6.5.7 ‘A second coming’ p.299

6.5.8 Assembling C³I p.301

6.6 So what, for woman and leadership? p.304


Frontispiece p.312
7.0 Points of becoming and departure p.313
7.1 Sub-questions p.317
7.2 Four ironic categories: p.329
7.2.1 Legitimate cross-dressing p.329
7.2.2 Assertive defence p.331
7.2.3 Proper blasphemy p.333
7.2.4 Humanly machinic p.335
7.3 Ironic categories at work: p.336
7.3.1 Becoming ‘scrupulously fake’ p.336
7.3.2 Assembling legitimate blasphemy p.342
7.3.3 Managing similarly-different p.345
7.3.4 Identity-formation of woman-as-leader p.346
7.3.5 Performing as natural freaks p.347
7.3.6 Becoming within and against the tensions p.348
7.3.7 Leadership as ‘multiplicities’ p.349
7.3.8 Tactics from the ground up p.350
7.3.9 Lightning rods charging leadership p.351
7.3.10 Cyborgian leaders bringing everything in p.352
7.4 Future directions p.354
7.5 Formed and clothed in a cyborgian re-imagination p.356


8.1 Appendix One:
Women Judges in Queensland: Bodies in specific places. p.359
8.2 Appendix Two:
Queensland Courts: Outline of the structure of the Qld Courts,
including numbers of males and females within these courts. p.360

8.3 Appendix Three: Barristers and solicitors in Queensland:
males and females. p.361
8.4 Appendix Four: Bulletin magazine: The Power Issue.
Analysis of the men and women named in the article
as the “movers and shakers of politics, sport and business”. p.362
8.5 Appendix Five: A gender analysis of the text
The New Art of the Leader (2000) by W. H. Cohen. p.364
8.6 Appendix Six: Significant dates for women in the
history of Australia 1941-1999 p.367
8.7 Appendix Seven: Interview Structure and possible questions p.369
8.8 Appendix Eight: Cartoon illustrations of suffrage women. p.370
8.8 Appendix Nine: Portraits of Anna Maria van Schürman p.371
8.9 Appendix Ten: Letter requesting an interview p.372


Figure 1: Anna-Maria-van Schurman p.155
Figure 2: Vida Goldstein p.166
Figure 3: The Hon Mrs Bronwyn Bishop p.180
Figure 4: Prime Minister of New Zealand Dr Helen Clark p.224
Figure 5: Justice Margaret McMurdo,
President of the Court of Appeal, Queensland p.228
Figure 6: Judge Sarah Bradley, District Court Queensland p.230
Figure 7: Graduation photo of Victorian Police
Commissioner Christine Nixon p.235
Figure 8 Cartoon imagery of suffrage women p.370
Figure 9 Portraits of Anna Maria van Schurman p.371



1.0 Introduction

1.1 Research Questions

1.2 Aims and Objectives

1.3 Context Setting

1.4 Background

1.5 Key Assumptions of the Study – Truth Claims not Truth

1.5 The Theory/Method Relationship

1.5.1 Post-structuralism as methodology

1.6 Thesis Structure

1.7 Significance of the Study




1.0 Introduction
The impetus for this research comes from an observation made by the Honourable
Justice Mary Gaudron in a televised documentary interview in 1998. In describing
her work as the first and only woman judge to be appointed to the High Court,2 she
commented that:
It is daunting, for all the reasons my colleagues have suggested. [The work
of The High Court is important, it is difficult, and it matters]. Along with
that, I want to ensure I’m not the first and last woman on the High Court. I
certainly don’t want anyone to say, ‘We tried a woman once and it didn’t
work, so we won’t try that again’. ... I want to keep the door open for other
women and show them this is a possibility for women as well as men. (ABC-
TV, 26 May, 1998).

Instead of minimising what is involved in being a woman leader within her

particular profession, Justice Gaudron problematises the everyday effects of
performing as a High Court judge. In contrast to what is required of her male
colleagues, she points to the same, but different work involved in being a woman-
judge. Performatively, the work of a male and female judge is not all of a piece, she
suggests: it involves “multiplicities” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.24) of particular
sorts – both different and undifferentiated. There are similarities – Justice Gaudron
affirms that for a woman, too, it is complex, serious, and it matters, as it does for her
male colleagues. However, there are some additional key requirements for a woman
judge in contrast to a man judge; in particular the demands of working as a role
model and trying to ensure that women will continue to be considered worthy
appointments to the High Court.

As the first and only woman to enter this male-defined domain, the role models
available to a High Court woman judge are those created by men, for men. It has
obviously required some pioneering work to discover how a woman might also fit

The Highest Court, ‘Inside Story’, ABC-TV, 26 May, 1998. Appointed to the High Court of Australia in 1987, the
Honourable Justice Mary Gaudron, the longest serving member on the High Court, retired in February 2003.

within the established protocols, traditions, and norms of the High Court. Justice
Gaudron makes visible the dilemma and obscurity of this for women, because as
with most protocols, such things are written no-where, spoken by no-one and known
only when they appear in contrast to established conventions (Sapir, 1921).
Furthermore, she points to the added difficulty of becoming a role model for women
generally, unlike her male colleagues who “are always finally responsible as an
individual in making these [judicial] comments” (Chief Justice, Sir Gerard Brennan,

The issues raised by Justice Gaudron challenge entrenched views of women in

leadership as either the same as their male colleagues (Goffee & Jones 2000; Cohen,
2000; Powell, 1988), or as different from them (Nieva & Gutek, 1981; Gilligan,
1982; Belenky, 1986; Schein, Mueller, Lituchy & Liu, 1996; Wilson, 1995; Eagly,
1992). For example, leadership theorists Morrison, White and Van Velsor (1992), in
contrast to Justice Gaudron’s observations, are dismissive of the importance of
gender in leadership. They claim that there is little evidence of gender differences
between men and women in terms of influence, dominance, confidence, capacity to
lead, motivate, or deal with problems and conflict within organisations.

Taking a different approach, David Brearley (2002) contests the idea of gender-
neutrality in terms of both leaders and leadership style. In his article “Days of gain
and plunder,” examining the 2001 demise of insurance company HIH, he highlights
the dangers of a gendered ‘groupthink’,3 that risks perpetuating a narrow, “over-
specialised and gendered base” (Ferguson, 1992, p.1). His particular concern is
precisely the narrowly focused homogeneity of gender and its hegemonic function
within leadership style that is hinted at in Justice Gaudron’s comment. According to
Brearley (2002), “a fine bunch of gentleman they must have looked, lean and
prosperous in their pin-striped suits… Each reflected in one or another of his facets
the benign light that beamed down on them all from the top of the table. When the
directors sat down to business, Ray Williams was The Man” (p.25, italics added).
What Brearley (2002) is cautioning against here is the power of entrenched
discursive traditions, which he describes as “the cult” (p.25) of male-defined and

Janis, J.L. (1983). Groupthink. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

male-dominated leadership. The interplay of these either or neither views about
gender and leadership clearly requires further probing.

We are interested in leadership and “we do want leaders,” claims Michael Warby
(2001), but mostly in terms of spectacle and celebrity, he suggests, because the
emphasis for modern leaders concerns the power of the visual, of surface, of
embodiment, and performativity within the public gaze. He concludes that this
context is a reality for leaders that “cannot be ignored or changed in a democratic
polity…. Political leaders and public figures must adapt to it or fail” (p.2). Warby
(2001) further states that “we applaud the rise of leaders” (p.2), but only in so far as
they demonstrate the strength and substance of power and the techniques of
celebrity and visual spectacle, which, according to Mulvey (1988a, 1988b, 1991)
and Doane (1982) may risk evoking the male gaze, and categories of voyeurism and
fetishistic pleasure. “What modern leaders do, however, is to use the techniques of
being a celebrity as tools of leadership. Leaders still need words, but they use them
less than in the past, and use visual techniques more” (Warby, 2001, pp.1-2).
Alternatively, this may prove useful for women leaders, because as Russo (1994)
puts it, to deliberately play with spectacle and mimesis is suggestive of the hopeful
power of masquerade. The deliberate dressing, acting, and positioning of a woman
in a man’s world is culturally compelling, she suggests; it points to femininity as a
dynamic possibility, that can be put on, but also taken off (pp. 69-70).

In the terms elaborated here, the leadership territory appears as a contradictory and
complex category. In distilling just these few accounts, leadership appears as un-
gendered, and gender-neutral, and highly gendered, and it concerns traditional
elements of strength and power, but in a context of celebrities and spectacle that
also bring attendant risks. ‘We’ applaud the rise of individuals to the realms of
leadership, but ‘we expect them’ to deploy ‘celebrity tools,’ such as ‘visual
techniques,’ rather than the more conventional power of words and position-power.
The thesis makes the case that women leaders are by necessity working with all
these competing accounts as similarly-different women leaders, at one and the same

Since the seventies feminists have been engaged with issues surrounding gender, the
body, spectacle, and the representation of women in the public gaze (Evans, 1994;
Hughes, 2002). While not implying there is any form of unified stance, it is
imperative to ask what feminism has to say about leadership and women as leaders.
Despite the seemingly diverse views of leadership, Australian leadership theorist,
Professor Amanda Sinclair (1998), has a sense of unease about the uniformity and
inadequacy of current leadership accounts. “Leadership doesn’t speak to women in
the way it does to many men. You don’t often hear women use a public platform to
invoke the needs for (traditional) leadership as a solution to the nation’s problems”
(p.vii). Nevertheless, women are working as leaders in most professions, and they
are involved in leadership within most organisations, albeit in small numbers. The
title of Sinclair’s (1998) text, Doing Leadership Differently: Gender, power, and
sexuality in a changing business culture, suggests that she is pursuing a different
feminist perspective. Taking just these few accounts into consideration, clearly there
are divergences and slippage in the category of leadership as an object of
knowledge, as it is understood to be performed in the context of the workplace and
in the public domain.

The dilemma of the paradoxical positions posed in the above accounts raises what
Luke and Gore (1992) describe as “an uneasy moment” (p.ix), because what might
have seemed simple and ‘ordinary’ has become unfamiliar and complicated. The
taking up of these certain doubts and ‘uneasy moments,’ is an imperative for this
research project, because the contradictions in the explanations of what constitutes
leadership and women’s place within in it, create spaces for shifts in dominant ways
of thinking about the performances of leaders. The conflicting understandings of
leadership, represented here by just a few of the many accounts available, are the
driving force of the study, which seeks to understand the discursive tensions
underpinning and producing woman-as-leader within such contexts. What seems
apparent from the above is that for women leaders, leadership involves a range of
ideas and practices, that in Deleuzian terms, can be described as ‘multiplicity’.
However, it is not clear what the multiple entails, or how one text or process is
folded back over another, or what effect this has in the everyday enactments of
leaders, and in particular women leaders.

These issues, including those raised by Justice Gaudron, provide points of analysis
for further investigation. Gender, as it intersects with leadership, along with the
importance of “the lived body” (Leder, 1990, p.5) and the performativity of woman-
as-leader enacting leadership in the public gaze, are significant ideas to be examined
further. That is, at a moment in time where the power of the visual and the
performative is of increasing importance, and in a technological, global context that
suggests we do want leaders, but where leadership thinking and images continue to
perpetuate ‘The Man’ (which does not speak to women as it does to men), how are
women performing as leaders, and enacting their leadership in male-defined and
male-dominated domains? This question is central to the thesis.

1.1 Research Questions

The research question that has been framed out of the above considerations is: How
are women performing as leaders in traditional male-defined and male-
dominated professions? A number of sub-questions emerge ‘rhizomatically’4
(Deleuze & Guattari, 1988) out of this overarching question. They are:
 What is known already about women leaders and leadership, and how does
mainstream leadership literature and feminist literature account for the
contradictory statistics and accounts about woman-as-leader?
 Why is it that existing accounts do not satisfactorily explain the continuities
and discontinuities attendant on women leaders in the public domain?
 How might these concerns be productively investigated considering the vast
amount of leadership material that is already present in the public domain?
 How might a re-theorising of women leaders and leadership add to the
existing accounts?
 How are women performing as leaders, what sort of spectacle are they
making of themselves, and how is this represented in the public domain?
 How does identity formation work, and what kinds of tactical deployments
are required of women leaders in order to maintain legitimacy, credibility,
and propriety?

“A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, and organisations of power … involving principles
of connection and heterogeneity: any point of a rhizome can be connected to any other, and must be. This is very different
from the tree root which plots a point, fixes an order. The semiotic chains of every nature (in a rhizome) are connected to very
diverse modes of coding (biological, political, economic, etc) that bring into play not only different regimes of signs but also
states of things of differing status…. Collective assemblages of enunciation function directly within machinic assemblages; it
is not possible to make a radical break between regimes of signs and their objects…Multiplicities and assemblages are
rhizomatic” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, pp.6-8).

 What are the implications for women seeking to become leaders within the
present practices and processes of leadership?

1.2 Aims and Objectives

The primary aim of the research is to understand in more complexity the labour of
identity formation and the work involved in performing a leaderly identity as a
woman leader in male-defined and male-dominated professions. The thesis seeks to
both challenge and augment a burgeoning literature concerning 'women in
leadership and management', by making a cautious departure from orthodox
feminist readings of women's identity formation, seen as predictable products of
patriarchy, or in terms of equality/inequality, sameness/difference binaries. To do
this work, the study investigates the identity formation of woman-as-leader in male
dominated fields, including law, business, the academy, politics, and the military.
Of particular importance, is to ask how women leaders are enacting their leadership
roles, what sort of spectacle is made of them, and what sort of spectacle they make
of themselves, including how the women leaders investigated here (and others like
them) are portrayed as public figures in the public domain.

Therefore, the specific objectives of the study are:

 To investigate current research into woman-as-leader, and women in positions
of seniority, through mainstream leadership and management literature,
including feminist contributions and challenges to this field of literature;
 To identify the underlying assumptions and the gaps in the literature, including
the ways they de-limit accounts of women as paradoxically located as leaders
within fields of leadership and management;
 To identify a small number of women within male-defined and male-dominated
professions as suitable subjects for further investigation about the performativity
of leadership as a woman;
 To develop a textual method for documenting and analysing how women are
performing as leaders, and how they both resist and accommodate orthodox
notions of leadership in their respective settings;
 To document and analyse the elements involved in their performances, that are
understood here as a complex set of social and material leadership practices;

 To explore ways to re-theorise women in leadership, including the labour of
identity and performing identity as a woman leader, in terms of the complexities
and contradictions contained in the literature;
 To consider the implications of this analysis for the professional development
and training of women seeking to become leaders and senior managers.

1.3 Context Setting

This investigation into how women perform as leaders is an attempt to reveal the
certain doubts, complexities, contradictions, and conflicts involved in women and/in
leadership; contradictions that cannot be simply explained in terms of bi-univocal
gender differences, or ideologies of equality/inequality, or sameness/difference. As
a study of the performativity of women as leaders, it arises out of concerns about the
complex and contradictory nature of a woman’s place in senior management and
leadership. Nowhere is this more fraught than in the male-defined and male-
dominated domains of law, business, the academy, the military, and politics with
their regimes of power, long histories, and complex traditions, practices, protocols,
and norms.

One strong message from career employment advertisements is that women are now
“encouraged to apply” (Targett, 2000, p.5) for senior positions in all career fields.
There are no longer to be any barriers to the highest office in any area of enterprise
or social endeavour. Another strong message from major reports such as
Enterprising Nation (Karpin, 1995) is that women still lag behind their male
counterparts in terms of the senior management salary divide5 and their conditions
of employment. This is corroborated in the recent 2002 research conducted by the
Equal Opportunity in the Workplace for Women (EOWA Report). Despite all
endeavours, women still remain marginalised and under-represented as leaders and
senior managers.

The findings of a 2000 study by Price Waterhouse Coopers that this gender gap did
not appear to be closing were considered by its marketing manager to be “surprising
because the accounting firm was moving to hire more female graduates than male”

National Salary Survey 2000, an Australian Institute of Management Survey of 556 large and small companies, has found
that the average male management accountant earned $75 375, while a woman with the same job title earned 20% less ($60

(Targett, 2000, p.5). The fact that senior managers themselves – including senior
women,6 continue to be ‘surprised’ by these ongoing paradoxes of recruitment,
remuneration and advancement of women in leadership demands further scrutiny to
probe the contradictions and fragmentation within traditional explanations. Where
that leadership is being enacted in traditionally male-defined and male-dominated
domains, the issue is even more compelling, given that it could be presumed that the
‘glass ceiling’ has been well and truly shattered by the very physical presence of
woman as Justice, General, Vice Chancellor, CEO, Union Leader, Governor, Prime
Minister, Premier, and so on.

This study investigates the performance of women’s leadership in the context of

such paradoxes. In so doing, it seeks to address the inadequacy and gaps in the
current analyses of women in management and leadership in grappling with the
complexity of the idea of woman-as-leader. Leadership and management literature
is, in broad terms, more likely to reiterate the more optimistic story that women are
increasingly encouraged to be senior managers, and are more likely to be successful
than ever before (Chapman, 1989; Davidson & Cooper, 1992). Davidson and
Cooper (1992) write that, “[l]ike Chapman, we also take an optimistic view and
predict that the advances made for women in the work-place over the next decade
will not regress… but progress” (p.18). Claims such as this draw on thinking about
more enlightened workplaces and new international markets, which are the products
of a new global culture of enterprise (Peters, 1991). However, feminist writers, such
as Sinclair (1998), Sinclair and Wilson (2002), Garratt (1998), and Burton and Ryall
(1995) continue to voice their scepticism about this story by pointing to the
structural inequities which remain for many senior women. Such contradictions do
not rule in isolation, and as such require a pluralist, contingent approach to the
analysis, as a methodological alternative to the binary logic of either/or

In insisting on these polar representations, both sets of analyses must, of necessity,

ignore or trivialise certain material and social realities in order to make their case.
Optimistic analyses (Chapman, 1989, Davidson & Cooper, 1992), emanating from

In this case ‘surprise’ was expressed by Sue Winstone the Marketing Manager of Price Waterhouse Coopers (Targett, 2000,

the rhetoric of a libertarian discourse, ignore material realities such as salary
differentials and the “angry, frustrated, resigned, matter-of-fact, or hopeful business
women on both continents ... who describe the rate of change as glacial” (Jennings,
2003, p.20). Clearly, not all women are able to become similarly successful to
achieve positions of wealth and power. Pessimistic analyses ignore new rhetorics of
Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action legislation (introduced in 1986), human
resource and management training programs, and the fact that many women have
become successful leaders and senior managers7.

The veracity of these pessimistic views comes from research data (for example the
EOWA 2002 report) that illustrates that progress for women leaders is not linear or
steadily moving forward. Kate Jennings (2003) laments that, “the Australian
showings are so pitiful, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. … Whatever
spin you put on the Catalyst and EOWA figures – they’re awful” (p.20). She quotes
President and CEO of HarperCollins, Jane Friedman, and Westpac Director, Ann
Sherry, who “both acknowledge that playing the game hasn’t been a huge success,
but returning to outrage is not the answer either” (Jennings, 2003, p.24).
Understanding women and leadership is obviously more complex and multi-
dimensional than binary formulations (such as moving backwards or forwards
between playing the game or outrage), can explain.

Any suggestion that there is one satisfactory method of theorising women

performing their leadership is as deluded as “the idea that a relatively privileged
minority of women could concoct a plan for liberation that would be satisfactory to
all women” (Young, 1989, p.181). It is argued, therefore, that an analysis
acknowledging the complexity of the socio-cultural and political practices currently
defining women leaders and senior managers is required. Issues of power, identity,
and subjectivity as objects for scrutiny within the daily practices of leadership must
also be considered if understandings about woman-as-leader are to be developed.
Engagement in such an analysis demands a set of theoretical tools which avoids a

For example, former Irish President, and United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson; former Prime
British Minister, Margaret Thatcher; USA Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright; Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Brundtland;
Supreme Court and High Court judges in the USA, UK, and Australia, and current women leaders working at senior levels in
business, academia and the military, such as, Air Vice-Marshal Julie Hammer; QANTAS Chair Margaret Jackson; CEO St
George Bank, Gail Kelly; CEO Lend Lease Corporation, Professor Jill Kerr-Conway; and Vice Chancellors, Professor Janice
Reid (University of Western Sydney); Professor Sally Walker (Deakin University); Professor Ruth Dunkin (RMIT), to name
but a few.

simplistic polarisation of women in leadership debate, and moves beyond simple,
essentialising accounts of leadership, male or female. As post-feminist theorists
suggest we need more than resolution or revolution (Wiegman, 1994). To respond
to this imperative, the study draws on post-structuralist, post-feminist theorising to
allow for a plurality of contingent and partial explanations that allow for different
connections and interactions. Such tools make possible the building of a conceptual
framework that can interrogate the performance of women leaders, as more than a
triumphal narrative of progress, or an emancipatory narrative of political struggle –
both of which resonate powerfully in earlier feminist theorising (Hughes, 2002;
Evans, 1994).

1.4 Background
To begin, some kind of definition of leadership as a knowledge object is required.
The difficulty, foregrounded earlier, is that, as a category, leadership is shifting and
dynamic, and undergoing significant change. Eva Cox (1996) argues that women
have “an uneasy relationship with leadership and power” (p.1). She cites several
prominent women who caution her against mentioning women in power and women
and power, as if the coupling of these concepts is antithetical to a feminist project
for women. Cox (1996) insists that the relative absence of research about women
leaders, leadership, and power must be re-dressed. “We need more leading women
... because corporations, governments, and institutions have been dominated by men
with their particular view of the world (pp.11-13). She argues that from within
masculine paradigms of leadership, it creates gendered assumptions based in
concepts such as master, force, authority, command, control, influence, power,
strength, might, and rule that become the truths about what consitutes a good worker
and a good leader (pp.11-19). In a detailed analysis of Enterprising Nation, Caroline
Hatcher (1998) states that, “[c]entral to the constitution of the meaning of leadership
in the report is the binary formulation – the ‘control and command’/functional
bureaucracy, or, the ‘empowered’/Triple I [intelligence, information,
ideas]/empowering horizontal organisation” (pp.149-150). The management sub-
committee of Enterprising Nation (Karpin, 1995) offer what they consider is a
useful definition.
Leadership is the process of bringing about achievement of
performance/business objectives without relying on the authority of the
position. …All employees should be encouraged to use their leadership

skills and not rely on a person who may carry a title which bestows some
authority. (The Management Skills in Australia Subcommittee, 1995,

The Boston Consulting Group (1995) add to these definitions by listing some
specific descriptions required of leaders. For example, “strong personal
accountability,” “carrying responsibilities” “as enablers”, “proficiencies in both
hard and soft skills” as “creating co-operation”, “as articulating values and vision”
(pp.1244-1248). Leadership expert Peter Drucker of the Drucker Foundation states
that “one thing remains constant for leaders: our obligation is to enhance our
constituents’ performance and to deliver results” (cited in Hesselbein & Cohen,
1999, p.xi). Hesselbein (1999) concludes that “leadership is the ability to manage
for the organization’s mission and to mobilise people around that mission. Second,
although strategy and tactics change the fundamentals of leadership do not” (p.xii).
The thesis is an attempt to unravel how these seemingly fixed, ‘fundamentals of
leadership’ work in terms of woman-as-leader enacting leadership in male-
dominated contexts.

The identifiable divergences located within current understandings about leaders

and leadership demand closer scrutiny, if further understanding about women
leaders is to be achieved. The field is further complicated by an impressive body of
literature about women leaders produced out of feminist research. As mentioned
earlier, some theorists are dismissive or seemingly unaware of the role of gender,
suggesting that it is just a ‘matter of time’, of ‘opportunities’ or dependent on
‘critical mass,’ or ‘the line-officer pipeline’, rather than being related to the quality
of the performances of women, or issues of gender. Others, such as Still (1987,
1993), Burton and Ryall (1995), Cox (1996), Sinclair (1998), Garratt (1998), and
Sinclair and Wilson (2002), draw attention to the binary divisions within
organisations and the masculinist culture of leadership that still operates to privilege
some and marginalise others. The complication in much of this work is that it works
from a sameness-difference model of leadership, but as Justice Gaudron (1998)
suggests, women leaders are not working in terms of either/or, but as
simultaneously similar and different. That is, they are working within legitimate
leadership structures, and as women leaders who are, by definition, outside

conventional expectations and the norms of leadership. Clearly, simple explanations
are inadequate to explain such complexity.

1.5 Key assumptions of the study: Truth claims not truth

In understanding how the key assumptions underpinning this study have been
distilled, the following discussion outlines the complex issues that have been taken
into account. Leaders and styles of leadership have been of interest for thousands of
years, as seen in the ongoing fascination with iconographic figures, such as
Socrates, Plato, Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, Hannibal, Napoleon, and more
particularly, Jesus Christ. Clearly, history and tradition are implicated in any study
of women leaders and leadership. Deleuze and Guattari (1988) theorise that the
iconographic “social production of the face … and in particular the face of Jesus
Christ” (p.181) has become a template that has spread everywhere, and now
constitutes what passes in terms of leaders, leadership, and power (pp.174-191). In
the twentieth century, there was a burgeoning of literature about “the quality and
character of the powerful individual, as a true …real….best-practice … star-
performer, winning leader … [who is] enhancing performance, mastering how to
lead, delivering results, building a highly motivated productive workforce,
competing in global contests, and communicating a vision to a richly diverse
workforce and marketplace” (Hesselbein & Cohen, 1999, pp.vii-xii). This one
example makes apparent a number of gendered, socio-cultural, and political
assumptions underpinning the discursive constructions of leaders and leadership.

Feminist theorising contests such principles that now hold sway as leadership
constructs, by calling for a re-conceptualisation of the way gender privileges some
and marginalises others. Burton and Ryall’s (1995) research for the Karpin Report
(1995) demonstrates the discursive shifts that have occurred through such
theorising. Difference and diversity are now to be celebrated as productive of
multiple differences (ethnicity, dis-ability, sexuality, religion, culture, and so on).
Likewise, a gendered rationality has become an important focus through which to
understand how leadership is constituted and enacted, and how principles such as
‘merit’ work in terms of “the male-as-standard … that is linked to … apparent
independence, tough-mindedness, and individual competitiveness. …The Task

Force research indicates that a ‘male-club’ environment or culture exists in
Australian management and leadership” (Burton & Ryall, 1995, pp.19-23).

Questions about the labour of identity formation, “the subject and the living who”
(Derrida, 1991, p.115), and the labour of performing as a woman leader within
male-defined domains are also central to an investigation about women and
leadership. The calls for developing new concepts and ways of re-theorising
woman-as-leader require more than merely placing particular ideas, theories, and
concepts beside one another, and judging which ideas are better or more useful.
According to Deleuze (1991), it is more productive to confront the field of questions
to which the concepts and theories are an answer, an accepted belief, or a traditional
practice. In a leadership context, the purpose of confronting leadership questions is
to discover how ways of thinking about women leaders and leadership currently
hold sway, and what the results are for women newly entering male-defined and
male-dominated domains.

Feminist, post-modernist, and post-structuralist work have a history of questioning

dominant master or meta-narratives. For example, it is now no longer unusual to
read arguments such as this from Richardson (1991) that no specific discourse, or
way of thinking, “has a privileged place, [or] any method or theory a universal and
general claim to authoritative knowledge” (p.173). Post-feminist and post-
structuralist theorising, therefore, works to reveal the gaps and problems attendant
to universalist thinking that privileges some ideas, and silences or marginalises
others. The strength of such views is that disparate theories can now be placed in
tension against each other in the hope of opening up new ways of thinking by
admitting the interplay of contradictions and complexity.

This thesis is a response to the calls made by leadership theorists such as Burton and
Ryall (1995), Cox (1996), Sinclair (1998), and Hatcher (1998) for the continuing
problematisation8 of conventional approaches to the study of women in leadership
and management. According to Sinclair (1998), Burton and Ryall (1995), Sinclair
and Wilson, (2002), Garratt (1998) and others, such an approach is needed because

According to Johnson (1980) a ‘problematic’ is internally complex and contradictory, where ideas are loosely held in tension
together. A ‘problematic’ recognises that problems are not ‘finally solved’ or totally resolved but can be unsolved, ongoing
and open-ended.

there is an ongoing circularity and impoverishment underpinning much of the
leadership and management literature, which also fails in its explanations of how
women leaders are performing as leaders in the workplace.

Much of the early feminist literature is linked to ideas about a linear history of
emancipation and liberation of women and other ‘minorities’ who are believed to
have certain inalienable rights (Tong, 1989; Young, 1989; Humm, 1992). However,
Sinclair (1998), Garratt (1998), Burton and Ryall (1995), Mumby (1993), Knights
(1992), Hatcher (1998), and Sinclair and Wilson (2002), argue that much of the
mainstream leadership literature remains untouched by the different theorising of
epistemology and ontology that is occurring in other areas of inquiry such as
philosophy, cultural studies, and science. One of the key recommendations made by
Burton and Ryall (1995) in the Industry Task Force on Leadership and Management
Skills Report (Karpin, 1995) is “to manage diversity in the workforce” (p.7),
because “[e]vidence from an International Labour Organisation survey indicates that
Australia has the lowest percentage of women managers in the industrialised world”

A comparison of this with the most recent formal report in Australia, this time from
the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (2002), shows that in
Australia’s top 200 companies (as listed on the Australian Stock Exchange) the
figures of women in management and leadership remain low and have even fallen
back in some areas. Australian women currently hold 8.4% of senior executive
positions (15% in the US); 8.2% of Board positions (12.4% in the US); 5% of
executive business positions in the core business areas which are the main feeder
group for CEO and Board positions; just 2 of Australia’s top 200 companies have a
woman as CEO, and 54% of these companies have no women in executive
management positions (14% in the US) (EOWA Report, pp.1-3). In other areas of
work the figures are similarly disappointing: for example, women have been
graduating from Law in equal numbers for over 25 years in Australia, yet less than
10% of partners in law firms are female (Federal Director of EOWA, Fiona Krautil,
EOWA Report, 26 November, 2002).

To probe these issues further requires a method for expanding traditional
knowledges underpinning leadership thinking and, in particular, woman-as-leader to
identify in more detail how they are performing leadership within current norms and
practices. Enlightenment rationality, and the universality and objectivity of Reason
and Truth as defining features of modernity, and of leadership and the desired traits
of leaders, continues to influence the way women have been marginalised as other
within the culture, Club, or cult of masculinity (Braidotti, 1986, 1992; de Lauretis,
1988; Grosz, 1986, 1990a, 1993; Bordo, 1986, 1987; Burton & Ryall, 1995, among
others). Enlightenment reasoning works within beliefs about the transcendence of
mind over body, man over nature, masculine over feminine, intellect over affect,
and so on, which are constructed hierarchically as binary oppositions. Contained
within such oppositional thinking is an inherent operation of language and universal
truths that are believed to mirror a reality that is somewhere out there ‘to be found’
(Braidotti, 1986; Bordo, 1986, 1987; Fraser, 1989; Yeatman, 1991).

According to Goffee and Jones (2000), writing in the Harvard Business Review,
there are key beliefs underpinning how leadership has come to be thought of in
these masculinist ways. They include “the eighteenth century rationalist revolution
and the Enlightenment, … nineteenth century belief in the progress of man … Max
Weber and Sigmund Freud … [and] US-led leadership research which began in the
1920s” (pp.63-65). The first leadership theory, they claim, was Trait Theory which
was based on a masculinist sample, and replaced in the 1940s by Style Theory
which was similarly based. They claim that recent leadership thinking has been
dominated by Contingency Theory, but again, the influence of gender remains
largely invisible. This visible invisibility of gender as an influence in the identity-
formation underpinning leadership is well-illustrated in the following assertion
about ‘what we all know about leaders’ (Goffee & Jones, 2000, pp.63-65). They
we all know that leaders need strength, vision, authority, energy, and
strategic direction. … But, to be inspirational, leaders need four other
qualities … which can be honed by almost anyone willing to dig deeply into
their true selves. … These include a controlled exposure of weaknesses,
intuition, tough empathy, and selectively revealing differences … which
must become part of an executive’s personality. … In unravelling the
mysteries of leadership …we counsel the executives we coach to ‘Be
yourselves – more – with skill.’ (pp.63-65)

Strength, authority, energy, tough empathy, and strategic control over differences
and weaknesses including how they might be skilfully deployed if ‘we dig deeply
enough into our true selves’ reflects a traditional enlightenment view of knowledge
production and classical rationality. The meta-narrative mode underpinning ‘a true
self’ to ‘be’ rather than to ‘become’, that is being ‘dug up’ here as the truth about
leaders, is based on rational man, and the implication is that we all know it – it ‘goes
without saying’. What is also highlighted in the above statement is how it is possible
for a singular woman leader within a masculinist realm of dark-suited men to
‘selectively reveal differences’. One of the challenges for this research project is the
difficulty of working with the ingrained masculinist perspectives on leading and
leadership. According to Grosz and de Lepervanche (1988) and Sinclair (1998) the
problem with master-narratives is that they leave no room for the feminine, as
anything but ‘the marginalised other’.

The aim of this thesis is not to re-work the binary logic, polemics, and orthodoxies
inherent in this way of thinking, or to move towards some ultimate answers about
women leaders and leadership, as The Drucker Foundation Journal (Hesselbein &
Cohen, 1999) suggests is possible with articles that include “The Ten Lessons [of
leadership] from Presidents” (p.25), “The Best Lesson in Leadership” (p.43), “The
Mark of a Winner,” (p.255), “The Real Keys to High Performance,” (p.275), or
“Full Disclosure: A Strategy for Successful Performance” (p.365), “My Mentor’s
Leadership Lesson” (p.3), and so on. Instead, the aim is to re-theorise woman-as-
leader to accommodate the existing tensions and contradictions absent in earlier
accounts of leadership, including those problematic accounts about the oddness,
awkwardness, and difficulties for women leaders. Therefore, this is a study that
approaches leadership as inherently linked into the history, culture, politics, gender,
language, and knowledges operating at specific moments in time, and that includes
the complex interweaving of the performative, the material, the social and the

Nicholson (1990), and Fraser (1989) both argue that even though earlier feminist
theorists were obviously not all of a piece in outlook or approach, they too can be
criticised for resorting to essentialist and foundationalist thinking; that is, thinking
that aims towards ultimate truths about women as a linear progress of politics,

gender, sexuality, and culture. While recognising the importance of feminist work
that has undoubtedly improved the socio-political conditions in which women live
and work, Lyotard (1984), along with women of colour and ethnicity, caution that
we should beware of the destructiveness of the big answers, even if we have to
somewhat nervously pay a price for uncertainty and open-endedness (Mansfield,

This different move towards partial and fragmentary becoming-answers, that can
account for the power of the shifting “forms of content and of expression” (Deleuze
& Guattari, 1988, pp.88-89) underpinning language, is a move towards
understanding the complex and contradictory practices involved in women
performing as leaders in male-dominated domains. What is attempted in this thesis
is an analysis that works within and between binary conventions. As an empirical
study, it acknowledges the organisational grounds out of which the feminist and
leadership theorising emerges, but it also deliberately explores alternative theories
and methods that are broad enough to accept the ceaseless challenge of a becoming
woman leader. This investigation is not about opposing, re-inscribing, or doubling
‘man’ in terms of ‘woman’. Rather, it is about finding ways of exploring the labour
of identity-formation and the identifiable effects of the everyday enactments of
woman-as-leader. As Sinclair (1998) states in the opening of her text Doing
leadership differently, “there is an overwhelming need to reconstruct the concept of
organisational leadership, to look for leadership in new places… to provide new
insights … because traditional understandings about leadership have become
exhausted – cynically exhorted, barren of meaning, and unable to offer hope” (p.1).
In saying this, the thesis also acknowledges that all belief systems and creeds are
potentially oppressive (Foucault, 1980). This is another reason why the analysis
looks to specific situations and particular enactments of leadership within traditional
leadership contexts, rather than to transcendent, universalising narratives.

In summary, the study accepts that there is a large volume of work emerging from
management, business, and feminist theorising that cannot be exhaustively analysed
in any one single project. To necessarily limit the investigation, the following key
assumptions about leaders and leadership will be interrogated in terms of how
women are performing as leaders within male-defined and male-dominated

domains. These include, that (i) leadership is an historically constituted and
gendered performance, (ii) leadership is a set of social practices which are
discursively and materially organised, and (iii) leadership is a social production
and, as such, is a process which is always unfinished, and (iv) leadership
involves processes of becoming, as a dis-asssembling and re-assembling of the
self, rather than as points of arrival, or completion. Therefore, leadership can be
analysed as performed in and through its representations and enactments; that is,
media and other textual representations of a leader's performance that are not simply
‘a pale echo’ of social reality, they constitute the social reality that is leadership.

1.6 The Theory/Method Relationship

1.6.1 Poststructuralism as methodology
Any project which attempts to study the spectacle of women in leadership must
necessarily make a spectacle of women. The risk here is that drawing attention to
the embodied woman-as-leader, she may “dys-appear” (Leder, 1990, p.5) as “an
embodiment of risk and error” (Russo, 1994, p.29). Mulvey (1988a, 1988b) argues
that this is because spectatorship and forms of looking are structured through
gendered processes of objectification of the female form. That is, men are in control
of the gaze whereas women are controlled by it (Gamman & Marshment, 1989, p.1).
Given the risks and criticisms that have been made of the objectification of women
– and keeping in mind the criticism that the notion of “a male gaze … has become
something of an historical orthodoxy” (Gamman & Marshment, 1989, p.5), the
challenge for this study is to provide a means of gazing at individual women
without inviting the spectator/reader to identify with the voyeuristic, masculinist
gaze (Gamman & Marshment, 1989, p.5). Russo (1994) makes a case for the
reclamation of embodiment and bodily space, this time in terms of risk, deviance,
and chance, rather than transcendence, individualism, rationality, and upward
mobility. “If feminists are not to ignore the importance of the body in shaping our
mental representations, they must read the metaphors differently ... for an opening
out of unexplored possibilities … and as a way of re-configuring essentialist models
of woman-as-body, or woman-as-space” (pp.26-27). This demands theoretical tools
which allow for the reversal or inversion of the relational gaze, so that an
exploration can be made of both the possibilities and the pitfalls in the spectacle of
women performing as leaders.

The theoretical tools which permit this new ‘inverted spectatorship’ (Gamman &
Marshment, 1989) are drawn from post-feminist, post-structuralist theory. Five key
themes in this post-literature which offer key conceptual tools and which are
fundamental to this re-working include: Lyotard's (1984) notion of “performativity
… as both denotative (in what is relevant is the true/false dichotomy), and
prescriptive (in which the just/unjust distinction pertains)” (p.46); the criteria of
performance whereby the the proof of mastery, legitimation, and merit is judged
(Lyotard, 1984, pp.46-47); Deleuze and Guattari's (1988) idea of ‘body-as-
assemblage’ in a constant state of ‘becoming’– that is, passing from one incomplete
assemblage to another, not in terms of ‘developing a singular identity’, but as
‘multiplicities’, that simultaneously overlap and intersect; Russo's (1994) theorising
of ‘the female grotesque’ and the ‘impossible bodies of un-natural women’ as
‘spectacle and producers of spectacle’; Haraway's (1991) theorising of a ‘cyborgian
identity’, and her insistence on partiality, doubt, and the importance of questions
which are deployed as a political strategy and a way of working. Further, as a
technological assemblage that is part-human/part-machine, woman-as-leader
investigated in terms of ‘a cyborgian identity’ acknowledges that women leaders
inhabit realms beyond the boundaries imposed by the same/difference,
human/machine, real/virtual binaries. And finally, Rorty's (1989) development of
‘ironic categories as methods of analysis’ and as ‘rhetorical strategies’.

Thus, the study requires a working with the productive dys-juncture of the
“contradictions that do not resolve into larger wholes, even dialectically, and the
tension of holding incompatible things together, because both or all are necessary
and true” (Haraway, 1991, p.149). What is vital here are the ways in which these
methodological considerations are multiply related, and how they might open up
“rhizomatic realms of possibility” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.190). The aim is to
work with “a deformation” (Russo, 1994, p.16), and “de-territorialisation” (Deleuze
& Guattari, 1988, pp. 142-145) of the normal for the emergence of new political
aggregates that are provisional, uncomfortable, productive, and creative and that
refuse to keep women’s bodies in any one place (Russo, 1994, p.16).

1.7 Thesis Structure
In this first chapter the rationale, aims, objectives, assumptions, background, and
significance of the thesis are outlined, including an overview of key research and
theoretical issues as justification for the study. In demonstrating the continuities,
dis-continuities, and contradictions in current leadership thinking, this chapter
proposes a rationale for a different theorising of woman-as-leader and women in
leadership. The study is not about investigating what current models of leadership
mean for women, in some vain attempt to recuperate women into such models.
Instead, it is an analysis of how women are performing the daily practices and
processes of leadership within current frameworks and ways of thinking about

Accounts of leaders in the public domain reveal troubling contradictions informing

leadership debates, including the role of gender and the labour of identity, as it is
being performed by women leaders in the workplace. Woman-as-leader is
simultaneously outside and inscribed within these contradictions, which have
tangible outcomes for how propriety and legitimacy are achieved and maintained
within male-defined contexts. This generates the major research question, along
with seven sub-questions which are presented for interrogation. Finally, the
significance and the limitations of this research are acknowledged.

Chapters Two and Three take up the problematics identified in the first Chapter,
through an exploration of the relevant post-foundationalist literature about women
leaders, particularly feminist, post-feminist and post-structuralist literature. These
chapters analyse assumptions about leadership with particular reference to what
feminist theorising has said, but also been unable to say about women leaders and
leadership. In mapping the theoretical landscape and analytic frameworks
underpinning feminist theorising, the aim is to scrutinise the strengths and gaps, the
contradictions and paradoxes, and the continuities and dis-continuities in feminist
and management literature. And further, the aim is to identify how a different
theorising and theoretical analysis about women leaders might profitably re-dress
these problems.

Chapter Four elaborates possible ways of reading woman-as-leader through the idea
of “a groundless solidarity” (Elam, 1994, p.67). This chapter examines how the
orthodoxy of the gaze can be inverted to turn bodies into data, through an ironic
methodology that includes cyborgian bodily performances as research method. Key
concepts such as ‘performativity,’ ‘body-as-assemblage,’ ‘processes of becoming,’
‘representation,’ ‘irony,’ ‘ironic categories,’ ‘cyborgian identity,’ and ‘the female
grotesque,’ are examined as powerful tools for reading and re-theorising the
paradoxes surrounding the performances of women leaders within male-defined
contexts. Finally, the chapter outlines a research method, or mode of reading, that is
suited to this post-structuralist theoretical framework. The chapter concludes with a
consideration of issues of validation and legitimation within the research process.

Chapter Five contextualises the research. As an historical cross-section, it looks at

three instances where women “dys-appeared” (Leder, 1990, p.5) in the public gaze.
The women were located in highly politicised spaces including the academy,
political advocacy in the public domain, and mainstream politics. They represent
moments where women erupted as normally-abnormal, familiar and strange, in
spaces that offered possibilities for them, but also significant limitations. The
chapter analyses the representation of the performances of these women, and how
they were read and received in the public gaze. As ordinary and extra-ordinary
prosthetically enhanced cyborgian performances, the three narratives suggest “room
for chance” (Russo, 1994, p.11), as “signs of possible worlds” (p.15) for woman-as-
leader, but with no guaranteed outcomes.

The analysis here is an attempt to reclaim the ordinary, everyday enactments of

women entering male-defined spaces, not as binary formulations, but as valid sites
of inquiry to cut across alignments of power within which women too must operate
– but as ‘other’. The readings locate contentious issues surrounding the
prosthetically enhanced cyborgian enactments of the women, in terms of what
constitutes the boundaries or ‘rules’ of ‘propriety’ and ‘legitimacy’ for a woman
performing in the public domain. These problematic, odd, and successful
performances demonstrate that the public enactments of a woman leader cannot be
simply explained in terms of an oppositional logic, or as a narrative of progress,

because of the compelling evidence of the interdependence between the continuities
and discontinuities of such prosthetically-enhanced hybrid identities.

Chapter Six analyses a range of contemporary women leaders within male-defined

and male-dominated domains. The sites/sights of analysis included here are law,
business, politics, the military, and the academy, all of which are significant
examples of established male-defined and male-dominated professions. There is no
attempt to achieve a ‘matched sample’ of women, or of sites, because this would
require locating and interviewing women leaders or senior managers who were
matching in terms of size of organisation, context, and scope. Given the small
number of women leaders in any one site this was an impossibility, and so the thesis
is a reading across professional sites and sights of women in leadership without
claiming to be exhaustive or statistically representative. The research combines
published textual and visual data and public and private interview material in the
hope of achieving what Sinclair (1998) describes as, “[a] combination of empirical
data and the best of research findings from elsewhere [that] will breathe new
insights into that otherwise debilitated construct of leadership” (p.11).

The data-as-evidence emerging from an analysis of the intermingling of the

embodied woman-as-leader performing within male-defined leadership contexts
show women leaders to be paradoxically located within and without the norms. As
both insider and outsider to the normalised conventions of leadership, it requires the
ongoing dis-assembling and re-assembling of the self, for women to fit within these
frameworks. However, in assembling a hybrid ‘leaderly-self’, the unfamiliar and/or
strange outcomes emerging from this labour of identity, may require specific
tactical manoeuvres for propriety, legitimacy, and credibility to be maintained.
Woman-as-leader is both and neither enacting and troubling ‘proper’ (that is,
traditional or known) leadership conventions. The simultaneous positioning of
woman-as-leader as within and without the norms of leadership demands specific
and deliberate tactical manoeuvres that have been identified for close analysis.
These involve tactical deployments of appearance, dress, language, utterance, space,
objects, symbols, technology, and specific manoeuvres for supportive attack and

As tactical shifts, they work to “de-territorialise” both the “forms of content and
forms of expression” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, pp.88-89) constituting the
enactment of leadership. As tactical assemblages, they trouble, combine, and
compound the same/difference, equality/inequality, either/or binaries underpinning
propriety and legitimacy as a leader. The paradoxes underpinning the performances
of women leaders create the unavoidable and necessary result of having to manage
“scrupulously fake” (Spivak, 1983, p.186) with scrupulous fidelity, because they are
inescapably both legitimate leader and woman as ‘other’ within male-defined
leadership practices, processes, and protocols.

The research data generates four key ironic categories that shape the analysis of
these tactical shifts, or devices, for becoming ‘properly leaderly’. The ironic
categories investigated here cluster around four key areas: i) legitimate cross-
dressing, ii) assertive defence, iii) proper blasphemy, and iv) humanly-machinic. It
is argued that this becoming of a more multiple and hybrid identity enables women
to perform successfully as leaders, but at the same time it also causes them to dys-
appear, in quite precise ways, within expected norms and conventions of leadership.

Finally, Chapter Seven concludes that for women leaders being simultaneously
similar and different as hybrid leaders within the norms of leadership is both a
strength and a limitation. Women leaders cannot choose one option over another,
and nor is it possible to find a balance or resolution between the contradictions and
tensions in their enactments of leadership. For woman-as-leader, the dialectical
tensions involved in the everyday practices of leadership are ultimately
unresolvable, and so can only be tactically managed “as tactics that must be seized
on the wing” (de Certeau, 1982, p.xix). Women are not deliberately resisting
leadership norms, and nor are they are engaged in a developmental process of
becoming the same as men. Women leaders are both and neither similar and
different, simultaneously – and this makes a world of difference. It creates
discernible outcomes that influence how women leaders are read and received in the
public domain, and it works both for and against women in terms of their ability to
demonstrate propriety, legitimacy and ‘merit’ as it is currently understood.

The idea of ‘becoming’, in terms of diverse assemblages that have no beginnings
and no ends may be productive, but this very hybridity can work against similar
recognition and rewards gained by male colleagues who more uniformly fit within
leadership norms and expectations. As Hirsh and Jackson (1989) note, recognition
and rewards are about “the face that fits” (p.117). For a leader to be simultaneously
similar and different may imply a mis-fit of ‘proper’ authority and legitimacy, and
perceptions of certainty, predictability, and a ‘properly’ meritorious performance.
With this focus on holding together a similarly-different corporeality and
performativity, the research documents how leadership for women cannot be other
than an ongoing machinic process of becoming more hybrid, more cyborgian. The
paradoxes emerging from simultaneously conforming and subverting leadership
norms, explains how and why women can dys/dis-appear in seemingly endless
ways. Woman-as-leader is, in reality, “not one, not multiple, but multiplicities”
(Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.24) – part-human and part-machine.

1.8 Significance of the Study

The significance of this thesis lies in the challenge of finding new ways of
theorising woman-as-leader, not in terms of developed truths that might ultimately
add up to a model, or a prescriptive set of propositions, but about how the
enactments of women leaders work in the realm of the everyday workplace. The
underlying question that has been addressed is what these enactments of women
leaders produce, not which accounts are true or false (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988).
The asking of this different question, leads to ‘a thousand tiny truths’ about how
women are performing as leaders and are revealed for further scrutiny. The
“thousand tiny elements” (Barthes, 1981) of woman-as-leader, some of which are
analysed here, constitute the complex leadership assemblages that are read and
received under the global banners – ‘woman-leader’, ‘women-leaders’, or ‘women
in leadership’.

The thesis activates an ironic methodology to allow a dynamic holding together of

the disparate elements involved in the daily enactments of leadership as a woman.
The data-as-evidence points to the importance of new accounts of leadership that
can explain the embodied performances of women in their enactment of leadership
within male-defined domains. The work of Russo (1994) and Deleuze and Guattari

(1988) offers a lens through which to analyse the odd, awkward, and grotesque
spectacle of women leading similarly and differently to the norms of leadership, and
how this works for better and for worse. It is demonstrated that such hybridity is
both enabling and constraining of “new connections” and different “planes of
thought” (Deleuze & Gauttari, 1988) for thinking about woman-as-leader.
The thesis works across multiple-levels. It identifies the strengths and gaps in the
literature underpinning and explaining women in leadership. It looks in new
directions at women leading in terms of the everyday embodied and gendered
practices of leadership. It aims at a cross-fertilisation of “lines of thought” (Deleuze
& Guattari, 1988) that are allowed to move freely across, between, and into ways of
thinking about women leaders. And finally, it celebrates creative differences and
boundary crossings, not as an innocent or emancipatory tale of progress for women,
but as performances and processes of “connection and interaction” (Deleuze &
Guattari, 1988) that assemble something of interest and importance about how
women are engaging in the ordinary and extra-ordinary requirements of leadership.


2.0 Women as leaders: Mapping the modern landscape

2.1 Assumptions
2.1.1 That there has been, historically, one style of leadership, and it is readily
identifiable as male.
2.1.2 That the rules of leadership are made by men to serve men.
2.1.3 That men, as well as women, stand to benefit from understanding how
gender shapes leadership style.
2.1.4 That we need to put power and sexuality at the heart of effective leadership.
2.1.5 That we need to find ways of widening the pool of leadership talent.

2.2 Women as leaders: the roots of advocacy

2.3 Blame Patriarchy - Yes and No

2.3.1 Women, the workplace, capitalism and a new economy.
2.3.2 Counting for something.
2.3.3 Asking 'dumb' questions.
2.3.4 New categories for speaking contexts.
2.3.5 Re-thinking complicity.


2.0 Women as Leaders: Mapping the modern landscape

The following two chapters map a landscape of scholarly and feminist work out of
which an argument is made explicit about the need to bring new theory to bear on
women performing leadership in masculinist contexts. The point is not to show the
weaknesses in feminist theorising to date, but rather to note that those very
discourses which have sought to empower women as leaders are also constraining
of women – they cannot be otherwise. To argue this is to make the Foucauldian
assumption that discourses of empowerment work as mechanisms of governance for
better and worse. They are not simply innocent as ideals whatever the intentions of
their authors. It is not, therefore, a matter of finding a theoretical language which
transcends paradox, but one that brings it forward for scrutiny.

The review will proceed by examining some of the current women in management
and leadership literature in terms of the feminist and other work which has informed
it. Rather than provide an exhaustive account of this current literature, the aim is to
explore a number of key thematics, which may be tracked to a foundational feminist
literature. This will allow a consideration of the ways that feminism has been
productive of a particular sort of woman/leader, and how this identity formation in
turn continues to be contested and accommodated in feminist writing on women as

As a starting point for this research, the analysis looks to Australian texts available
at the time of writing that use a feminist theoretical framework to inform leadership
as a practical and theoretical field. One such text is Doing Leadership Differently:
Gender, power and sexuality in a changing business culture (1998) by Professor
Amanda Sinclair. Not only is it a synthesis of the practical and theoretical, but it
pulls together a range of discursive traditions in order to make a case that:

1. The traditional style of leadership has failed the business culture;
2. Men as well as women stand to benefit from understanding how gender
shapes leadership style;
3. We need to put power and sexuality at the heart of effective leadership;
4. We need to find ways of widening the pool of leadership talent.
(Cover notes, Sinclair, 1998).

The aim is to examine the assumptions being made by Sinclair (1998) rather than to
provide ‘coverage’ of the work in its entirety. This is followed by a review of the
assumptions, in terms of feminist and other theoretical works, in order to trace the
antecedents of this work, and show how these ways of thinking, though useful, need
to be contested. The purpose is to reveal how they are working for better and worse,
as partial explanations of the ways in which women are currently enacting
leadership within masculinist environments.

In each of the above assertions there is an assumption being made about the nature
of the social order and what women’s participation can contribute in changing this
for the better. These assumptions (five in all) will be examined in turn:
1. That there has, historically, been one ‘style’ of leadership, and it is readily
identifiable as male.
2. That the rules of leadership are made by men to serve men.
3. That men, as well as women, stand to 'benefit from understanding how gender
shapes leadership style'.
4. That we need to put power and sexuality at the heart of effective leadership.
5. That we need to find ‘ways of widening the leadership pool of talent’ (Sinclair,

2.1 Assumptions
2.1.1 That there has been, historically, one ‘style’ of leadership, and it
is readily identifiable as male.
According to Sinclair (1998), ideas underpinning leadership “don't speak to women
as they do to men” (p.vii). She suggests that it has been leadership’s link to ‘heroic
masculinity’ that has created this chasm for women within senior leadership
positions. As a result, she argues, there is a need for the ‘unravelling and

reconstruction’ of the gendered nature of leadership; specifically, concerning ideas
and images surrounding male, white, western, heterosexual identity, and the
subsequent linkage with what it means to be a leader within business and the
professions (p.vii). Sinclair (1998) suggests that “particular expressions of sexuality
have always supported the enactment of leadership” (p.2). And further, “our
conceptions of leadership are locked in a time warp, constrained by lingering
archetypes of heroic warriors and wise but distant fathers” (p.2). These arguments
suggest that in making normalised enactments visible they can then be re-appraised,
both theoretically and practically, in terms of current thinking. In so doing, business
and the professions might more fully reflect the range of society rather than less
than half of it.

Sinclair (1998) continues on to ask, why it is that heroic leadership images persist.
Apart from our early attachments and acculturation within families, institutions and
society, she suggests that there are two other reasons that explain this existing
phenomenon. The first has to do with what heroism potentially might offer: a
chance to be great, to be revered, perhaps even to glimpse immortality. The second
more pragmatic argument looks at the strong interest that leaders and aspiring
leaders have in maintaining the arduousness of the journey to the top, and once
there, in preserving issues of exclusivity and privilege (p.48). Effective leaders are
frequently portrayed as being “larger than life”, “superhuman”, as “heroic battlers
overcoming great obstacles” (Butcher 2003, p.4); as “celebrities from central-
casting” (Stewart, 2002, p.18), or as “striding a global stage”; ie, traditionally
masculinist constructs (Sinclair, 1998, pp.48-49). They must demonstrate a capacity
to “rise above” others and “to be better than others” (Sinclair, 1998, p.49). In the
light of this “unspoken intertwining of ideologies of leadership and masculinity”
(Sinclair, 1998, pp.50-51), the status quo is maintained and a privileged elite is
perpetuated along with the replication of the traditional assessments of what a
‘good’ leader is supposed to ‘look like’.

According to Sinclair (1998), these arguments explain why male leaders have so
little interest in change. When asked for their visions of change, existing
institutional leaders are unlikely to offer more than insignificant incremental

changes based on economics, borderlessness and globalisation rather than on issues
of gender, sexuality and style (p.51).

2.1.2 That the rules of leadership are made by men to serve men.
“Homogeneity in the characteristics of leadership … is a major liability”, writes
Sinclair (1998, p.13). Women wishing for promotion into senior positions within
both business and professional workplace environments face difficult and often
insurmountable structural and systemic problems. This is foregrounded in the article
“Days of Gain and Plunder” (2002) by business journalist David Brearley. He states
that what the inquiry into the failed HIH corporation is finding is “a business cult
…that has left the company with $5billion outstanding” (p.25). He describes the
former CEO Ray Williams as:
a leader of men (rarely women) where nothing moved at HIH without The
Man’s say-so … the special bonds of loyalty he forged with his vassals
[meant that HIH was an organisation where] “power devolved to the centre
... to The Man …and to a man, they say the board never once denied its
leader, nor did it carry him on any issue against his wishes … it was a
harmonious lot. (p.25)

Sinclair (1998) suggests that there has been little public discussion about how the
system has failed women in their bid for leadership. As the HIH example illustrates,
the current system is based in, and thus necessarily supports, a masculinist business
and professional culture which by definition, as well as in practice, militates against
women's access to real leadership pathways and positions (Sinclair, 1998; see also
The Final Report, US Glass Ceiling Project, Nov 1995).

Because of this lack of public discussion, and the subsequent hidden issue of who
makes the rules, for whom, and who benefits, the lack of senior women leaders has
often been blamed on individual women lacking the necessary talents and effort to
‘make it to the top’. Women too, blame themselves for ‘failing’ when it is often
systemic problems that prevent any real alternatives. Nieva and Gutek (1981),
Garratt (1998), Cox (1996), Still (1987, 1993), Hatcher (1998), Kirner & Rayner
(1999) and others, suggest that there are benefits in revealing the standards and
structures of these male-defined business and professional worlds, because it allows
for the re-working of the rules of leadership, and a re-dressing of discriminatory

practices. Only then, the argument continues, will organisational practices be
inclusive of the range and diversity of the population, rather than merely some of it.

Sinclair (1998) refers to researchers Nieva and Gutek (1981) who also argue that
“leadership research has been concerned with men leading other men” (p.15). Not
only is leadership research about men, but moreover, they suggest, researchers seem
primarily concerned with male followership rather than a followership that includes
both men and women. This explains the persistent “fascination for sporting and
military exemplars” (p.15) which is well-illustrated in Cohen’s (2000) text The New
Art of the Leader.9 He cites 229 leaders of whom 13 are women – eight are
identified and named, and four are named only as “honey,” “a wife,” “Wallenda’s
wife,” and “a lady.” In discussing leadership role models, Sinclair (1998) asserts
that the “twin tests of leadership have surely been the capacity of men to stand
above other men” (p.15). This twin invisibility of women, both as leaders and
followers, may explain, in part, the seemingly insatiable appetite for leadership
research and literature.

A limitation, in recent times, however, “has been a tendency by the business

management literature to annex the leadership terrain … to conflate business
leadership with other forms of leadership, and to behave as if corporate leaders
share the same characteristics with other sorts of leaders” (Sinclair & Wilson, 2002,
pp.10-11). Simply by definition, the focus and scope of leadership in these terms is
limited, if not privileged. Just as sophisticated measuring devices can detect the
almost imperceptible seismic soundings that result from the grating of earth's
tectonic plates (and which warn of potential surface disruptions), so this ongoing
appetite for more and more literature indicates a need for re-theorising, rather than
merely re-describing, leadership and leaders.

Sinclair (1998) presents three arguments that purport to clarify this lack of attention
to women. The first of her arguments states that “women are, for all intents and
purposes, absent from leadership positions” (p.15). The second argument “looks
more deeply suggesting that the way leadership has been defined, recognised, and
See Appendix Five, p. 359 for full list of the leaders cited by Cohen (2000). The new art of the leader.
See Appendix Four, p. 357 for a similar analysis of The Power Issue: How it works. The movers and shakers in business,
politics, the arts and sport. The Bulletin, June 4, 2002, pp.16-26.

rewarded in organisations means that men are more likely to assume leadership
roles” (p.16). The problem is with women - they do not apply or their differences
are seen as ‘a problem’, or they are not as ‘meritorious’ as their male colleagues
(p.19). Thus, in practical terms, because the contributions of women may appear
different they may not be rewarded with positions of seniority and leadership as are
the contributions of males (pp.15-16).

For the third body of argument, Sinclair (1998) quotes Little (1985): “An aspiring
leader cannot create leadership alone. Leadership is always the product of some
collusion whereby a band of supporters agree that an individual, their leader, has
what they need to lead them in particular ways, at a particular time” (p.16). This
‘social construction of leadership’ based in mythic, cultural, and collective social
roots, creates “particular kinds of relationships that require constant demonstration
and legitimation,” suggests Sinclair (1998, p.16). She “proposes the concept of
leadership as an archetype in order to capture these collectively, but often
unconsciously created properties of leadership” (p.16). As a result, both followers
and leaders have been reluctant, even unable, “to imbue women with leadership
qualities even when they exhibit the same characteristics as men” (p.17).
Consequently, women will inevitably be seen to lead differently, and this suggests
the need for new understandings that can allow for diverse leadership styles (p.17).

2.1.3 That men, as well as women, stand to benefit from understanding how
gender shapes leadership style.
In the words of another leadership researcher, Sally Garratt (1998), publishing at the
same time as Sinclair (1998), it is claimed that:
[t]he competitive, controlling, hierarchical, dictatorial approaches
epitomized by the Army, Church and the State, and practised by many
business organizations, are being strongly challenged by supporters of the
more intuitive feminine qualities of co-operation, facilitation, coaching and
an ability to listen and to encourage other people. (p.3)

Garratt (1998), Sinclair (1998), Karpin (1995), Burton and Ryall (1995), US Glass
Ceiling Project (1995), and Hatcher (1998) draw attention to historical and
genealogical traditions that show how ideas underpinning leadership have been
linked to the history of heroes and leadership. In arguing this third assumption,
Sinclair (1998) cites art historian Robert Hughes's arguments that we can

historically trace some key beliefs and values back to the days of convicts and
colonisation. “With the crumbling of convict society we have been left with a
powerful legacy of tough stoicism, in which survival rested on self-reliance rather
than trust”, she writes (p.38). Combined with the myths of the bush hero and the
ANZAC, and nurtured by media portrayals of the limiting influences of women and
domesticity in attempting to tame this free and courageous heroic spirit, leaders
have been constructed in traditional terms: that is, as strong, solitary, tough, white,
western, male, heterosexuals. Sinclair (1998) also cites Marilyn Lake (1995) who
argues that “[a] consistent theme of our history has been the equation of masculine
exploits with a distinctively Australian identity - whether it be men at work in the
outback or men at war overseas” (p.26).

Of course, many caution against taking this argument too far. Australian novelist
Tim Winton (1994), for example, reminds us of the disabling effects of this form of
masculinism on men. “They were meant to be heroes, patriarchs, warriors,
powerhouses, impenetrable, unyielding, and without emotion,” he writes (p.64). In
his view, this has a disabling effect; many men, he states, consider this “burden of
socialisation” with profound ambivalence (p.64). Sinclair (1998) concurs, and
moves on to argue that the prevailing effects of these imprisoning masculinist
interactions extracts a high price from many men, so that they too would benefit
from re-inscribing gender roles and leadership profiles. Yet, the arguments proposed
in a Harvard Business Review article by Goffee & Jones, Why should anyone be led
by you? (2001) suggest that any changes are still imprisoned within a traditional
business-management male-defined framework – with only minor variations. They
fail to name any women except Princess Diana “who died with her reputation
intact” (p.66). What is also interesting is that they have placed their limited and
generalist discussion about women as leaders into a small, neatly quarantined text

Nevertheless, there is increasing attention to how the traditional constructs of

masculinity are inadequate or failing men and boys; at schools, in early adulthood,
and with how men care for their health in later years.10 Sinclair (1998) suggests that

See Biddulph, 1994, 1995, 1997; Jesser, 1996; Clatterbaugh, 1997; Messner, 1997; Digby, 1998; Lingard & Douglas,

there are identifiable traditional masculinist behaviours and attitudes that manifest
in compromising ways: these include, beliefs in invincibility, high levels of risk-
taking, difficulties in seeking help, stress-related conditions such as higher levels of
alcoholism and suicide rates, and an apparent inability to easily express emotions,
anxieties, and fears (p.58). In a context of toughness, heroism, and physical and
emotional self-reliance, there are persuasive arguments that such thinking poses
potential health and survival hazards for men.

Important questions arise out of this: Is there renewed interest in re-examining these
traditional masculinist constructs, and is this suggestive of a desire for different
pathways and new ideas about leadership? Or is it merely a re-description of
masculinity to absorb both the traditional masculine, and some of the recently
acknowledged ‘useful’ traditional feminine images, such as listening, caring,
connection, and ‘sensitive-but-effective’ people skills, so that a ‘more complete’
masculinity emerges? An important cautionary note is sounded by Linstead (1995),
and Swan (1994) who draw attention to the conceptual re-deployment of the
‘managed heart’. This managing of so-called ‘feminine emotions’ for productivity
and profit-outcomes can act to selectively colonise “feminine repertoires”, which
may “re-centre rather than de-centre masculinity, and further marginalise the
feminine by creating a more complete masculinity” (Linstead, 1995, p.200).

2.1.4 That we need to put power and sexuality at the heart of effective
Sinclair’s fourth assumption goes something like this. Women, not men, have
gender, and women, not men, do gender; or so the debates surrounding ‘gender-
specific' practices suggest. The idea that the exploration of gender and sexuality
issues only relates to women, and in particular, feminist ideas about women, has
prevailed in much current thinking. Sinclair (1998) explores the idea that power and
sexuality have largely been ignored, and for women, leadership has mostly required
the active censorship of female sexuality (p.157). She suggests that there is “an
increasing range of ways senior women are bringing their womanliness - their
sexual identities and sexualities - to leadership” (p.157). Yet, this is not reflected in
the business management literature, such as the Goffee and Jones (2000) article
cited earlier which fails to mention gender and sexuality at all. The only leaders

cited by Goffee and Jones (2000) include Moses, Shakespeare, UK Prime Minister
Tony Blair, Sigmund Freud, Max Weber, Marx, Hitler, Stalin, MaoTse-tung,
Virgin’s Richard Branson, CEO Roche Franz Humer, Chairman of Heineken Ray
van Schaik, David Trimble, Gerry Adams, among others. The four paragraphs under
the subheading, “Can female leaders be true to themselves?” concludes that “on a
day-to-day basis, survival is often all women have time for, therefore making it
impossible for them to organise themselves formally” (p.69).

There is an overriding invisibility of male sexuality in most leadership literature and

thinking, claims Sinclair (1998). In making this assertion, she cites the one-thousand
page Handbook of Leadership (Stogdill, 1974) which has limited writings on the
relationship and influence of gender, masculinity and sex-role stereotypes, and fails
to mention sexuality at all. This is not to suggest that sexuality is unimportant in
discussing leadership issues. Rather, it indicates that concepts of leadership are
sexuality and gender-blind, except when discussing women and leadership, sexual
affairs, or sexual harassment within organisations.

What is emerging is that it is important that the definitions of gender and sexuality,
and how they are identified and expressed within organisations and leadership, be
extended beyond the narrow definitions currently in use. Further, there is a need to
continue to trouble the intersections of power, gender, sexuality, and leadership to
develop insights into the ways seduction, suppression and marginalisation co-exist
in all organisations at all levels. Leadership is not an asexual activity; it works both
positively and negatively in varying degrees of visibility within particular contexts.
Masculinist images of sexuality that are enacted publicly, include the popular and
potent expressions of male sexuality in such domains as ‘top-gun’ aerialist pilots in
the airforce, and the corporate cowboys in the shares and futures sections within
financial industries. In both these contexts sexualised masculinist rituals are
legendary but not untroubled, having become the subject of many inquiries and
newspaper articles.11

What is apparent is the way in which gender issues are inscribed as 'women's'
issues, while men continue their many and varied opportunities for the expression of

See for example: The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July 1999 report on the alleged extremes of military initiation ceremonies.

male sexuality, but not for the theorising of gender. “For men, sexual identity and
self-esteem have the potential to be correlated and mutually reinforcing in
leadership”, writes Sinclair (1998, p.161). However, for women, femininity remains
a pejorative term among most managers, both male and female, as it is considered
as the binary opposite of leadership. Sinclair (1998) cites Swan (1994) who reminds
us that we never speak in terms of men managers (it seems a tautology), but we
commonly speak of women managers. This suggests that the category ‘manager’ is
insufficient to include ‘woman’, and that, by implication a woman must dissociate
herself from those features which define her femininity in other places outside
management and leadership. Women, therefore, have limited choices. As women
leaders, they reproduce leadership styles that are different from those that society
says are acceptable or that constitute the norms of leadership (Swan, 1994, pp. 107-

2.1.5 That we need to find ways of widening the pool of leadership talent.
This fifth assumption foregrounds the current homogeneity of leadership and its
relationship with the traditional, but obscured, connection between heroic
masculinity and corporate identity. There is potential productiveness in the
unravelling of particular forms of masculinity underpinning leadership thinking, to
allow for radically different ways to understand leadership patterns and interactions
that have been taken for granted, suggests Sinclair (1998). And further, that it is
precisely constructs like leadership (about which, so much is written, but nothing
new is said), that a gender perspective can offer rich and creative insights into the
enactment of leadership and senior management (p.175).

To explore how limited constructs of masculinity have become the norms for both
defining leadership and leader profiles, and how this works to de-legitimate or
marginalise alternative ways of thinking and acting, has the potential to open up
new ways to expand insulated and limited constructs. To consider the possibility of
alternative ways of thinking, the analysis proceeds to flesh out more thoroughly the
antecedents of these five contemporary themes underpinning the theorising of
women leaders and leadership. It begins with a consideration of the idea that it is
possible to identify the traditional style of leaders.

2.2 The Roots of Advocacy: Women as leaders
The idea of women as 'not-men', as someone else's 'other', and defined in terms of
the private sphere as distinct from the public sphere of men, still has resonances for
the lived experiences of many women currently within business and the professions.
For the few women at senior levels within business and professional organisations
(in 2002, half of Australia’s top 200 companies have no women in executive
management positions, only 2 of these companies have a woman CEO, women,
generally, hold 8.4% of senior executive positions, 5% of executive positions in
core business areas)12 there has been no obvious relationship between being a leader
and being a woman. As indicated earlier, the phrases ‘man leader’/‘man manager’
seem tautological (or alternatively understood as meaning a leader of men/a
manager of men), whereas ‘woman leader’/‘woman manager’ has become so
normalised, it ‘goes without saying’. For many feminist theorists such as Sinclair
and Wilson (2002), Eisenstein (1996), Burton and Ryall (1995), Gheradi (1995),
Smircich and Calas (1992), Game (1991), and Game and Pringle (1983), it has been
crucial to explore why the binary public/private split has been one of the most
enduring tales for justifying the absence of women in senior leadership positions.

Desley Deakin (1989) is another theorist who has examined the complex task
involved in the on-going dismantling of gendered institutionalised workplace
structures and practices. She shows how this process has its historical roots in
thinkers such as Mary Wollstonecraft in her Vindication of the Rights of Women,
1792/1975, and John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women, 1869/1970, as well as
in the work of the women's suffrage movements beginning in the 1880s. Suffrage
women, particularly from 1880-1920, made substantial and significant early
political, legal and economic gains, however, as Deakin (1989) argues, many of
these improvements were reversed in the 1930s with the establishment of a dual
labour-market, “which placed women in a powerless position in the workplace and
the industrial arena” (p.203).

Coupled with the post-WW2 nation-building ideology of returning men to jobs and
women to the domestic sphere, the public/private split was taken out, dusted-off and
polished-up once again for the new political agenda. At the same time, fashionable

Source: Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace (EOWA) Report, 2002, p.1

notions of biological determinism and/or separatism (which are still being re-
worked in the popularist press and under the covers of pulp-faction), re-inscribed
arenas of male power and privilege. For instance, the fact that the current Prime
Minister of Australia, John Howard, is seen by many to be still positioned within
this rhetoric, reveals the traces of power that it still holds. At the same time, there is
an argument that for women to have control over the domestic sphere, including the
long and often arduous task of child rearing, it has allowed them a taste of
autonomy, leadership, and power, often denied them in the workplace.

Even though it is important to say that feminism has had insuperable obstacles to
face in de-constructing the power of this enduring and essentialising binary
construction, it is equally important to consider the un-innocent complexity of
women’s diverse, but shared interests in overturning this body of knowledge. That
is, the ‘anti-patriarchy’ argument has worked both for and against women in their
struggles to achieve greater professional recognition. As an identity politics with a
focus on differences and diversity, the many feminisms recognise the imperative to
make visible the specific interventions women are deploying to manage masculinist
constructs. Binary formulations are convenient and useful models that are easily
understood by all, but the simplistic confined nature of them, such as those
underpinning leadership, works against an understanding of the complexity of
gender relations, structures, and practices. As Hester Eisenstein (1996) suggests, it
has been momentous task for post-war feminists, with many women paying a high-
price for the struggle (p.207).

Nevertheless, the fact remains that some women have managed to challenge the
normalising controls of the traditional demarcations and divisions of the workplace
to achieve senior positions as leaders and managers. Notwithstanding the comment
by Garlick, Dixon and Allen (1992) that, while “the new world of the social has
found it somewhat easier to accommodate the female in its midst, the ancient,
binary paradigm, with its gender demarcation between public and private, still
provides powerful interpretative and evaluative controls on our experience and
representation of powerful women” (p.8). In this way, women leaders remain an
ongoing object of interest and analysis. For many, the gaps in binary explanations

now appear as dated, narrow, confined, circular, and privileged (Sinclair, 1998;
Garratt, 1998; Sinclair & Wilson 2002).

According to Thornham (1998), “[a]ny definition of feminism must see it above all
as a social and political force, aimed at changing the existing power relations
between men and women” (p.41). Likewise, Chris Weedon (1987) begins her text,
Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist Theory with the statement:
Feminism is a politics. It is a politics directed at changing existing power
relations between women and men in society. These power relations
structure all areas of life, the family, education and welfare, the worlds of
work and politics, culture and leisure. They determine who does what and
for whom, what we are and what we might become. (p.1)

Feminist theorists have addressed both specific practices within society, and the
multiple and complex structures of lives and ways of relating which, they argue, are
gendered and hierarchical. Lacey (1998) argues it this way: “[a]t a normative or
political level…the ways in which gender has shaped the legal [and business and
professional] realm is presumptively politically and ethically problematic, in that
sex/gender is an axis not merely of differentiation, but also of discrimination,
domination or oppression” (p.3). This idea that women have been discriminated
against by a patriarchal gendered system, has provided useful insights as to why
some women, but not many, achieve positions of seniority, and why progress for
women at senior levels has remained almost stationery, even after significant effort.
At the same time, it problematises the demonstrable fact that some women have
managed to attain senior leadership positions in almost all areas of the business and
the professions and are achieving variable degrees of success.

Historically, feminism as a movement for social and political change, has explored
specific structural or systemic issues which influence the lived reality of women:
legal and financial equity, abortion reform, equal opportunity in the workplace,
child-care issues, sexual harassment, political representation, anti-discrimination
and equity legislation, and so on (see Appendix Six, p.367 for further details).
Research of this type appears in 'seminal' texts, beginning with what is termed the
'second wave' of feminism, (eg. Kate Millet's Sexual Politics and Shulamith
Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex, both published in 1970). It is almost impossible to
mention early feminist work without drawing attention to the importance of these

texts, along with Carol Gilligan’s In a different voice (1982). Feminist writers such
as Millet (1970) and Firestone (1970) saw themselves involved in a ‘revolutionary’
movement to re-claim a feminist history, believing that feminism should be seen as
the theoretical underpinning of a women's movement - a ‘real-life’ political practice.
They demonstrated that gender relations are political, and that sexual inequalities
are fundamental, well-entrenched, and systemic. In this way, “[p]atriarchy, gender,
and women’s oppression became key terms of the Women’s Liberation Movement,”
writes Pringle (1995, p.200).

Radical feminists too, such as Catharine MacKinnon (1993), Andrea Dworkin

(1981), Mary Daly (1973, 1978), Susan Brownmiller (1975), Audre Lorde (1984,
1988, 1994), and Adrienne Rich (1977, 1980), attacked what they perceived as a
totalising and oppressive system. This created a strong and hostile backlash from
many men and some women, who saw the radical feminist support for separatism
and their calls for ‘revolution’, as blasphemous heresies that must be contained, if
not destroyed. In their influential writings, particularly about practices enacted on
women’s bodies, such as foot-binding, childbirth practices, genital mutilation, and
‘honour’ killing, “[t]hese theorists assumed the existence of patriarchy based on
relations of domination and sub-ordination between two fundamentally opposed
categories of people, men and women” (Pringle, 1995, p.201). Radical feminists
believed that power can and should be taken by women through “outrageous acts of
everyday rebellion” (Steinem, cited in Tong, 1993, p.278), and that the process of
the taking is a form of empowerment.

That the numbers of women in the business and the professional workforce have
markedly increased over the years is testament, at least in some measure, to their
achievements on behalf of all women. However, even considering the significant
changes legally, politically, economically, and structurally, the lives of many
women still remain substantially more difficult than they are for most men. This
echoes the questions raised earlier: how have certain women managed to break
through this powerful and discriminatory system to achieve senior levels of
authority within the professions, business and the armed services, and to what
effect? And further, how are women managing the everyday enactments of
leadership within these male-defined and male-dominated domains?

2.3 Blame Patriarchy - Yes and No.
This section attempts to chart what feminist literature has said, and has been unable
to say, about patriarchy and systemic structures of power. For ideas such as
discrimination, oppression, or privilege to hold meaning they need to be understood
as distinct and particular forms of marginalisation that are based in sexual, racist,
class, ability, religion and so on. For many women, and indeed for many men,
feminist concerns of the last few decades have now become ‘common-sense’;
particularly the more fundamental issues such as equity, anti-discrimination, and
social justice as abstract ethical positions. Munro (1998) describes the enormity of
such a shift. “An understanding of male and female as distinctly different and
complementary, to an understanding of male and female as equal was a radical shift
in gender ideology” (p.52). In feminist theories and practices, a fundamental issue
has been the rewriting of structural investments and patriarchal knowledges,
because understanding how knowledge is constructed in certain ways requires an
analysis of the social constructedness of knowledge and its specific political
investments and power relations (Evans, 1994; Munro, 1998; Hughes, 2002). This
also relates to the social and political constructions constituting leadership practices
and conventions that currently hold sway.

What is missing in many of the accounts that leave the fundamental assumptions
and practices intact, is an investigation of the relations and interactions between
different forms of social and material domination and oppression “and their concrete
differences and specificities” (Grosz, 1994b, p.134). Many leadership theorists are
taking a lead from feminist theorising to challenge political and epistemological
privileges, assumptions, and values underpinning leadership practices. Elam (1994)
argues that “[t]he affirmative potential of feminist politics is that such politics takes
the undecidability of the multiple determinations of women, the class of virgin,
mother, whore etc., as the aporetic space within which a freedom of possibility
arises” (p.84). It is argued, that there are also multiple determinations relating to
leadership and woman-as-leader that offer new possibilities for thinking leadership

The idea of one dominant patriarchal tradition pervades much of the early feminist
literature generally, as well as in some feminist accounts of leadership practices. It

is the sort of logic that appears again in a sister text to Sinclair’s (1998) work,
namely Sally Garratt’s, Women Managing for the Millennium (1998), where the
author declares that “the manager as we know him” will no longer exist by 2001
(Cover notes). That the EOWA (2002) Report shows male leaders still dominating
leadership positions is a reminder of the power of masculinist thinking underpinning
decisions about both leaders and leadership. However, challenging the traditions of
leadership is not, however, a recent phenomenon. It has its origins in a form of logic
that permeates traditional feminist accounts of the social and organisational world,
which pre-date this century.

The argument here is that it is both appropriate and inappropriate to argue one
dominant tradition of leadership. On the one hand there is overwhelming evidence
of continuity in the leadership and management of Western institutions in modern
times. On the other, the naming of this continuity as ‘patriarchy’ can fail to
differentiate subtleties, convergences, and contradictions across space and time of
the sort that Baudrillard (1983a, 1983b, 1984); Bourdieau (1984, 1990); Deleuze
and Guattari (1988); Grosz (1994a, 1994b), and Grosz and De Lepervance (1988)
draw attention to. It is not about setting up hierarchies of oppression, but about
making visible the relations between categories underpinning thought, and the
changes and inflections any particular category undergoes when it is coupled with,
or juxtaposed with another category (Grosz, 1994b). For example, when a woman
leader enters male-defined domains they are instantly juxtaposed within and against
existing male-defined norms underpinning constructs of ‘a proper’ leader and
leadership. The traces of these norms are reflected in the ordinary and everyday, as
well as through the modes of thinking underpinning leadership theorising.

Given its focus on feminist critiques of leaders, and ideas about political economy,
the dominant tradition of feminist leadership research works to make visible the
ways in which patriarchy has come about as a systematic structure of power, and as
an oppressive regime, in relation to women and other minorities. A review of
feminist research shows a long and important tradition of doing this work; one that
has resulted in an emancipatory politics of change for the improvement of the

political and economic lives of women and society generally.13 Given its advocacy
agenda, much of this feminist work has been necessarily grounded in the
emancipatory meta-narratives of Enlightenment modernism. Neo-Marxist critique
shares with feminist critique an imperative to de-construct social and political
practices to reveal the exclusions and marginalisation of certain sorts of knowledge,
and to show how only limited forms of knowledge enter the realms of ‘the true’.
This process of revealing how oppression works, and how “truth inheres in material
forms” (Rose, 1998, p.55) has thus been the task of feminist scholarship involved
with the structural inequities of power that may be taken together as patriarchy.
Oppression and subordination are clearly linked with notions of power; however,
since the work of Foucault in the 1970s, patriarchy is no longer quite as clear cut
and unambiguous in its explanatory ability, particularly in terms of the subtleties
and intricacies of power as both oppressive and productive. And, in terms of this
research, nor does it explain how some women have managed to achieve seniority
and success as leaders.

Child Endowment Act (1941); Women’s Employment Board (1942); First World Congress of Women (1945, Paris);
General Assembly of the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); Nationality and Citizenship Act
gives married women the choice of retaining their Australian citizenship or taking their husband’s nationality (1949); Union of
Australian Women founded in Victoria, promoting women’s rights, equal pay, economic justice and peace (1950); ACTU
National Conference on Equal Pay (1956); Victorian Legislation grants permanency to women teachers; married women
retain positions ,seniority and rights but are excluded from superannuation (1956); Confinement leave without pay, up to
eighteen months gained by the Victorian teaching service (1957); Acts Interpretation Act formalises the male bias in
parliamentary language – it reads in part “words importing the masculine gender shall be deemed to include females unless the
contrary is expressly provided” (1958); Equal Pay Legislation , NSW (1958); Federal Matrimonial Causes Act which
abolishes the double standard on adultery, making separation alone (at least five years) a ground for divorce, and enabling
courts to make orders in divorce proceedings for the support of children of the marriage (1959); Suffrage for indigenous
women (and men) is achieved in the remaining states, though still restricted to enrolment provisions (1962); The Women’s
Bureau created in the Department of Labour and National Service (now DEETYA) (1963); Aboriginal people in Queensland
finally get the right to vote in state elections (1965); Lifting of the marriage bar in the Australian Public Service giving
married women access to permanent positions (1967); Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission introduces
equal pay for equal work – except for work which is “essentially or normally performed by females” (1969); Mr Justice
Menhennit presides in Victoria at a trial relating to Section 65 of the Crimes Act (ie, abortion). His ruling sets a precedent
which considers abortion lawful if there is reasonable concern for the woman’s physical or mental health followed in courts
around Australia (1969); First Women’s Liberation Meetings in Canberra (1969); National Council of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Women established (1969); Bank of NSW becomes the first bank in Australia to grant loans to women without
a male guarantor (1971); Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission formally adopts the principle of equal pay
for equal value; however, many industries that used to be traditionally female still carry undervalued rates of pay because of
industrial history (1972); First International Women’s Day March (1972); Federal Child Care Act (1972); Maternity Leave
Act (Australian Government Employees) (1973); First Women’s Health Centre opens in Sydney (1973); First refuge for
women – The Elsie Women’s Refuge – established in Sydney (1974); First Rape Crisis Centres set up in Australian capital
cities (1974); Establishment of a section of Government that becomes Office of the Status of Women in the Department of
Prime Minster and Cabinet (1974); Family Law Act (1975); South Australian Government passes first sex discrimination Act
in Australia – the Sex Discrimination Act (1975); Amendments to the Jury Act put women on an equal footing with men for
jury duty (1975); Victoria and NSW enact Sex Discrimination Laws (1977); Unions achieve Maternity Leave in the private
sector (1977); Crimes (Sexual Offences) Act provides for prosecution of rape committed by a husband on a wife while
separated or living apart (1980; Australia ratifies UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women (1983); Federal Sex Discrimination Act (1984); Ethnic Women’s Working Party established in Victoria (1984);
Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission affirms the equal pay principles of the 1972 Equal Pay case, but rejects
the comparative worth concept (1985); Access and Equity Program launched Federally (1985); First National Immigrant
Women’s Conference (1985); Multicultural Women’s Health Centre Established in WA (1985); Affirmative Action (Equal
Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986 passed for the Federal Parliament; the Affirmative Action Agency is set up to
administer the Act. Commonwealth Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Act passed 10 Dec 1986; Introduction of Child
Support Scheme and Child Support Agency (1988); National Agenda for Women (1988); Unions convince the Australian
Industrial Relations Commission to make Maternity Leave standard in all awards (1989); and …. (Source: Former Premier of
Victoria Joan Kirner, and Commissioner, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Moira Rayner, writing in Kirner
& Rayner, 1999, pp.282-311).

Lyotard (1984) outlines in The Postmodern Condition, that there have been two
major forms of “legitimation narrative” (p.27-31) used to justify the Enlightenment
quest for knowledge and the importance of empiricist/positivist scientific research.
He identifies a “narrative of emancipation” and “the speculative mind”, where
knowledge is sought for its own sake. This finds its echo in the feminist discourse of
‘consciousness-raising’, a tactic arising out of the belief that greater understanding
into the operation of male power can be achieved through women’s self-analysis.
The hope was that it might lead to the rejection of internalised patriarchal
assumptions and create different (feminist) ways of understanding, seeing, and
knowing. “Like Marxism, therefore, feminism’s initial project ties theoretical
analysis of patriarchal oppression to a narrative of emancipation, through social
transformation,” states Thornham (1998, p.42). However, as a project it has worked
for better and for worse.

The difficulty with thinking in terms of a single schema, or universal structure, is

that many of the problematisations, seductions, and associations have positioned
patriarchy as merely negative for women. Such singularity tends to automatically
render women passive as compliant victims ‘suffering’ oppression, and ignores the
counter-moves and changes that women are forging. The ‘truth battles’ that resulted
from this epistemological and ontological view are inevitably weakened when
positioned polemically, because the problems tend to become circularised in
repetitive rhetoric, rules, and language. As Foucault (1980) explains, “power, right
and truth are a triangle… involving the rules of right that provide a formal
delimitation of power in specific locations, and the effects of truth that this power
produces and transmits” (p.93). According to Foucault (1980, 1991a), the
production of knowledge involves historical and socio-political “regimes of truth”
(Foucault 1980, p.131; Gordon, 1980, p.133) that produce, express, and transmit
power relationships (Foucault, 1980, p.131). In these terms, binary formulations
spiral in on themselves, rather than moving out to connect with other relevant
issues. What results is one problem, one group, a single solution, rather than an
epistemology that builds complex alliances between the multiple issues involved.
This is not to suggest, however, that ‘anti-patriarchy’ has simply been superseded
by other more recent ideas. Rather, we are now in a position to see it as existing

alongside other discursive and non-discursive practices, accounts of social reality,
and modes of critique.

If notions of patriarchy alone are insufficient to explain the inadequacies of

leadership theorising, it might be useful to look at another concept considered by
many feminist writers to significantly affect women’s material lives; capitalism and
patriarchy. Heidi Hartmann (1981) suggests that a way of thinking through the
complexity of these issues was to create separate sets of material relations: ‘dual
systems’ (referred to as ‘capitalist patriarchy’ or ‘patriarchal capitalism’) which had
the advantage of treating patriarchy as a specific set of relations, rather than as an
overarching system. What emerges here is the desire to theorise social totality as
inclusive of the complexity missing from studying the effects of patriarchy in
isolation. Two of the most original attempts to go beyond the ‘dual systems’ have
come from sociologists Bob Connell (1983, 1987) and Sylvia Walby (1990) who
have attempted to move away from monocausal accounts by theorising patriarchy as
less total and less coherent (Pringle, 1995, p.202).

Connell’s (1987) central structures revolve around the concepts of labour, power,
and cathexis (emotional, sexual attachments) as studied within various institutional
contexts. Walby (1990) creates a structure of concepts in an attempt to demonstrate
how patriarchy and capitalism work systemically. Both writers demonstrate the
importance of looking at historical specificity, and a variety of inter-related modes
of the operations of power, which are missing from studying patriarchal systems
alone. Such work points to a key weakness in earlier feminist work in that it was
generally based in foundationalism and essentialism, which, as Lather (1991b,
1991c, 1997) argues, demands new ways to think within and against traditional
approaches to address these weaknesses.

Rosemary Pringle (1995) is another feminist thinker who has challenged the
centrality of patriarchy by revealing how it has been only partially useful in its
explanation of the operation of gender in our society. She suggests that the concept
‘patriarchy’, that is, “where previously God had created man in his image, now man
was busily making a god of himself” (Miles, 1989, p.143), “has fallen into disuse …
[as a result of] a move towards a post-Marxist … post-radical feminist position”

(Pringle, 1995p.198). She cites feminist scholars such as Rosalind Coward (1983,
1993), Carol Smart (1984, 1989), and Geraldine Pratt (1993) who draw on the work
of Foucault (1979, 1982) to question the strategic value of treating patriarchy as a
social system. Such re-theorising emphasises more fluid and local contexts in which
power and gender operate, and is offered as an alternative to masculine forms of
knowledge production and the ‘truths’ about social relations.

Extending this further, Susan Bordo (1986) argues that the exclusion of women
from the spheres of rational thought, intellectual discourse and senior levels of
management and leadership has occurred through a rationality in scientific
knowledge that was “more like a garment that men wore about them than a stage on
which they moved” (p.447). By association, this evokes Irigaray's (1985b) idea that
those who produce knowledge and wear these garments always leave their imprints
in what they create by applying it symbolically to quite local enactments, roles, and
events. Capitalist patriarchal discourses with their privileging of the masculine Self
as rational being, or as Braidotti (1986) argues, a “first-class membership in the
private club of mankind” (p.47), has been a system of logic which has organised the
identity-formation of women and men in the workplace. To problematise such
thinking in more detail and variation, including how traces of this logic manifest
within the leadership and the workplace may lead to further understandings of the
complexities and implications for women in leadership positions within masculinist

2.3.1 Women, the workplace, capitalism, and a new economy

Until the 1990s there seemed to be a theoretical schism between the theorising of
gender and sexuality and ways of analysing the labour market. Ann Game (1991)
demonstrates how a liberal humanist discourse constitutes ‘the individual’ in
particular ways that have been normalised as ungendered, self-directing, and
autonomous. Marilyn Waring (1988) also analyses the means by which value is
ascribed to labour, identity, and economic reward. She argues that it is problematic
for everyone, but particularly for women who are most affected by, and subject to,
oppression and subordination. Waring (1988) also critiques the prevailing capitalist
economic structures and western methods of economic analysis which, she argues,
need to be understood in order to overturn the ways in which the workplace is

structured, and how the gendering of the labour market works both for and against
women. Feminist theorists such as Waring (1988, 1996a) have written about, and
advocated against the unpaid appropriation of wive’s-work and women’s work,
which includes not only the unpaid production of goods and services, but the
exploitation of a range of work practices that extends beyond what is commonly
defined as ‘labour’ in regular labour-market theory.

Feminist theorising has contributed in quite specific ways to the opening up of

different knowledges about inequality in the workplace. For example, women are
still being paid less than men in some female-defined areas of work, women earn
less than men for equal employment,14 have less secure employment opportunities,
are constrained within a more limited range of employment, are over-represented in
low-paid, part-time jobs, and have unequal access to promotion and career-track
opportunities. Through patient documentation of workplace contracts, such as the
research conducted by Sara Charlesworth for the Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission, the ways in which systemic forms of gender inequality
are manifested within the workplace can be revealed (see Footnote 14, below).
Clearly, different knowledges open up different ‘truths’ and insights, which, it is
argued, can have direct impact on the numbers of women being recognised as
suitable for, and promoted to, leadership positions within organisations.

2.3.2 Counting for something

The means by which value is ascribed to labour is gendered, according to feminist
economists such as Boserup (1970), Waring (1988), Hewitson (1996), Radtke and
Henderikus (1994), and McKenna (1997). They argue that this results in less power
and more limited access to the operations of power for and by women. Marilyn
Waring (1988), in her text Counting for nothing: What men value and what women
are worth, argues that analyses of sexuality and gender issues, and of the labour
market and economics, have demonstrated substantial and similar economically
gendered inequality issues. Waring (1988) elucidates how women’s work, when set
against men’s, is ‘invisible’ because of the way the international economic system

“Most worrying of all is the slip in women’s achievement of equal pay for work of equal value in a decade of enterprise
bargaining and the more recent emphasis on individual contracts, and increasing casualisation of the workforce. From a study
conducted by Sara Charlesworth for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission published in 1997, it shows that
these systems overwhelmingly favour male employers, and under them women are again earning less, with more limited
career options, than men” (Kirner & Rayner, 1999, p.26).

shapes a different reality for men and women. “Overwhelmingly, those experiences
that are economically visible can be summarised as what men do”, she writes (1988,
p.14, italics in the original). One of the discriminatory practices she targets for
heavy criticism is the way Gross National Product (GNP) is calculated by influential
international bodies that directly affects local labour markets, and the inter-relations
of the global and local in terms of the impact on women’s working lives.

Waring (1988) is not the only thinker troubled by the calculation of the GNP as
applied by influential bodies such as the United Nations, World Bank, and national
governments. Environmental statistician, Christian Leipert (1988) critiques the
backwardness of his male disciplinarians, and states that:
[their] methodological scruples condemn adherents of GNP to inactivity in
this (welfare) area …Without the conviction … of the need for an indicator
of net national welfare for qualitative questions, it is impossible to mobilise
the intestinal fortitude to display vulnerable calculations concerning the
difficult problems of delimitation. (cited in Waring, 1988, p.263)

Waring (1988) and Leipert (1988) both agree that economists are afraid to say they
cannot or will not develop, or do not know how to develop, ways to take into
account the institutionalised values of the women’s work. Waring (1988) claims,
with more than a touch of irony, that women’s work has to count for something. She
supports her arguments by demonstrating how the United Nations Systems of
National Accounts (UNSNA) declares that there are areas of human activity which
lie outside “production boundaries”, even when it can be demonstrated that the “key
products marketed among a community are the services of housewives and their
work in household maintenance and in subsistence production” (Waring, 1988,

She demonstrates that there is no consistency between countries about what

constitutes ‘economic’ or ‘non-economic’ activities, apart from one clear unwritten
agreement: If women work in their homes, garden-plots, or in the community it is
housework, and it doesn’t count. She cites leading twentieth century economist,
John Kenneth Galbraith who acknowledges that most women feel embittered about
being positioned as “instruments of (rather than contributors to), the economic
system”... along with the realisation, that “their feelings find no support in economic
writing, teaching or in official calculations” (cited in Waring, 1988, p.29). In fact,

she argues, “it is concealed” (p.29); it is not seen as part of the market, even though
the question of what entails ‘economic activity’ revolves around the question of
value, and even when women are shown to be creators of wealth (cited in Waring
1988, p. 29).

Waring’s (1988) work contains elements that draw on Ester Boserup’s classic 1970
text, Women's Role in Economic Development. Boserup (1970) demonstrates that
women's invisibility as workers retards any real process of growth, and that the
economic propositions and subsequent models used by economists do not take into
account women’s work or worth to a community or nation state. Feminist economist
Hewitson (1996) elaborates on this idea:
there is a distinction between economics as a literal, although abstract,
representation of women's activities, and economics as a productive
discourse which constructs the meaning of these activities in particular
ways…The conclusion which follows is that neoclassical economics is a
poor representation of the real world, in which both men and women
participate in economic activity. (p.22)
Waring (1996a) concurs. The greatest concern with the UNSNA, she argues, is that
it purports to be a system that gives a clear and coherent picture of economic
structure from economic statistics. Its main impetus is the drive to understand an
economic system as a whole, which can then be used to provide vital information in
the development of public policies.

The irony and catch for women however, is that “there are areas of human activity
which lie outside a ‘production boundary’ (that is, outside the market) established
for the purposes of the national accounts” (p.48). That work is women’s work.
Another problem for women is that it was originally established as “a comparative
measure”, but it now works as “a controlling measure” (p.48). There is now little
disagreement among most economists that the work that lies outside the production
boundaries of what counts is women's work. However, even though significant
thinkers, such as Boserup (1970) and Waring (1988, 1996a) have challenged the
ways in which the UNSNA functions, these ideas have essentially remained intact
since 1953. This is not to suggest a settled category of thought; rather, that
economics, patriarchy, and capitalism are terms around which debates proliferate,
because they encapsulate issues that directly influence women’s lives and working

conditions. It does reveal that the discontinuities and inter-relatedness in the
accounts, particularly as they affect women, require greater elucidation.

2.3.3 Asking ‘dumb’ questions

Until recently, issues of and relationships between power, sexuality, gender, and
labour relations were seen as separate issues. More recent multi-disciplinary
research from Waring (1988, 1996a), Connell (1987) and Hewitson (1996)
involving economic theories, labour market analysis, employment relations,
sexuality and the workplace reveal their interrelatedness and demonstrate the
importance of multiply-layered work. Waring’s (1996a, 1996b) thinking is
grounded in practical problems: she uses practical reasoning to develop her ideas
rather than simply working deductively from abstract principles and conceptual
schemes. In an interview (ABC TV, 1996b) she says of herself, “I perfected the art
of the incisive ‘dumb question’”. As a tactic, it enabled a way of re-examining
political processes and norms, and to question the personal and material
consequences resulting from being both insider and outsider to institutional,
organisational, political, economic, and social policies. She was legitimate politician
but also marginalised as woman and feminist, because she confronted a field of
questions about the practices of politics both parliamentary and feminist.
How creatively as a politician do I avoid being distracted from wider
political questions by a plethora of issues, which act in some cases to pit us
against each other? How do I cope with the contradictions implicit in a
feminist belonging to a political party? How do I explain that the policies of
leadership, the concepts of power, what is said in programmes, what is done,
how things are done, are all offensive to me? How do I explain to women
that it's not important to delineate a way of getting 'there', that we needn't
limit ourselves, that we don't truly know our resources, our own collective
strength? By remaining how much am I part of the problem? …How much
credibility do I give this patriarchal institution by being part of it and having
to comply with its rules? (1988, p.31)

Against the masculinist orthodoxy of an often unruly and hostile Parliamentary

environment, politics was often a lonely place for Waring. She illustrates how
politics inheres in complex material forms, and should be performed and analysed
as such, rather than in generalist binary terms. She also indicates that reflexivity
about significant political and parliamentary matters, including gender and power
issues, was not the norm, even though they affect all activities and practices.
However, she continued to pursue not uncommon, but impossibly complex

questions. Should women try to engage in the labour market on equal terms as men
(whatever that means)? Should women ‘accept’ their sexually-specific roles of
childcare and home responsibilities (and what does this mean for single women and
single mothers) and so work to improve women's autonomy and status within the
domestic/social sphere?

She was confronted daily with the duality of women’s lives. For many women, she
argues, this involves the daily reality of fatigue “beyond the ability to dream,
beyond the capacity to picture ideals” (Waring 1988, p.30). In the face of this
fatigue, and perhaps because of it, Waring (1988, 1996b) warns against arguments
based in simplistic binary models, because they merely work on sameness to or
difference from men. Even though the traditional models of thinking about the
workplace, and the role of leadership as a politics of power, have been created by
men and for men, it is impossible to fix meaning once and for all. Her work also
draws attention to the importance of materiality and embodiment which is largely
ignored in economic and political discourse. Grumet (1988) also describes the
collapse of politics into economics as resulting in a discourse which ignores the “the
experiences of family life, of bearing, delivering and nurturing children … the
language of the body, the world we carry on weight-bearing joints” (p.xv).

Waring (1988, 1996a) argues for the importance of turning situations that might be
oppressive for women, to their advantage. In Foucauldian terms, to engage in “truth
battles” (1980, p.114, p.132), or “struggles of meaning around truth” (p.132), is a
way of shifting power relations. He urges further analysis into the “ensemble of
rules according to which the true and the false are separated and specific effects of
power attached to the true” (p.132). It is, he writes, “a battle about the status of truth
and the economic and political role it plays” (p.132). As Waring (1988, 1996a)
made plain, recognising and questioning economics, power, and politics “is not
error, illusion, alienated consciousness, or ideology, it is about questioning truth
itself” (Foucault, 1980, p.133). This is not to suggest a project for some ultimate
Truth about women, but about different ways of understanding the place of women
as both and neither enabled and constrained within feminist and leadership

It is far too simplistic to think that equality under the law, in the workplace, and in
the public arena will automatically create equality for all people. O’Donovan (1985)
critiques models of thinking that work to “eliminate women's differences as a source
of subordination as far as possible by opening up the public sphere and assimilating
women to men” (O’Donovan, 1985, p.17). Such thinking, it is argued, suggests that
there is some form of ‘level playing field’ for both men and women. This fails to
account for facts about women’s lives. Women are still required to be primary
carers for child-care and to assume most domestic responsibility. The traditional
family context creates significant practical problems of dependency on men.
Combined with men’s use of their dominant status to preserve male advantage in the
workplace through establishing and controlling the rules underpinning merit,
hierarchy, and rewards, it results in on-going difficulties for women, who are also
trying to similarly achieve as similarly-different identities.

Conversely, urging women to enter the workplace and compete and work within the
traditional masculinist modes of working has unwittingly further disadvantaged
some women. This applies especially to working-class, ethnic, and indigenous
women, because they are framed within specific rules that have been created
without diversity in mind. The rise in divorce rates, the ‘feminisation’ of working-
class or low-paid occupations, and a de-valuing of motherhood, along with other
traditionally-female modes of work, reinforces the idea that ‘equality’ is far from
innocent and/or simple.15 The paradox here, is that an emphasis on women's
differences has also resulted in the diminution of the powerful political impact of a
‘united women’s political struggle’. Feminist thinkers such as Braidotti (1986),
Weedon (1987), Nicholson (1986), and Fraser (1993) express concern for the loss of
the category ‘woman’, which coincides with accepting that forced homogeneity is
oppressive, because of its capacity to marginalise some women through grids of
authority and domination that include some but not others.

2.3.4 New categories for speaking contexts

Traditional binary formulations of sexuality and gender are, therefore, limited in
perspective, and evocative of “anxiety and confrontational posturing” (Kirby, 1993,

Psychologist Bob Montgomery stated on ABC Radio's Life Matters (Thursday, 9/8/1999): “In regards to life and stress
generally, marriage and families are seen as being generally good for men, but bad for women”.

p.20), between the different ‘regimes of truth’ underpinning traditional feminist
discourse. Kirby (1993) admits that “patriarchy and a paternalistic history
engendered the need for a feminist response, and that the effects on thinking have
been hard won and in general valuable” (p.28). Nevertheless, the assumptions
underpinning the category of ‘woman’ and ‘a female identity’ must also be
interrogated to avoid an ‘imperialising’, or ‘universalising’ of thinking that may
become a determining requirement that ‘authorises’ a particular ‘voice’ to mediate
the interests of others. In raising the question, ‘who or what is woman?’ it invokes
the complexity and distinctions between normative and descriptive claims for the
concept ‘woman’ as a feature of description, or as a result of normalising
dimensions of race, ethnicity, class, education, sexuality context and so on.
Difference continues to make differences that are simultaneously identifiable,
defining, enabling, and limiting and these too must be considered in any study
analysing woman-as-leader and leadership.

Rather than asking whether equality can mean anything other than assimilation into,
or separation from, a dominant and problematic discourse, it is useful to consider
how gender and gender relations, partially constitute, and enter into, both the self
and our ideas about the self. Vicki Kirby (1993) critiques what she describes as
“feminism's internecine struggles” (p.20), and the irony of speaking contexts that
require “feminism's authorising signature” (p.21), which censor and prevent
rigorous investigative dialogue. Censoring healthy dis-unity and dis-continuity
amongst feminist thinkers is counter-productive because, she urges, it disavows
irreconcilable tensions, rather than bringing them into the open-air and juxtaposing
them in a variety of ways for different ways of thinking to emerge. Yet Haraway
(1988) is more cautious in rejecting outright a ‘feminist’ approach. “How can we
keep both the edge of one’s criticism without reproducing a history that others other
feminists,” she asks (p.96). If the process of ‘othering’ is seen as a masculinist
discourse, then a more useful approach is to actively refuse the ‘this-as opposed-to-
that’ arguments that are “without seeing or knowing it, within the very self-
evidence…that one thinks oneself unburdened of” (Derrida, 1981a, p.251).

Kirby (1993) cautions against feminist theorising setting itself up as the

“trustworthy translaters of cultural differences” (p.26), or as “boundary-riders

against the discipline's would-be assailants” (p.31), or in claiming privileged
positions from which to critique who speaks for whom, purely on the basis of being
not-male. Gayatri Spivak (1989) argues for a reworking of the immersion within,
and complicity with, networks of power by “negotiating enabling violations”
(Spivak, 1989, cited in Kirby, 1993, p.32). To enable violations of truth claims to
occur, therefore, it requires a thinking and reading ‘otherwise’.
When Irigaray (1985) finds within the texts of philosophers and theorists …
the very material she needs to read them otherwise, or when Barbara
Johnson (1980) shows that how we read can make a critical difference, we
see exemplified what Spivak (1989) means by ‘enabling violations’, that is
the hard work of turning to our advantage what would otherwise oppress us.
(Kirby, 1993, p.32)

Clearly, feminist theorising is not innocent and nor can it be claimed that it is
simply about oppositional thinking. Haraway (1988) suggests that to subvert binary
thinking theorising should consider the “geometries of feminist discourse in ways
that do not get caught in oppositional or taxonomic modes” (p.97). To think the
political ‘otherwise’ and to avoid yet another universalising logic, requires a “labour
of re-inscription that tries to do more than simply diagnose complicity as a
pathology to be excised” (Kirby, 1993, p.26). It requires the labour of re-reading
ideas similarly and differently – those ‘enabling violations’ for a less pure
theoretical practice to emerge. In practical terms, this means a re-thinking and re-
inscription of issues such as difference, equality, dualisms, hierarchical
organisations, the centrality of dis-embodied a-historical reason, power, and even
truth itself.

Denzin and Lincoln (1994) describe a ‘crisis of representation’, while Grosz (1988)
calls for a re-thinking of political practices, to create “new modes of expression,
new discursive styles and new enunicative positions” (Grosz, 1988, p.100) for
thinking ‘otherwise’. In responding to such claims, some feminist theorists (Still,
1987, 1993; Waring, 1988, 1996a; Ferber & Nelson, 1993; Jennings, 1993; Blank,
1993; Tronto, 1993; Cox, 1995, 1996, and Squires, 1999), call for the incorporation
of ‘feminist principles’ into new structures and new ways of working, such as the
current thinking about ‘civil and civic communities’, ‘organisational responsibility’,
and ‘self-help collectivist, heterogenous, project-teams’. Identity politics involves
both strengths and weaknesses, and these have been brought forward for greater

scrutiny and a different deployment within post-feminist and poststructuralist
thinking. In so doing, new spaces for specific, local, or subjugated knowledges are
emerging (along with their attendant paradoxes) that have previously been
disqualified in universalising “hierarchies of knowledge” and being (Foucault, 1980,

2.3.5 Re-thinking complicity

Such arguments call for different questions in the ongoing challenge to interrogate
existing assumptions underpinning leadership and a woman’s place within it. In the
case of this study, the challenge is to re-think how the enactments and styles of
leadership can be analysed, including how the place of women within leadership
contexts can be described and scrutinised without resorting to binary formulations
and traditional hierarchies. The questions then, are not so much about interrogating
women in leadership in terms of any specific ideology, but how refusing the idea of
homogeneity in feminist, or any other body of thought, can develop new distinctions
to create leaders who are more and less powerful and more and less similarly-
different. Instead of evaluating leadership thinking in broad ideological terms the
research calls for an interrogation of the quite specific leadership practices women
are deploying to act upon themselves, in the process of becoming a leader: those
“technologies of the self” (Foucault, 1988a, p.18) as “a work of art – the arts of
existence” (Foucault 1984, p.10-11).

What is required is a re-theorising of leadership that self-consciously shifts between

similarly different needs in order to acknowledge both distinctiveness and
commonality, unity and diversity, sameness and difference. What has traditionally
been argued is that problems can be solved by drawing on essentialist so-called
‘traditional women’s’ qualities – that is, compassion, sensitivity, consciousness-
raised sympathies, and so on. As Kirby (1993) argues, this is doomed because apart
from it reducing all women into “a nice sort of person you can trust as a model of
goodness” (p.28), it evokes a mistaken and flawed homogeneity and hierarchy.
Essentialism disallows a re-dressing or re-thinking of the existing difficulties for
women leaders, because it suggests that it is possible and desirable to replace a
‘male’ with a ‘female’ point of view, whatever that might mean.

What this points to is the need for strategies with enough specificity to provide
adequate heuristic frameworks, in which to make workable decisions about and
within specific leadership contexts, without causing paralysis of thought and action.
For example, Cox (1996) Waring (1988, 1996a), Sinclair and Wilson (2002) and
others reveal that much of the research about the workplace has not included
significant life-issues, both inside and outside the sphere of work. The material
conditions of women’s lives, and the economic interdependence of families is
ignored by powerful global economic and accounting systems dominated by white
western male economists. Inequitable situations arise because identified structural
issues and problematic workplace practices experienced by women, and not men,
across diverse contexts are ignored or positioned as inconsequential. The difficulty
seems not to lie in the vision, but in commanding enough support via the most
appropriate theoretical tools, to make a re-visioning, or a re-theorising possible. The
act of looking in multiple directions for understandings is more than merely seeing
from different cultural and/or political directions – it is a matter of survival, and this
creates different challenges, and demands different questions for realities before our
eyes that have not been sufficiently challenged.

Whatever forms a re-thinking/re-theorising might take, an understanding of how

researchers and theorists are implicated in the knowledge they produce, is
mandatory. Economic-based marketplace logic is but one of many discourses
surrounding the workplace, leadership, and management issues. No longer can
univocal accounts be taken for granted, because the production of knowledge, and
what counts as true or false, involves “discursive regimes” (Foucault, 1980, p.113)
and historically based “regimes of truth” (Foucault, 1980, p.131) that must be
constantly interrogated. Improving the material realities of women’s lives is
important, but it is also true that it is not the only answer. It requires, as Kirby
(1993) suggests, a re-thinking of complicity with any universalising and
essentialising thinking that underpins how everyday enactments are read and




3.0 Introduction

3.1 Breathing in ideas. 'Women are educated, but who knows how?'

3.2 Finding a Voice - Yes and No

3.2.1 Talking like we talk - authentically inauthentic voices
3.2.2. Costing words
3.2.3 If good managers are male, what are bad managers?
3.2.4 'Thinking about, thinking about'

3.3 A gender perspective benefits all - Yes and No

3.3.1 A cluster of contested zones

3.4 Sexuality Matters - Yes and No

3.4.1 ‘Telling flesh’
3.4.2 Performing leadership
3.4.3 Powerful and pleasurable sites of cleavage

3.5 Market-Place Logic - Yes and No

3.5.1 Symbolic nodal points and multiple F words
3.5.2 The Ruth-less world of entrepreneurial fast-capitalism
3.5.3 Heterogenous ensembles
3.5.4 The embodied woman and privileged accounts
3.5.5 Scented with possibilities
3.5.6 Slippery bodies
3.5.7 Changing the subject
3.5.8 Corporeality and leadership

3.0 Introduction
When spectacular business collapses occur, such as in 2001-2002 with the demise of
HIH, FAI, Enron, WorldCom, Ansett, and OneTel, or when cases involving
mismanagement emerge, such as Andersens or the FBI, leadership and senior
management issues erupt into the public domain for notice and renewed scrutiny. In
his article, “Days of gain and plunder”, journalist David Brearley (2002) describes
the attendant risks and dangers of the homogenous “cult” of “The Club” (p.25)
allegedly operating within the senior realms of HIH.
A fine bunch of gentleman they must have looked, lean and prosperous in
their pin-striped suits. And as time turned their hair a board-room shade of
silver, each reflected in one or another of his facets the benign light that
beamed down on them all from the top of the table. When the directors sat
down to business, Ray Williams was The Man. … Justice Neville Owen
whose royal commission wants to know why HIH went bung last year with
$5 billion outstanding, is seeking insights into the group culture. What he is
finding, in outline at least, is a cult. (p.25)

The narcissistic mirroring highlighted in this 5-M model (white-male, middle-class,

middle-aged, monied, and married) of masculine leadership and management,
reflects sterotypical ideas about what constitutes ‘authenticity,’ ‘legitimacy’ and
‘identity’ for a successful leader or manager within current leadership and
management models. Brearley (2002) identifies the problems of unquestioning,
single-minded behaviours, described earlier by Irving Janis (1983) as ‘group-think’,
that are here exhibited by ‘the cult’ or ‘The Club’ of masculinist leadership. As
Janis (1983) suggests, behaviour that excludes everything, but what the group
assumes and wants to be true, seems to be implicated in the downfall of this once
successful company.

The work of this chapter explores theoretical explanations about how women as
leaders and senior managers are straddling being both insiders and outsiders within
such male-defined and male-dominated contexts. In reviewing the literature, the
analysis further examines what kinds of explanations about women and leadership
are helpful and/or inadequate in understanding how women are performing as
leaders within such masculinist tropes and contexts. It then identifies the questions
that emerge from the gaps in current leadership explanations and understandings.

The everyday implications of the insider/outsider status of woman-as-leader within
male-defined and male-dominated domains, in terms of position, legitimacy,
propriety, and credibility, demands further explanation. For example, there are
questions emerging out of the lived-reality of male-dominated work places that are
powerfully illustrated in TIME magazine’s (Dec 2002-Jan 2003) naming of three
senior US women from failed or failing organisations as their “Persons of the Year”
for 2002. They are Colleen Rowley, Staff Attorney, FBI; Cynthia Cooper, Vice
President, Internal Audit WorldCom; and Sherron Watkins, Vice President, Enron.
The article makes clear that theirs is no simple narrative of progress and success in
becoming women leaders.

The citations indicate that the awards are for their work as “whistleblowers” who
were thrust into the public domain “only because their memos were leaked by their
colleagues” (p.34). They tried to alert their respective organisations about serious
internal problems that were threatening the organisation or leaders within it, but to
mixed outcomes. As women and as ‘whistleblowers’ they were perceived as both
insiders and outsiders in terms of the male-dominated leadership and management
structures and practices within which they were working. They are described as
“ordinary and exceptional ... truest of true believers …anointed by circumstance”
(p.34), but also as situated differently from their male colleagues. This complexity
suggests the need for different strategies to navigate being simultaneously similar
and different within such contexts – a situation that cannot simply be explained in
terms of either/or.
These three women … took huge professional and personal risks to blow the
whistle on what went wrong at WorldCom, the FBI, and Enron – and in so
doing helped remind us what courage and values are all about. … They are
heroes chosen by circumstance … for their courage in standing up for what
is right ... doing their jobs rightly, which means ferociously, with eyes open
and with the bravery the rest of us always hope we have and may never
know if we do. (TIME Magazine, Dec 2002-Jan 2003, p.34-35)

In asking “what to make of the fact that all are women” it is suggested that “there
has been talk that their gender is not a coincidence; that women, as outsiders, have
less at stake in their organizations and so might be more willing to expose
weaknesses. They don’t agree” (p.35). “None of them are rebels in the usual sense
... ferociously loyal and doing right ... and ever faithful to the idea that where they

worked was a place that served the wider world in some important way” (p.34). For
their work, they have been both rewarded and punished –“decorated as Persons of
the Year” … “for exceptional guts and sense” … “as heroes and believers in truth,”
(p.34), while also paying a high price for working across, within, and without the
norms of their traditional masculinist workplaces. The problems of ‘groupthink’
(Janis, 1983) such as a belief in the inherent morality of the group, close-
mindedness, collective rationalisations, stereotyping members of ‘out’ groups, and
the use of mindguards to pressure dissenters to achieve an illusion of unanimity, are
illustrated here in this personally signed attack on Colleen Rowley from a group of
retired FBI employees:
If you work for a man, in heaven’s name work for him; speak well of him
and stand by the institution he represents. Remember an ounce of loyalty is
worth a pound of cleverness … If you must growl, condemn, and eternally
find fault, why – resign your position and when you are on the outside, damn
to your heart’s content. (p.39)

In these terms, working for ‘The Man’ and the institutionalised ‘Club’ has
implications for women as both insiders and outsiders to the normalised constructs
of masculinity as they are manifested in workplace practices. The women have been
described in the media and in their organisations in conflicting ways: as
“whistleblowers”, as having been “threatened with firing due to disloyalty”, been
“cornered, isolated and made irrelevant”, “alternately screamed at and patronized,
with the loss of 14kg in weight in the process”, “threatened with loss of jobs that
jeopardize the paycheck their families depend on”, “endured condemnation and hate
from colleagues”, “marked as traitors,” as “fall-guys”, but also lauded as ‘Persons of
the Year’ by one of the world’s leading publications (TIME, 2002-2003, pp.32-57).

The women are both applauded and derided as “both keepers of the flame and
compelled to set their imperfect temples to the torch” (pp.34-35). “In January there
were hundreds of e-mails, voice-mails, letters. People were high-fiving; they were
pumped. Now, no-one recognises me …and I am now out of work” (p.57). They are
successful and threatened, insider and outsider, legitimate and out of work, heroes
and traitors all at the one time, but without any easy explanation. What is called for
here is a way of understanding leadership and woman-as-leader beyond the grand
narratives about a march of progress, equality, or liberation, because neither their
situation, nor their work-place identity, can be adequately explained in this way. It

points to the need for new ways of thinking about the traditional, elusive, and
instructive practices and processes of leadership, and for a dismantling of the
predictable masculinist orthodoxies that these examples simultaneously disrupt and
reinforce. That is, a re-theorising beyond the familiar, but limited, socio-political
and cultural explanations about leadership that efface or erase the everyday effects
of working as a woman within male-defined domains.

3.1 Breathing in ideas. 'Women are educated …but who knows how?'
(Hegel, cited in Le Doeuff, 1977, p.3)
Feminist narratives have undoubtedly opened up traditional assumptions and
thinking underpinning attitudes to gender, sexuality, and subjectivity and how this
relates to the workplace. A major problem with explanations based in capitalist
patriarchal theorising though, is the need for socially recognisable data to support
such explanations, particularly regarding ‘the absence’ of women as leaders, or in
senior positions. This is because of the long history of individually powerful women
within matriarchal families, societies, and businesses, as well as powerful women
within the professions (for example, the matron in the hospital system, managers
within business, judges on the bench, CEO's of major organisations, directors on
boards, etc). If this is the case, then it suggests a weakening of the arguments
emerging from and within theories of capitalist patriarchy. The question that arises
here is that if power is available to some women, as it clearly is, does the idea of an
‘all embracing, singular, dominant patriarchy’ collapse?

Responses by women to this dilemma have taken three distinct pathways, according
to Squires (1999). The first is directed at affirmatively increasing women’s
participation within organisations; the second aims to reveal and valorise feminist
politics outside existing institutions; and a third approach involves re-configuring
women’s political representation and women's political activity (that is, the personal
is political), to render it more responsive to, and integrated with, women's informal
political activities (pp.199-200). However, there is still an underlying inference
here: that is, that through speaking-out, ‘other/s’ will join with women to address
persistent problems and overcome barriers. Yet, as the TIME article (2002) points
out, “there are plenty of women who do the wrong thing and plenty of men who
don’t” (Ripley & Sieger, 2002, p.42).

Simple yes/no, same/difference answers may well divert the exploration of abuses
of power, by shifting the arguments into polemical sex/gender-wars, in which it can
be argued that both men and women are implicated in abuses of power. It is
obviously important to interrogate the roles of both men and women here.
According to employment specialist Catherine Hakim many women still go along
with the traditional sexual division of labour, either through direct collusion with it,
or through being unwilling to make any sort of public stand against it (cited in
Phillips, 1998, p.5). The idea of who properly counts as 'us' in feminist terms also
needs further delineation, particularly in ‘anti-patriarchy’ discourses where men are
positioned as ‘the problem’. This becomes apparent when studying the ways in
which women enact senior positions, for there are clearly any number of individual
women who do not reflect the binary of care, connection, sensitivity, eschewing of
success and power, let alone woman as passive victim of a dominant patriarchal
system: former UK Prime Minster (now Lord) Margaret Thatcher is but one such
example here.

A fruitful avenue for investigation is to understand how feminists themselves have

raised doubts of this sort and attempted to come to grips with them.16 As mentioned
earlier, one account of women in leadership statistics, suggests that for significant
numbers of women to attain senior leadership positions, it is only a matter of time
and sufficient numbers. However, such arguments avoid any serious interrogation of
the performativity and daily enactments of women leaders. They omit the problems
and opportunities along with the tactical manoeuvres women have deployed over
time to achieve status and seniority within organisations, and nor do they shed light
on how women are enacting leadership when they get there.

Post-structuralist philosopher Michele Le Doeuff (1977) observes that the just-a-

matter-of-time arguments are “shamelessly exploited by the apologues of the
‘advanced liberal society’… which can only be maintained by playing a game of
abstraction, avoiding the concrete modalities of oppression, in support of a so-called
‘established fact’ of massive alienation” (p.2). Such thinking, she insists, merely
For example, Michelle Le Doeuff (1977), Vicki Kirby, (1997), as well as 'Backlash' politics, new French Theory, Susan
Bordo (1993), Judith Butler (1993), Grant (1993), Elizabeth Grosz (1994), along with post-structuralists such as Foucault,
Deleuze and Guattari.

plays into the hands of ideologues for electoral exploitation. The second argument
Le Doeuff (1977) rejects concerns the binary positioning inherent within a
“feminism of difference” (p.2). She suggests that it “may do the opposite of what it
claims; that it may be misled by schemas produced by the very structures against
which it is protesting” (p.2).

Le Doeuff (1977) and others such as Bordo (1993a) argue that we are always within
bodies of thought; “within philosophy, surrounded by masculine-feminine divisions
that philosophy has helped us to articulate and define” (p.2). In the light of this, the
questions now become: Is it desirable to stay within traditional binary confines or
can there be a critical position in relation to them, and perhaps shift beyond them?
Le Doeuff (1977) asks whether we should take up “a semi-clever position” or “that
of the more cunning” (p.3). The semi-clever argue that there really is a prohibition.
As for the clever, they have a more subtle relationship which can be described as
permissive, as long as it is understood that permissiveness is a cunning form of
prohibition, opposed to everything that comes under the heading transgression or
subversion (p.3).

Le Doeuff (1977) draws attention to whether the institutional frameworks in which

relationships are worked out are significant, because if women access only specific
areas of a field, their view is necessarily partial and particular. “Being definitively
confined to one particular form of thought seems to me to be the negation of the
philosophical enterprise. The master knows all – he has the answers to the wider
picture, the everything,” she writes (p.6).17 This goes some way to explain how
women are useful to their masters; the satisfaction of men's desires and the position
of sovereignty, which is not to be under-estimated. She points to the historical
antecedents of the idea of ‘a Lack’ in women: “Woman is woman through a certain
lack of qualities” has a long and powerful history (Aristotle, cited in Le Doeuff,
1977, p.6). This ‘lack’ then influences what a person is considered to be capable of
producing and how these outcomes are read and received. ‘Lacking’ the desired
qualities, women (and others deemed outsiders) have historically not been regarded
in terms of producing knowledges that can withstand hegemonic standards of

11 This reflects the image of the afeared Matron, as one who has particular or local control but little structural power within
the hospital system.

validation. The result is that this enables situations and behaviours that are lauded in
a man, but inadmissible, unrecognised, or criticised in a woman.

Work such as Le Doeuff's (1977) marks a general shift in research and thinking in
feminist studies towards an analysis of power, discourse, and culture, the genesis of
which can be drawn in part from French philosophers and French feminists such as
Irigaray (1985a, 1985b, 1987, 1992), Cixous (1976, 1980, 1981, 1986), and Kristeva
(1980a, 1980b, 1981) whose work is located in de-constructive accounts of
language and psychoanalysis. The formation of subjectivity, the symbolic power of
the fathers and their representations, and the seemingly complicit nature of women
in structures of patriarchy, are objects of and for analysis in French feminisms. Le
Doeuff (1977) concludes that even though clear answers remain elusive, at the very
least, women have demonstrated that they are not prepared to “remain indefinitely at
the moment of torment” (p.6). It evokes the sentiment expressed by American poet
Robert Frost (1955) in his poem Mending Wall:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall;
That sends the frozen ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun; … (Lines 1-3)
That wants it down.” (Line 36)

3.2 Finding a Voice - Yes and No.

It is not only neat binaries and universalising claims that feminist post-structuralist
writing defines as problematic. It is also the simplistic idea that ‘voices’ are either
heard or unheard, and that to be heard will be politically enabling; in this case, of
women. Much has been written within feminist literature about the importance of
finding ‘new voices’ or ‘new speaking positions’ to speak the experiences of
women. If only women were ‘heard’ within organisations there would be more
opportunities for women to progress to senior positions. According to these
arguments, the difficulties emanate from dominating masculinist contexts, which
“leaves a woman no place from which to speak, or nothing to say,” suggests
Freadman (1983, cited in Morris, 1988, p.3). The results of viewing women’s
progress and emancipation in this way, is the well-intentioned feminist pursuit of
enabling conditions to increase the ‘speaking positions’ for women. Such actions
aim at building on the idea that “any text is a rewriting of the field or fields of its
own emergence and that the text works to ‘displace’ the enunciative position from

which the material has been propounded” (Freadman, 1983, cited in Morris, 1988,

Contemporary feminist writers such as Patti Lather (1998) and Meaghan Morris
(1988) now ask whether it is possible, or indeed enough, to simply develop “[t]he
production of speaking positions that are neither too old to surprise, nor too new to
seduce” (Morris, 1988, p.5), but which are understood as being, at once, both
accepted as given and foreign. French feminisms again (Cixous, 1976, 1980;
Irigaray, 1985a, 1985b, 1987; and Kristeva, 1980a, 1980b, 1981) have been highly
influential in seeking to transform women's position from that of object of
knowledge to knowing subject, and from a state of subjection to subject-hood. As
Vicki Kirby (1993) reiterates, it is still important to ask “who speaks for whom…
[and] who mediates the interests of others?” (p.29). Such questioning echoes the
tensions felt by post-foundationalist feminist thinkers, such as Harding (1991),
Kirby (1993), Balsamo (1987), McWilliam, Lather, & Morgan (1997), Grosz,
(1986, 1994), and Bordo (1993a) that traditional forms of power are being
reproduced in different ways out of a need to justify particular politics, positions,
and interests, rather than from the desire for a different re-thinking.

Even though there are convincing moral and political, rather than epistemological,
reasons for ‘minorities’ to demand ‘a voice’ after centuries of comparative and
absolute silence, there are many problems and inadequacies in the expectations
attendant on this thinking. For example, the essentialising and universalising of ‘a’
voice that speaks for all, lacks sufficient specificity and diversity. The dominance of
some women’s voices and not others means that some are included, some excluded.
The lack of dialogue and inclusion suggested by ‘a’ voice privileges the
‘authenticity’ of certain accounts over others, and opens up the possibility of
silencing some narratives. And finally, universalising accounts that conflate
‘woman’ with ‘all women’ work by omitting specific and important particularities
within the category ‘woman’. Feminist theorising has been effective in highlighting
the ways in which philosophical, empirical, and moral theories have been
androcentric, sexist, biased, paternalistic, and so on, and many women are
undoubtedly benefiting from this work. Nevertheless, feminist theorising is no less
immune from ethnocentric privileging, where ‘finding a voice’ has the potential to

become a re-working of the feminine in ways not dissimilar to the masculinist
cultural norms of an un-gendered, autonomous ‘mankind’. Even within such
theorising, there is still confusion about who is permitted to speak on behalf of
whom, and what constitutes a ‘voice’ of ‘authenticity’ and ‘authority’ within
positions of power.

Derrida (1994) states that “participation never amounts to belonging” (cited in

Ashley, Gilmore & Peters, 1994, p.3). The three women named by TIME magazine
as “Persons of the Year” are a complex illustration of this idea. While ‘new
speaking positions’ for women in management and leadership may have progressed
the social and organisational agenda through women's insistence on ‘being heard’,
there is the ongoing paradox of women leaders being present in organisations and
the professions, without the numbers of senior women increasing in any appreciable
way. It raises questions about who speaks, how women are speaking and enacting
leadership positions when they do attain levels of seniority, who listens and why,
and how speaking out might work constructively and problematically in the
promotion of women as leaders in male-defined domains.

By turning well-rehearsed feminist scripts into discursive materials for further

analysis, it is an attempt to analyse how traditional explanations of leadership and
women leaders work to both include and exclude women. Any explanation of
leadership should be understood as partial and incomplete, because senior women
and women leaders both belong to, participate in, and remain outsiders to the norms
of leadership currently existing in business and the professions. Women's
experiences within the context of social transformation of the workplace are often
written about, but understanding the structures of legitimation and de-legitimation,
and how they operate in relation to the daily enactments of women leaders is still
somewhat elusive. Bordo (1993a) describes how the power of being similarly-
different involves both struggle and creative interpretation of the old and the as-yet
undeveloped. Understanding the work of this paradox is a significant challenge for
this project.

One of the common threads weaving through the theorising of the voice is
how the situated-ness of a speaking self is defined and constructed, and what

assumptions underlie the terms of reference used to judge the authority and
power that a particular voice inscribes in specific contexts. Richard Kearney
(1995) develops these ideas in his text States of Mind: Dialogues with
Contemporary Thinkers of the European Mind:
The purpose of dialogue is to allow each to speak of our contemporary
world in alternative ways, in a manner more personal or unpredictable
than in normal current affairs documentary…[which means]…
retelling history in their own particular way… through, as Paul
Ricoeur puts it, an ‘exchange of memories’. For it is only by
remembering each other's past, by sharing each other's sufferings and
aspirations, that we begin to re-invent a future of mutual respect and
atonement. (1995, p.2)

This is reminiscent of Holderlin's idea that “[s]ince we are in dialogue,/And

can listen to one another” we will find points of understanding (cited in
Kearney, 1995, p.305). Kearney (1995) extends this further: “Our being-in-
the-world is revealed historically in and through language as a dialogical
being-in-the-world-with-others” (p.305). But, as many theorists (Foucault
1980, 1982a, 1987, 1991a, Derrida 1984, 1991, 1992, Ricoeur 1996, Lather,
1991b, 1991c) have argued, the mediation of ideas through language means
that we are always working within an historical community, or tradition, that
necessarily renders voices and dialogue, partial and incomplete. It is by
holding these partial and incomplete explanations in tension and in-play
(Haraway, 1991) that allows the working into the gaps, and in-between the
binary oppositions for a different more complex account of identity and
leadership to emerge.

Paradoxically, the feminist quest to theorise a ‘woman's voice’ brings forward

for a different kind of scrutiny, the contradictions and privileging within
feminist theorising itself. De Lauretis (1997) argues that feminist theorising:
is always both excluded from discourse and imprisoned within it so
that the only way to begin to challenge it is from within, by in fact
‘displacing oneself from within it’ and rewriting the voice of the
master from somewhere else - a different text, a contradictory
position. (p.36)

In reply, Meaghan Morris (1988) states that this constant displacing and re-
working of a way of speaking about the experiences of women, is likely to
position women “in a speech genre all too familiar in daily life … the

woman's complaint or nagging. One of the defining generic rules of ‘nagging’
is unsuccessful repetition of the same statements,” she replies (p.15).
Nevertheless, de Lauretis (1997) argues that the importance of listening to
voices, speaking positions, and the strategies associated with them is still
critical in feminist theory, because it is linked into an identity politics that
aims to understand the intersection of cultural and gendered positions. This
questions the issues and differences between women represented in public
debates, and the women who are “not yet there in those representations, but
still contained within them; the women whose material existence outside
those discursive formations is, in fact, the condition of feminist theorising”
(p.37). By acknowledging the privileging and gendered nature of discourse,
post-feminist thinkers now point to how feminist theory is also complicit in
particular forms of knowledge production. To take up le Doeuff’s (1977)
‘semi-clever position’ is not about destroying feminist theorising, but about
acknowledging that it too is an ‘impure’ practice.

3.2.1 Talking like we talk. 'Authentically inauthentic' voices.

For women, there is strong appeal in the idea of speaking positions of and for
women. Simone Beauvoir (1953), Luce Irigaray (1985a, 1985b), Julia
Kristeva (1980a, 1980b, 1981) and Hélène Cixous (1976), amongst others,
have been inspirational for women, with their exhortations for women to
assert themselves through language, voice, desire, pleasures, and ideas. One
famous example, from Hélène Cixous’s (1976) Laugh of the Medusa,
suggests that:
women should write and proclaim [their] unique empire so that other
women, other unacknowledged sovereigns, might exclaim: I, too,
overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows
unheard-of songs…And I too, said nothing, showed nothing; I didn't
open my mouth, I didn’t repaint my half of the world. I was ashamed.
I was afraid, and I swallowed my shame and my fear. I said to myself:
You are mad! Who, feeling a funny desire stirring inside her (to sing,
to write, to dare to speak, in short, to bring out something new) hasn't
thought she was sick?… And why don't you write? Write! Writing is
for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it….Woman must
write woman… By taking up the challenge of speech….women
should break out of the snare of silence. (in Humm, 1992, p.197-198)

Such pleasure-seeking imbrications are certainly seductive particularly for
women whose everyday material lives are stifled within proscribed and alien
structures not of their choosing. The seduction for women within business and
the professions, therefore, is that the voice that magically speaks the action-
words, Open-sesame to organisational realms of riches and power, is the
master's voice, the voice of The Man, a voice they too want to echo, want to
own, even though it is not theirs to own. The work of the French feminists has
helped to restore “women to history and history to women”, as Joan Kelly-
Gadol points out (in Humm, 1992, p.323), by their insistence that women
need not be the object of a patriarchal gaze, but instead, revel in a feminine
gaze as a source of pleasure and play. However, “by speaking truth-to-power
women called into question both truth and power. But the joke was on those
sincere believers, acting like naive ethnographers in the field soaking up
authentic culture, who found women's voices pure” (Rabinowitz, 1995, p.99).
While not escaping the tyrannies of orthodoxy, it can be argued though, that
the many feminisms are now eminently ‘speakable’, even if the telling lacks
in precise ways. However, it may well be that it is in the nature of all political
claims to work in terms of “interested universalisms”, note Gunew and
Yeatman (1993, p.xiv).

3.2.2 Costing words

An analysis of what is operating in concepts such as ‘authenticity’ and
‘voice’, requires an examination of how women ‘get to speak’ at senior levels
within the workplace, and to ask who is listening and why. Deborah Tannen
(1994a) argues that it is difficult for women to be seen as strong authoritative
leaders and as good women, because, “the very notion of authority is
associated with maleness” (p.167) not femininity. Tannen (1994a)
demonstrates that experimental studies exploring women’s and men’s voices
in the workplace show a link between what it means to be a man and what it
means to be a manager. In two studies in 1973 and 1975 using questionnaires
completed by 300 men and 167 women managers, Schein (1994) found
evidence that there was significant correlation between terms describing
‘men’ and ‘managers’, and a near-zero, non-significant resemblance between
descriptions of ‘women’ and ‘managers’. This is despite claims in more

recent literature that ‘the future is woman’ (Peters, 1991) and that ‘soft-
skilling’ imperatives are the basis for continuing business success.

3.2.3 If good managers are male, who are the bad managers?
Tannen (1994a) cites studies from 1989 and 1994 replicating earlier research
that suggests that as women have moved into positions of seniority and
leadership, managerial sex-stereotyping has diminished among women.
Schein (1994) counters this assertion with the statement that, men have
“continued to see women in ways that are not complimentary vis-à-vis
succeeding in positions of authority and influence” (cited in Tannen, 1994a,
p.93). Tannen (1994a) concludes, therefore, that women who endeavour “to
resolve the double-bind by using interactional strategies associated with men,
find that women (and men) who speak in ways expected of the other sex may
be judged more harshly” (p.93). Even when women consciously try to employ
speaking strategies expected of women, they fare worse than men when
judged by others in the group. An important implication of this research, for
this investigation, is that there are certain voices and particular speaking
positions encultured within the business environment, and women who do not
conform to these norms may be read differently or judged harshly. For
example, in a 2003 article about Australian Federal Minister Amanda
Vanstone, it opens with the following statement: “Hers was the sort of voice a
hammerhead shark would have had if the Almighty had not chosen to make
that frenzied creature mute” (Robson, 2003, p.28). Such paradoxes echo Ann
Game’s (1991) statement that, “[t]he fantasy of mastery is directly related to
the fantasy of the possibility of representation” (p.7). What this points to is
that the gendered nature of the labour of identity privileges some over others,
and it is this context of doubleness that women must negotiate as leaders.

It is understandable that feminist theorists have attempted to address this

powerful double-bind for women. As a result, there emerged the arguments
that by celebrating ‘a woman’s voice,’ it might re-dress speaking as
“something done to us, or for us, by others whose presence as antecedents, as
authorities, as interpreters, overpower ours even when one inhabits the most
privileged positions – that of the Western, educated, middle-class

professional” (Rabinowitz, 1995, p.97). At the same time, Kirby (1993),
Gunew and Yeatman (1993), Grosz (1994a), Rabinowitz (1995), and others
caution that feminism cannot claim voices that speak from innocent,
privileged, and inviolate positions, because they, too, are always spoken
through language and “stories that someone else has already told”
(Rabinowitz, 1995, p.98). Feminism, too, has been understandably criticised
for claiming the high-ground of authenticity and authority, through the binary
assumption that women are somehow speaking ‘truth’ where previous
explanations were masculinist ‘untruths’.
Her story, her secret, her fury, her memory, perhaps her fantasy
became the evidence from which to fashion a theory of women's
oppression … Feminism required sincerity for women to claim their
experiences as authentically human. Perhaps a posthuman feminism
develops from the evasion of truth - from fantasy, exaggeration and
lies. (Rabinowitz, 1995, p.98)

As Rabinowitz (1995) indicates, creating or even finding ‘an authentic voice’

and/or a ‘speaking position’ can never be a project for truth-telling, because
of the permeability of the borders intersecting in any discourse purporting to
speak ‘truth’. A more useful model is to understand women as located within
a collage, or fusion, of different ways of speaking; all of which are fractured
and partial, situated and influenced by socio-cultural and political contexts,
but which juxtapose in significant ways at different times within specific
contexts. This demands pursuing more complex and confronting modes of
thought that can refuse the nostalgia for security of presence, or for “tidy
linear narratives” (Lather, 1997, p.2), or a ‘woman's understanding,' or
abstract, unsituated, post-modern relativism. Patti Lather (1997) explains it
this way: “It is about getting lost across the various layers and registers, about
not finding one’s way into making sense that maps easily onto our usual ways
of making sense…in order to open up the frames of knowing to the
possibilities of thinking differently” (p.52).

3.2.4 “Thinking about, thinking about” 18

How woman-as-leader is situated within specific discourses, and what means are
available to open up new spaces to address the insider/outsider status of women

McWilliam, Lather, & Morgan, 1997, p.1.

within organisations are questions that need to be further interrogated. Albert
Einstein purportedly argued that, no problem can be solved from the same
consciousness that created it. So, too, with feminist theorising. What is required is
an unsettling of traditional conceptualisations, to propel us into “thinking about
thinking about” argues McWilliam, Lather, & Morgan (1997, p.1) in order to
challenge the very notion of social reality itself. No longer can traditional concepts
be framed on foundationalist arguments and a belief that ‘knowing’ can be achieved
through ‘wrestling with ideas’ until we finally shake out some ‘truth’.

Post-foundationalist thinkers, including post-feminists and post-structuralists,

acknowledge that research is looking for the partial, the other, the unspeakable,
including what might be unspeakable to feminism itself. Unless research and
theorising can include both the tolerable and the intolerable about women as leaders
it will perpetuate merely the general and acceptable – that is, the known – rather
than make visible the intricacies of women’s enactments as leaders. The aim of this
research is to more fully understand how women are performing as leaders in the
everyday requirements of the workplace.

3.3 It’s about empowering everyone. A gender perspective benefits all - Yes
and No.
Since the time of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), feminists have explored the
notion of women's oppression and its links with the cultural and social constructions
of femininity. How this oppression occurs has been linked, in turn, to the ways
women are rendered, through ideas, images, and systems of language use. As has
been demonstrated, feminism has a long history of investigating how ideas,
language and images are crucial in the shaping of women’s lives. In short, feminist
theories seek to understand the ways in which language, culture, behaviour,
relationships, laws, and social practices, reflect, express, construct, reproduce, and
reinforce power relations along gendered, and/or sexually woven lines.

According to Sinclair (1998), Garratt (1998), Sinclair and Wilson (2002) and others,
homogeneity in the workplace is a major disadvantage, and one of the “causes of
resistance to innovation and change” (p.8). In making this argument, Sinclair (1998)
draws on the report commissioned by the Federal Government in 1991, entitled

Enterprising Nation: Renewing Australia's Managers to Meet the Challenges of the
Asia-Pacific Century (1995), in order to analyse leadership and management skills
in the Australian workplace. In the words of the Enterprising Nation (1995) report,
it is stated that “economic improvement cannot be separated from social
development, nor efficiency from equity. Increased employment, effective diversity
management, and cultural change are about people and community” (p.xi).
According to Sinclair (1998) the old-style white, western, male managers/leaders
are the major problem in progressing ideas about leadership. One of the five
challenges facing Australian managers, as identified by the Enterprising Nation
report, is “to capitalise on the talents of diversity”. It is recommended that all
sectors of the workplace “give higher priority to strategies to improve utilisation and
management of Australia's diverse population” (p.66). In this, “[w]omen should be a
particular target group along with the multicultural workforce” (p.66).

Implicit within these arguments is the idea that we can solve ‘the problems’ by
being more inclusive of those who have traditionally been outside the corridors of
power. However, unless there is a critical approach to the range of ideologies,
implicit assumptions, contradictory approaches, and problematic research
methodologies used to evince such results, significant change will continue to be
elusive. Organisational analyses of the kind that Hatcher (1998), Mills and Tancred
(1992), Burton and Ryall (1995), Connell (1987), Rose (1998), and others pursue,
show that traditional gender inscriptions, and the persistence of male advantage in
male-defined organisational structures, infuse all areas of the workplace. Eckhart &
McConnell-Ginet (1992) state that:
[W]omen's language has been said to reflect their conservatism, prestige
consciousness, upward mobility, insecurity, deference, nurturance,
emotional expressivity, connectedness, sensitivity to others, solidarity…
[while] men's language is heard as evincing their toughness, lack of affect,
competitiveness, independence, competence, hierarchy, control. (p.90)

Such masculinist descriptors neatly fit within the traditional success factors reified
and perpetuated in the ‘great’ leaders located in both organisational and public
political spheres. Feminist theorists have attempted to dismantle the failure of
universalist claims, by showing that not all women are ‘caring and connected’ from
birth in a biologically determined way, and not all men are aggressive, competent,
successful, hierarchical, or competitively driven. This continuing reification of the

mythical binary qualities inscribed within gendered leadership traits points to some
of the ongoing problems and paradoxes in theorising leadership:
In Australia the ‘hard’ skills and the ‘soft’ skills are associated,
respectively, with men and with women…The ‘male to male’
communication skills of Australian Managers, identified by some as a
strength are seen by others to be a key weakness in corporate Australia. …
The need, now, to embrace the ‘soft skills’, traditionally associated with
women with the roles supporting the work of line managers, is bound to
meet with strong resistance from the traditional manager. (pp.6-8)

What is being raised here is the idea that appropriating the ‘other’ to the norms of
management and leadership is a strategic move to subvert the weaknesses inherent
in existing masculinist conventions. The de-construction of the constructedness of
gender that proposes benefits to all is a major focus within leadership and feminist
research. Rather than a re-absorption or conflation of all gender traits in one,
Connell (1983) proposes a non-unitary model of gender in which, he argues,
masculinity and femininity should be seen not as polar opposites, but rather, as
separate dimensions given that they can co-exist in the one person. He argues that
gender constructs are ways of living certain relationships: “It follows that static
typologies of a sexual character have to be replaced by histories, analyses of the
joint production of sets of psychological forms” (p.179). It requires a multiple
approach to understand what it means to be a man or a woman, and to see how they
are historically and culturally constituted, along with how differences are made
manifest in different racialised, ethnic, religious groups, and social classes. It might
be possible, he suggests, to enable organisations to develop leaders and senior
managers who will be male and/or female.

In any study about women leaders there is an imperative to incorporate the everyday
enactments of women leaders to see what emerges out of such an analysis. It is not
about thinking in terms of intentionality, or determining what any specific
enactment means, but about documenting the processes and practices of leadership
within which women are located, to see what emerges from what woman-as-leader
produces in the everyday performances of leadership.

3.3.1 A cluster of contested zones
One of the difficulties with much of the research into gender and leadership, is that
it leaves the issues and underlying constructs of what constitutes ‘good leadership’
largely un-examined, and this results in the on-going examination of, and demand
for more and more leadership research. Sinclair (1998) and Sinclair and Wilson
(2002) call for a re-examination of leadership to re-configure the circularised and
impoverished models of leadership that, they claim, still hold sway. Sinclair (1998)
also questions why it is that leadership questions persist within frames of “romance,
mystique, significance, magic and sex-appeal” (p.13), while being contextualised
against continuing disenchantment in the public arena with leaders and senior
management behaviours and structures.

The idea that exploring gender will have benefits for all, feeds into this leadership
mystique and romance. This needs as much critical investigation as does the
idealistic view of male leaders as wise, caring and connected CEO's walking the
shop-floor discussing innovative ideas and working conditions with individual
workers. Therefore, this research concerns how leadership can be more productively
thought of in terms of a cluster of contested zones, and what kinds of thinking this
might create. The question is, if leadership research is to proceed from the idea of
sites and sights of contested ideas, images, and possibilities, then what kind of tools
are required and how might a suitable method be developed or assembled?

According to Craig and Yetton (1995), in general terms there is “little evidence of
substantial differences between male and female leaders, in terms of dominance,
confidence or sense of security, or in terms of capacity to lead, influence or
motivate, nor differences in humanitarian approach, understanding or capacity to
reduce interpersonal friction” (Morrison, White, and Volsor, cited in Craig and
Yetton, 1995, p.1192). However, Gardener (1992, cited in Craig and Yetton, 1995)
argues that set against the male-to-male heroic leadership styles, it is not that
women lack in ‘performance’ but in ‘opportunity’ (p.1192). What this suggests is
that there is a need for a re-visioning of the ongoing stereotypes and dualistic
thinking that shape ‘ways of knowing’, but the arguments are that this will not be
achieved within the same epistemological and ontological frameworks that have
created them. As Sinclair (1998), Garratt (1998), and Sinclair and Wilson (2002)

argue, something different is required if the paradoxes, ironies, complexities, and
multi-layered symbols that are integral to leadership enactments are to be brought
forward for a different form of scrutiny for a different sort of outcome.

3.4 Sexuality Matters – Yes and No.

Sinclair (1998) points to a persistent myth throughout much of the leadership
literature that power and sexuality are ‘somewhere else’, as other to ‘the heart of
leadership’, which she claims, requires further interrogation about what constitutes
‘the right sort of power’, to break down such private/public binary oppositions. It is
not about the 'add-and-stir' type of diversity thinking – tagging on a bit of the 'other'
that is different. Again, these arguments suggest that sexuality and gender issues
concern only women, not men, and so they immediately lose currency. The shifts
and re-alignments in post-thinking recognise the need for the category difference to
be extended to included difference/s, complexity, and “multiplicities” (Deleuze &
Guattari, 1998, p.24). The idea of diversity has been a useful framework to link a
range of differences that include ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality, abilities and dis-
abilities, and it has offered a significant lens for viewing how women and leadership
have been constituted, represented, and understood in business and professional
contexts. However, for senior women, leadership and seniority are still areas of
opportunity, paradox, and risk that are not fully explained through a discourse of
diversity as it is enacted for better and for worse in the everyday performances of

3.4.1 'Telling flesh'19

According to Carol Smart (1992), representations of women and the feminine in the
public domain have been both disabling and productive. She argues that there is
potential for women to be both disorderly and dangerous and, thereby, subvert
prevailing gender relations and gendered practices:
[W]oman has always been both kind and killing, active and aggressive,
virtuous and evil, cherishable and abominable, not either virtuous or evil.
Woman, therefore, represents a dualism, as well as being one side of a prior
binary distinction. Thus, in legal discourse the prostitute is constructed as the
bad woman, but at the same time she epitomises Woman in contradistinction
to Man because she is what any woman could be and because she represents

Vicki Kirby, 1993.

a deviousness and a licentiousness arising from her (supposedly naturally
given) bodily form, while the man remains innocuous. (p.29)

An important issue here for women leaders is the phrase ‘man remains innocuous’,
because such visible/invisible and gendered neutrality forms a powerful context in
which women are counterpoised against ‘benchmarked’ men as the rational,
reasonable, prudent, objective, innocuous ‘knowers’. Kathleen Jones (1993) argues
that the authority men exercise is normalised through rule-making, as a
“dispassionate and disciplinary gaze: one of the signs of being in authority is the
ability to articulate universal and impartial rules, rules that displace disorder with
order”, she says (p.143). It could be argued that the ‘letting in’ of women into senior
leadership positions might be seen as a disorderly force in itself, considering that
men are supported by a considerable cast of other authoritative men at all levels of
the organisation (including the 80-90% of senior managers and leaders who are
male). That all of this continues to be seen as an impediment for women seems
undeniable, even within the current context of equal opportunity legislation, yet the
fact of numbers of women working successfully at senior levels immediately
contests these accounts as claims of ‘truth’ about women leaders.

A key concern about the identity underpinning constructs of ‘leader’ resides in

questions about the hetero-normativity of leaders, and how the presence of woman
as ‘other’ might appear as unruly. The idea of the lesbian, bisexual, Aboriginal or
Asian woman leader (let alone combinations of these) becomes troubling as
Thornton (1996) suggests:
According to the social script, lesbians and bisexual women are undoubtedly
dangerous, but they cannot be simply relegated to one side of the
male/female dualism without destabilising it. Like Aboriginal women, Asian
women, or differentiated 'others' to whom the seed of 'invidiousness' might
attach these women have been rendered invisible. (p.31)

Could it be, as Monique Wittig (1992) ironically quips, that a disruptive and unruly
argument might be that lesbian and bi-sexual women are, therefore, “not women”
because they are not properly “manned”? (p.32).

Heterosexuality has been the prevailing norm within western societies, but
theoretical discussions about sexuality are still mainly condemned to the private
world. Many of the debates centre around specific sub-cultural groups and their

attempts to establish new identities. For women in leadership positions images and
issues surrounding femininity as a material and corporeal lived-body, and as a
gendered and embodied identity, also needs urgent re-visioning. The major bodies
of current post thinking and theorising, intersect in and are relevant to this debate,
because these bodies of thought encourage an approach to identity where both
meaning and subjectivity are fluid rather than fixed, and multiple rather than

The extensive theorising of gender and sexuality issues, including gay and lesbian
issues, has been a major strength of feminist theory. But as Bordo (1993b) makes
clear, the strength of earlier feminist identity politics of women such as Andrea
Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Shulamith Firestone, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde,
Gloria Steinem, and Mary Daly, while giving rise to much needed changes to laws
and practices, “was [mainly in] exposing oppression, not elaborating the ideas most
adequate to exposing that oppression (as was the case with Marcuse and Foucault
and is arguably the case with much academic feminism today)” (Bordo, 1993b,
p.184). Cultural studies, and in particular post-structuralism is significant here in
that it explores the linking of representations and identities within new socio-
cultural and political locations. What is also pertinent here is the emergence of new
identities and coalitions, and the representations of the ways in which gendered
bodies live and work.

3.4.2 Performing leadership

A major area of post-feminist post-structuralist theorising involves the hegemony
(and hetero-normativity) of heterosexuality. Judith Butler (1989, 1993) and ‘queer
theorists’ have deliberately added to the confusion surrounding issues of identity,
and the ‘performativity’ of ‘sexuality’ and ‘gender’. Shane Phelan (1995) suggests
that queer theory and politics developed through the eighties as a consequence of
many women feeling overwhelmed by the feminist wars of words, an outcome of
which was the search for new locations for thinking and writing. The rising
demands of lesbian and bisexual women to ‘find a voice’ invited new ways to
theorise the relationships between sexuality and politics. And with the impact of
Foucault and post-structuralist thinking in the academy, a theoretical terrain was
established for ‘queer theory’ to develop.

However, the emergence of queer theory does not imply that the tensions
experienced by lesbian feminists or lesbian black feminists, or between lesbian, gay
and queer theorists have disappeared, or that a more open alliance of thinkers has
been created. The danger is that thinking has been merely re-inscribed and certain
alliances privileged in different patterns. As Phelan (1995) argues, “[b]ecause
lesbians, gays, and queers differ in their political aims among themselves, as well as
between groups, the ground for common action cannot be ‘identity’ but must be
shared commitments; it must be sympathy and affinity rather than identity” (p. 351).
Simple linear versions of identity politics based on single categories such as
‘lesbian’ or ‘gay’, ‘black’, ‘ethnic’, ‘post-colonialist’, or ‘feminist’, are now
considered inadequate, because they do not account for the shifting multiplicity,
diversity, and complexity of people’s lived experiences.

In re-appraising leadership theories, such thinking calls for the incorporation of

multiplicity of thinking and a plurality of discursive domains. This is echoed in
writer Tim Winton's (1994) claims, that the singular theories of leadership as 'heroic
masculinity striding the global stage', are disabling for men as well as women
(p.64). Butler (1993) argues that it is imperative to bring to the surface and make
visible the complex identity issues involved in understanding gender and sexuality,
but which have been rendered invisible by dominant discourses or hegemonies that
define certain sorts of ‘normal’ or ‘common sense’ subjects (p.148-149).
Poststructuralism as a theoretical domain, offers incisive tools for a critique of
unitary, essentialist, and traditional modes of thought. For instance, Walkerdine
(1990) draws on Foucault’s ideas about the relationship between power and
discourse to understand how discourse works instrumentally in both the formation
and expression of identity. Walkerdine (1990) underlines the political nature of
identity-formation and the representation of sexuality and gender. She suggests that
identity is better understood as “a multiplicity of subjectivities” … “produced in
relations of power that are constantly shifting, rendering them at one moment
powerful and at another powerless” (pp.3-14). For feminists committed to a politics
of emancipation and progress this creates conflicting messages, because of a belief
in the “fundamental aim of the feminist project to re-discover and re-evaluate the

experiences of women ... as a global sisterhood linked by invariant universal
feminine characteristics” (McNay, 1992, p.2).

Judith Butler (1993), Donna Haraway (1991), and Sandra Harding (1986) have
controversially argued that even biological referents are socially constructed. They
“sought to take the anti-essentialist arguments all the way down”, writes Patton
(1993, p.82), by troubling the distinction between biology as ‘eternal nature’, and
the socially constructed model of gender and identity. This work has opened up
ways of analysing and thinking about the making of “concrete, finite and corporeal”
(Falzon, 1993, p.2) human subjects, and the many intersecting knowledges within
which embodiment and performativity are constituted. Performing identity as a
woman leader, therefore, involves the intersection of a variety of intersecting
discourses that include not only gender, ethnicity, and sexuality, but also the law,
citizenship, management, leadership, femininity, and masculinity that are always
constantly in play. Such shifts in both feminist and leadership thinking provide
useful points of analysis for a study of women and/in leadership.

Michel Foucault's work, particularly in The History of Sexuality: Volumes 1 (1976),

2, and 3 (1984), and Power/Knowledge (1980), has been immensely influential,
particularly with what is and is not ‘sayable’ in specific debates. His disruption of
the fixed and stable nature of the categories of sexuality, sex, and gender, his
conceptualising of new forms of power, and the relationship between power and
pleasure, permeate much contemporary post-work. The difficulty in understanding
how women see themselves in relation to different discourses, and how they make
judgements about how they should act or perform their leadership, is informed by
Foucault’s (1982b) work on the historical and constructed nature of identity,
transgression, and resistance. Bailey (1993) suggests that “by documenting the
discontinuities of history, Foucault dispels the shadow of the monolithic,
transcendent culture from which marginalised groups and individuals must wrest
their rights to their ‘identities’” (p.105). Such acts of creativity, resistance, and
accommodation provide a useful lens through which to study the ways in which
women who are 'let in' to senior positions are enacting their identities and roles as
leaders within their organisations.

Foucault (1976, 1980, 1984a, 1984b) demonstrates how power is both productive
and capillary. His ideas concerning 'normalisation', 'discipline' and 'bio-power'
demonstrate how identity and power are productively related. Out of this work,
Bordo (1993b) suggests that seeing power as productive and plural has “spawn[ed]
new forms of culture and subjectivity, new openings for potential resistance to
emerge” (p.192). Jana Sawicki (1988) argues along similar lines, stating that
Foucault's (1982) ideas about power and identity politics seem highly compatible
with the feminist argument that “the personal is political” (p.186). For women in
leadership this also offers new insights that may be “personally liberating or
culturally transforming” (Bordo 1993b, p.192).

Bordo (1993b) goes further to explore the relationship between power, identity
politics, and pleasure, claiming that they are not alternatives for choosing, but can
all be experienced at the one time. Foucault’s (1980) work also demonstrates how
power, knowledge and identity are intimately inter-connected; a dynamic interaction
of overlapping, different, and paradoxical practices that ‘collide and collude’
(O’Malley, 1996, p.192). This is another powerful reminder for woman-as-leader
performing leadership. A further theoretical shift in the identity formation of women
leaders, which has relevance for this study, is Foucault’s exploration of the idea of
'docile bodies' of compliance, where one may experience an illusion of power while
at the same time being rendered 'docile'. Power, in this way, is both simultaneously
productive and oppressive. This represents another possible site of contestation and
resistance that needs to be further explored if the role/s and significance of women's
bodies within leadership domains is to be understood. The embodied performances
of women within realms of power are not innocent, and it may be that women
contribute to “the perpetuation of female subordination” (Bordo, 1993b, p.192) by
participating in “industries and cultural practices” which suppress them and/or
contribute to their own lack of power (p.192).

3.4.3 Powerful and pleasurable sites of cleavage.

A somewhat controversial theorising of gendered bodies, sexuality, and power,
comes from Baudrillard's (1979) exploration of the symbolic power of the feminine.
He argues that “the sovereignty of seduction has always existed, despite its being
condemned as a preoccupation of the aristocratic spheres, [so that] the strength of

femininity is also the strength of seduction” (p.6). Baudrillard (1979) suggests that
femininity, with its stronger claim of an “alternative to sex and to power” (p.6), has
been forsaken for ‘femaleness’ since the sexual revolution, and that this has
enclosed women in a structure that condemns them to either discrimination when
the structure is strong, or a derisory, triumph within a weakened structure.
There is a strange, fierce complicity between the feminist movement and the
order of truth. For seduction is resisted and rejected as a misappropriation of
women's true being ... in one stroke, the immense privilege of the feminine
is effaced: the privilege of having never acceded to truth or meaning, and of
having remained absolute master of the realm of appearances. The capacity
immanent to seduction to deny things their truth and to turn it into a game,
the pure play of appearances, and thereby foil all systems of power and
meaning with a mere turn of the hand. (Baudrillard, 1979, p.8)

McWilliam (1996b) questions whether women have the greater power as masters of
a symbolic universe as distinct from a ‘real one’. However, she also suggests a need
for the troubling of the stereotyping of the sexual division of leadership and the
relationship between the female and the male body, because this claim, too, is
neither innocent nor simple. It requires looking at “exemplars of modes of female
engagement in, and construction of” (p.7) leadership spaces, even though much of
the current thinking suggests that there is little to be found. McWilliam (1996b)
illustrates this through an analysis of the gendered pedagogical bodies of Miss Jean
Brodie, as represented in the film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and Mr Keating
('My Captain') in Dead Poets' Society. Brodie's words are obviously the more
dangerous ones, McWilliam (1996b) argues, because while both films show
students dying, it is Brodie who is vilified and rejected, while Keating is heroically
redeemed. What is it about women's words, she asks, that turn them into sour grapes
when uttered as authority? (p.7).

To investigate this question, McWilliam (1996b) turns her attention to the ways in
which traditional feminist theorising has reified “a set of disembodied textual
choices about sex, gender and ethnic difference” (p.9) for interrogating women's
bodies as sites/sights of oppression. She cites Cryle (1994) who in order to
“understand the discursive authority at work in transmitting received notions of
refined pleasure” (McWilliam, 1996b, p.9) problematises the ways in which women
have enacted sexual agendas that are not simply “born of male desire, and executed
by women in response to male desire” (Cryle, 1994, p.viii). For women in

leadership positions there are definite rewards to be won by exploring the
relationship between power and pleasure and “the sexiness of winning” (Kirby,
1997, p.10). If understanding women leaders and leadership is more than an
emancipatory narrative of progress, then it demands a consideration of the powerful
and pleasurable possibilities for women leaders, and the pleasure of/for women in
seeing women performing well at the top.

The relevance for women in leadership resides within this idea of performativity as
sites/sights of possibilities, which have the power to subvert confining essentialist
ideas, and so become empowering for women. This is not to suggest that the work
of Judith Butler (1989, 1993), Biddy Martin (1992) and others has been un-
problematic. As Biddy Martin (1992) points out in her article Sexual practice and
changing lesbian identities, there has been a significant backlash against Gay and
Lesbian identity politics by some conservative right-wing political and religious
groups in the USA. The understandable desire for coherence and stable categories in
order to promote the “uniqueness of lesbian identity” (p.97) has also resulted in a
rigid categorisation that has evoked a hostile and active public resistance and
'outing' from within. Within lesbian communities it has also added to essentialist
and universalist thinking which tends to exclude, rather than include, some of the
very people towards whom it is aimed.

Difference politics is also challenged in this debate. The very fact that feminists,
women of colour, lesbians, ethnic minorities, the disabled, and other minority
groups, see themselves as 'different' leaves the dominance and naturalising
influences of 'white, western, male, middle-class heterosexuals' unchallenged, and
seemingly, the measure against which everything else remains 'other'. Yet identity
as a crucial element of identity politics and has the attraction of empowering
otherwise isolated people. “For the Queer nation, identity belongs to ‘nation’ as a
collective, formulated through a collective alliance. It also moves the political away
from acting subjects to the performative … to what people do rather than what they
are,” argues Moynihan (1994, cited in Brooks, 1997, p.198). In reply, it could be
argued that all struggles for identity and agency, involve the negotiation of
ambivalence and complexity, and this suggests that ‘chaos theory’ is relevant here,

Difference proliferates division, and yet conflation of categories is resisted as
understandings about the fluidity of identity and subjectivity has increased. “The
proliferation of representations emerging from cultural forms are partly the result of
popular cultural forms emerging as 'sites of resistance'” (Brooks, 1997, p.209). But
cultural forms do not have single determinant meanings: they are understood
through how they are performed and identified, and thus depend on the readings
which are always multiple and complex. What this leads to, is the possibility of a
multiplicity of representations, which for women in leadership positions within
masculinist environments means new possibilities for resistance and compliance.

3.5 Market-place Logic – Yes and No.

Binary Meltdown?
There has never been a time when women were not involved in the economic
questions underpinning a family, community, nation or state. Nor, it could be
argued, has there ever been a time when many women were not acutely aware of the
gendered nature of cultural life – that is, “how advantage and disadvantage,
exploitation and control, action and emotion, and meaning and identity are patterned
through and in terms of a distinction between male and female” (Acker 1990,
p.146). However, it is particularly since the time of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97)
that women have actually written about the dynamics of women's experiences as
oppression, and how this links with cultural, social, and economic constructions of

As has been indicated in this and the preceding chapter, many attempts have been
made to address the organising premises underpinning the processes through which
power relations between men and women in the workplace are constituted, and how
the complex arguments about fair and just workplace practices might be taken into
account. As reflected in feminist literature, women have explored the implications
of ideas based in goals of equality (equal rights, equal opportunities, equal
treatment) which have as their aim the assimilation of women into the workplace in
the same ways as men, but there are problems with this thinking. For many women
any theoretical model that results in the dissolving of gender and sexuality
differences into some form of gender neutrality, is rejected, because it immediately

leads to the questions: 'Equal to what?' 'Equal to whom?' and can a similarly-
different presence constitute ‘equality’? It also masks the ways in which women are
actually performing their roles in the workplace and to what effect.20

In 1972 an Afro-American woman stated: “In black women's liberation we don't

want to be equal with men, just like in black liberation we're not fighting to be equal
with the white man. We're fighting for the right to be different and not be punished
for it” (cited in Lerner, 1972, p. 608). Such calls bring forward for scrutiny
questions underpinning ‘woman’, and ‘women’, and what ‘women’ want from life,
including how they are performing a variety of roles, and how we understand
society to be constituted in these terms. The conceptual coupling of
‘equality/difference’ models has been a way of articulating differences and
similarities to try to arrive at practical manageable outcomes, even though there are
obvious gaps in the approach as it relates to women and leadership explanations.
Interrogating equality issues offers the potential for practical ways to engage
politically with problems to do with workplace practices and leadership issues; a
seductive concept for many women.

Lather (1998) suggests that to explore dichotomous and mutually exclusive gender
problems, demands different ways of seeing and thinking to open up new
possibilities for creatively different solutions. Lather (1998) also cautions against
thinking that shuts out the difficult stories and concepts that do not fit easily. She
urges a resistance to classical redemptive narratives with their neat linear solutions
thought to be developed by rational knowing subjects. It is argued, therefore, that
through getting lost in the complications, and freeing the interplay of different
approaches to the complex themes surrounding women and leadership, a more
articulate understanding of woman-as-leader might be generated. Such arguments
require a different analysis of the corporeal daily enactments of leadership by
women, to open up a different lens to focus more precisely on this important and
complex subject.

For example: In terms of rank, Air Vice-Marshal Julie Hammer is equal in status to others of similar rank in the RAAF, but
this tells us nothing about how she has attained her rank, nor how she enacts the on-going role of Air Vice-Marshal,
considering no other woman has ever attained such seniority within the Royal Australian Air Force.

These more useful debates are more than just the duplication of old ideas or a
derivative pastiche of borrowed past ideas. To consider multiple ways of positioning
the debates about sexual/gender differences, means moving beyond meta-
explanations involving biological, natural, essential, ontological, historical, social,
cultural arguments (or all of the above), even though all or most of them will be a
part of any serious ongoing research and dialogue. Braidotti (1992) suggests, that
one of the ways of doing this is through a re-evaluation of embodiment (the bodily
roots of female subjectivity), desire, and thinking, given that women's lives have
never been independent of past and present conditions. They also concern the
material differences in which women have been subordinate to, or defined by,
others. Therefore, studying gender and sexuality in relation to market-place logic is
another space that may allow insights into how some women attain levels of
seniority while others remain outside.

3.5.1 Symbolic nodal points and multiple F words

There are two major arguments underpinning approaches to thinking about market-
place logic. Post-feminist, post-structuralist researchers in addressing the market-
place/workplace seem divided on whether thinking should try to be inclusive of all
issues, or argue within specific terms – the particularities of universalisms. Sinclair
(1998) seems to be saying 'yes', our approaches should try to be inclusive of both
men and women as this makes more positive economic and business sense, but
Marilyn Waring (1988) argues 'no', because the economic models have been devised
by men with men in mind, so women are necessarily excluded. In reply, Habermas
(1990) argues in his critique of ideas underpinning communicative competence (and
Waring would seem to agree), there is surely a point where we declare a particular
model to be morally bankrupt and in urgent need of different ways of thinking.

Being inclusive, argues Sinclair (1998), means that there is a pay-off in mainstream
economic terms, even though this argument can be challenged because it is not
sufficiently critical of the assumptions of market-theory, fast-capitalism, and
ruthless individual materialism. In echoing this thinking, McNay (1992) writes that
there are identifiable “tensions that have always existed between poststructuralist
theory, whose ‘relativistic’ logic tends to lead to a ‘retreat from politics’ (Fraser,
1984) and the normative demands of more politically engaged forms of critique”

(p.2). In some cases these have reached breaking point even though we have
developed a host of ways of thinking about post thinking, reflected in this witty
Feminism, Feminists, Proto-feminists, Feminist anti-feminism, Anti-feminist
feminism, Post-modern feminism, post-feminist…How can one decide what
is pre- and what proto-, let alone anti- or post-, without first setting what is
‘feminist’ (Offen, 1992, p.75).

Waring (1988) argues that further account be taken of the historically contingent
nature of economic knowledge, along with the impact of negative perceptions about
women's contributions to, and status within, the workplace. To trace the thinking
underpinning current economics, market-place logic, global hyper-capitalism, and
women, involves teasing out the terms of relations of power and resistance which
are ceaselessly being reproduced, in continual struggle, constantly shifting, and in
the process of becoming. Until we do, we will not understand how some women
such as Air Vice-Marshal Julie Hammer, The Hon Justice Mary Gaudron, CEO Jill
Kerr Conway, Chair of QANTAS Margaret Jackson have become leaders within
their strongly masculinist environments of the military, law, business and politics,
and what they do when they get there.

3.5.2 The Ruth-less world of entrepreneurial fast-capitalism

According to Collinson and Hearn, (1996) with the emergence of capitalist
ideology, simple control measures that had worked in earlier paternalistic
patriarchal and/or theocratic patriarchal contexts, were now inadequate. They
suggest that as a result, entrepreneurial patriarchy and masculine management
norms changed, because of the more ruthless, competitive and acquisitive spirit
where masculinity had to be proven and success was increasingly seen in terms of
affluence and capital accumulation (p.65). Concomitant with this, women were
positioned as constitutionally unfit for the ruthless world of capitalism; men were
expected to be good providers who could afford to cloister their women at home, so
women did not need to consider outside work or careers (p.66). With the emergence
of a powerful gendered bureaucratic culture, women were marginalised as other to
the dominant male culture of inflexibility, efficiency, rationality, and
instrumentality (p.67); “the traditional halo effect of age, sex, or appearance”
(Zuboff, 1988, p.371).

Accordingly, hyper-capitalist consumer culture has markedly changed the way in
which we relate to others in the workplace and the community. DuGay (1996)
asserts that in late twentieth century political contexts “freedom and independence
emanate not from civil rights but from individual choices exercised in the market”
(p.77), or in other words, economic policies and social policies conflated as one and
the same issue. He suggests that within a hyper-capitalist frame, the subject, or
actor, is positioned as “a self-regulating, individual actor seeking to maximise the
worth of his or her existence to him/herself through personalised acts of choice”
(p.80). This emphasis on the 'individual' over the relational or communitarian, has
also placed the idea of identity politics and coalitions of peoples in tension,
subsumed by the power of hyper-capitalism and a ‘new economy’. Rose (1998)
further asserts that the governing of the desirable and undesirable aspects of people
has been a “delimitation of the sphere of the political by reference to the right of
other domains - the market, civil society, the family, being the three most
commonly deployed” (p.27).

Current economic and political policies have created a range of techniques to ensure
that areas such as, “productivity and conditions of trade, the activities of civil
associations, ways of rearing children and organizing conjugal relations and
financial affairs within households - support and do not oppose, political objectives”
(Rose, 1998, p.28). Rose (1998) points out that one of the major thrusts of current
political and economic thinking “has been defined by the problem of how free
individuals can be governed such that they enact their freedom appropriately”
(p.29). For women, how they might enact freedoms and workplace roles ‘properly’
and/or ‘appropriately’ is largely undefined except from a broad hetero-normatively
masculinist design, and it is difficult to see how these could be equally ‘proper’ as
blue-prints for women. It might be argued, however, that the lack of definition
reveals a ‘leakiness of the categories’ that could allow transgressive possibilities to
emerge, even as the gaps, the denials, the fallacies, and the differences seem to
default back into binary formulations based in a sameness/difference mode of

The rise to political power of governments adopting neo-liberal policies involving

macro-economic reforms as reflected in globalisation, privatisation, social welfare

obligations and the increasing responsibilities of citizens, causes workplace
relations to undergo more tension by de-stabilising previously secure workplace
structures, such as tenured jobs, and continuous employment. This evokes
Habermas’s (1976) notion of ‘a crisis of legitimacy’, brought about by governments
bringing more of our social and economic life under the instrumental rationality of
administrative planning. This has serious and widespread ramifications for both men
and women in the workplace, because paradoxically, the more governments try to
control and create dependency the less likely they are to be able to achieve or
sustain their promises or goals. In analysing such issues, Rose (1998) questions how
enterprising individuals are governed and shaped, a question that has particular
relevance for a study of the shaping and governing of women performing as leaders
and senior managers. Within current neo-liberal political thinking, Rose (1998)
the self is to be a subjective being, it is to aspire to autonomy, it is to strive
for personal fulfilment in its earthly life, it is to interpret its reality and
destiny as a matter of individual responsibility, it is to find meaning in
existence by shaping its life through acts of choice. These ways of thinking
about humans as selves, and these ways of judging them, are linked to
certain ways of acting upon selves. (p.150)

He further claims that ideas about the autonomous free thinking individual so imbue
liberal western thinking that it is necessary to interrogate how they are linked to
forms of power. Foucault’s (1980) examination of the way power works through
subjectivity, to shape, create and utilise humans within spheres of power such as the
workplace underpins and extends these ideas. Foucault’s (1980) work offers insights
into how women “are ruled, mastered, held in check, administered, steered, guided,
by means of which they are led by others or have come to direct or regulate their
own actions” (Rose, 1998, p.152) as proper/improper or appropriate/inappropriate
leaders. Therefore, to explore the kinds of regulatory practices that enterprising
women leaders have engaged in to achieve excellence, economy, efficiency,
seniority, proficiency, advantage, and so on, to enable them to achieve what no
other women have managed to do before, offers rich research resources.

Foucault (1980) contends that, “the exercise of power itself creates and causes to
emerge new objects of knowledge” (p.51), and further, that some specific, located
and partial knowledges, such as white western business men's, have become

privileged over others in gendered and stratified way. Both these ideas are relevant
to an understanding of both women leaders and leadership practices. The particular
leadership ‘regimes of truth’ currently operating, have created for many senior
women feelings of being ‘outsiders on the inside’, even though some women have
managed to re-configure the masks of masculinity, to break through the stereotypes
and succeed.

3.5.3 Heterogenous ensembles

The strands of political thinking outlined here can be tracked back to an upsurge of
neo-liberalist economic thinking, particularly over the past thirty years. It stands in
contrast to the more communitarian approach of Waring (1988), Cox (1995),
Fukuyama (1995), Ralston Saul (1997), Singer (1999) and others, who seem more
interested in gender and identity issues underpinning women and other 'outsider-
insiders'. For neo-liberalism, the ontological issues include the primacy of
individual rights and freedom, while for communitarians community life and the
good of the collectivities is foregrounded. They represent just two of the many
political and subjective arguments underpinning rival claims of constructions of the
self: the ethically based self concerned with communitarian social outcomes, and/or
the individualistic autonomous self whose freedom to choose concerns mainly
personal outcomes and achievements of a competing autonomous self. As a
powerful discourse underpinning leadership thinking, it has been deployed to try to
explain why supposedly autonomous individuals (men) rather than supposedly
communitarian, family-based individuals (women) succeed in attaining seniority
and leadership, or why some women and not others achieve success at senior levels.
But even as this explanation seems to enlighten, the binary unravels due to its
insufficiencies. It fails to reveal the achievements of women who are currently
working at senior levels, or why other neo-liberal discourses about equality,
progress, and emancipation have not significantly altered the overall numbers
(EOWA Report, 2002; Sinclair & Wilson, 2002).

To understand what is involved in how some women have managed to achieve

levels of seniority and leadership, and what they do to perform as ‘proper’ leaders,
needs to be interrogated in ways that refuse the positioning of workplace issues as
homogenous, distinct categories. What offers different possibilities is to analyse

leadership as a heterogenous ensemble of multiple factors and influences, or as
micro-spaces where the micro issues of everyday existence reflects and subverts
dominances asserted through specific regimes of power. Some feminist writers such
as Eva Cox (1995) see the idea of a civil society as a way of allowing more women
to achieve positions of seniority. However, the Italian Marxist Gramsci (1971)
counters this by arguing that ‘the civil society’ is a naturalised set of social actions
and institutions that work to maintain the dominant power and ideology of a ruling
group. Even considering the limitations of this definition it offers another insight
into why feminist thinkers such as Marilyn Waring (1988), Eva Cox (1995) and
Gillian Hewitson (1996) are positioned as outsider-others.

Foucault (1979, 1986) explains that power intersects with all practices, both macro
and micro, so that subjectivity has become an essential resource, object, and target
for particular policies, strategies and procedures of governmentality and regulation.
Rose (1998) suggests that through studying the ways dominant groups have sought
to “conduct the conduct” (p.152) of human beings, it will allow for further insights
into the ways institutions and organisations influence how we comport ourselves in
the workplace. It also points to what has not been said, and what has been forgotten
or subsumed in the accounts of the norms of the leadership and the workplace. In
her opening sentence, Russo (1994) asserts that even within feminism itself this is a
problem to be addressed. “Feminism in the 1990s has stood increasingly for and
with the normal and the habitual … [and as such has led to] a cultural and political
disarticulation … from the strange, the risky, the minoritarian, the excessive, the
outlawed, and the alien” (p. vii).

There is a need, then, to look at all aspects of political structures and coalitions of
class, gender, and ethnicity, to explore how the dialectic norms of politics and
economics are being enacted at both the local individual lived-level, as well as at
national and global levels. Waring (1988) seems justified in arguing that there are
very real local concerns for women that can only be changed if, as Harvard
Professor Ruth Hubbard (1984) writes, we address and change the current system:
the system…by which I mean both the structure and content of the scientific
and technical professions, has been constructed by one particular, limited
social group, composed of economically privileged, university-educated

white men, and it serves their needs more than ours. (cited in Waring 1988,

However, this account is also insufficient, because understanding woman-as-leader

requires addressing a range of multiple issues. It is defensible to argue that there are
substantial gains to be made for women in having political issues seen as inclusive
of all people, and not just as women’s issues, because the current economic climate
is globalised, rapidly shifting, complex, and unpredictable. Globalised ‘new-
economy’ markets involve sophisticated, and often highly speculative, abstract
‘products’ such as, cultural and product branding, investments involving futures,
bonds and derivatives, enacted within an increasingly dis-embodied electronic
context, all of which calls for global and united action and sophisticated research
tools. Finzi (1992) offers a cautionary note here. “There is no morality whatever, in
technologies which pursue all available possibilities and cannot predict what will
come of them for people and communities” (p.141). This reflects a real concern
about the lived outcomes, economically and socially, of the current technology-
driven de-regulation frenzy, with its overarching rhetoric and policies of ‘globalised
free-markets within level-playing-fields’.

According to Paul Sheehan (1999) there are many reasons for concern and they
echo those raised by Waring (1988) some years earlier. He cites the following
current examples. Throughout the 1990s personal debt has doubled, increasing by
136% from 1990-1998; the stock-market seems overheated, outstripping the growth
of the economy; asset prices have soared, causing Alan Greenspan chairman of the
US Federal Reserve to express concern; debt levels are at an all-time high, and
wealth inequities are growing between Australians, and between countries at the
global level. (The Sydney Morning Herald Saturday Sep 4, 1999). In view of these
facts, it questions whether there is less probability of control over our working lives,
if ethical and moral issues and real reforms are “beyond the reach of individuals”,
cautions Bauman (1993, p.246). This has clear implications for the enactment of
leadership and management. For women who are participating and belonging both
similarly and differently to organisational cultures, it demands searching beyond
traditional structural principles and/or economic explanations for an understanding
of how woman-as-leader is enacting leadership within male-defined and male-
dominated domains.

Baumann (1993) also warns of the dangers of loss of agency, feelings of insecurity,
and dislocation resulting from shifting political contexts. “The experience of
insecurity is at its most acute when the sediment of socialisation loses it solidity
and, therefore, the extant social space loses its transparency together with its
constraining and enabling power” (p.229). The challenge now becomes how to
further develop the highly valued traditional concepts underpinning our idea of ‘a
civil society’ (Cox, 1995) such as trust, co-operation, social capital, absence of
poverty and reciprocity within the volatile and complex changes mentioned here
(p.5). Rather than constructing a hyper-capitalist, neo-liberal perspective of the
world against one that is grounded in shared communitarian concerns of public
interest – that is, as universalising binary opposites, it is more productive to re-
examine the thinking underlying such issues, and refuse to simply re-describe dated
formulas. Georges Canguilhem (1978) and Mary Russo (1994) have mounted
arguments about how the discourse of risk leaves “room for chance”, where error
might evoke transgressive ideas for creativity and change.
For at life's most basic level, the play of code and decoding leaves
room for chance, which, before being disease, deficit, or monstrosity,
is something like the perturbation in the information system,
something like a "mistake". In the extreme, life is what is capable of
error. (Canguilhem, 1978, p.xix)

As has been indicated, much of the recent political research draws on either liberal-
humanist, or Marxist labour process theory literature, but for a study of women in
leadership a different theorising of leadership and power as pervasive, constitutive,
and productive needs to be considered. What is required is a methodology that can
address both stable and unstable identities, properly improper leadership enactments
so that transgressive errors, or possibilities, might be brought forward for renewed
scrutiny. There seems little doubt, therefore, that while the logic of a market-place
approach is part of growth and prosperity, more thinking is required if the
paradoxes, contradictions, and inequities facing women every day are to be further
understood. To understand the ‘room for chance mistakes’, or ‘errors of possibility’,
or ‘the play of similar differences’ as they are enacted in the everyday domain of
leadership, requires a refusal of forcing dissonant parts of women into spaces of
confining normalisation. As Foucault (1977) so forcefully argues, normalisation is
one of the great instruments of power. “It imposes homogeneity … and makes it
possible to measure the gaps and determine levels,” he states (p.184).

To examine the multiple ways in which women are enacting their leadership roles
may provide a process whereby “the articulation of different distinct elements …
can be re-articulated in different ways because they have no confining
‘belongingness’” (Hall,1986, p.53). This reflects Russo’s (1994) idea that feminism
needs to concern itself more with the “heterogenous, strange, polychromatic,
ragged, conflictual, incomplete, in motion or at risk” (p.vii): those things which
seemingly do not fit, do not belong, or seem impossible to bring forward into the
public gaze. Deleuze and Guattari (1988) argue that to do this requires processes of
articulation that involve making evident the movement of “the fractal intricacies …
as aggregates” (p.486) underpinning ways of theorising, in order to refuse closure or
categorisation. This study aims to open up a multitude of “fractal aggregates [about
women and leadership] whose number of dimensions are fractional rather than
whole, or else whole, but with continuous variation in multiple directions” (Deleuze
& Guattari, 1988, p.486). As the literature examined here demonstrates, there is a
clear case for opening up new ways to increase our understanding of the embodied
woman as leader with her multiple subjectivities, positioned within sites of
discursive and social inscriptions. How can this contribute to current thinking about
leadership and women, is another question for consideration.

3.5.4 The embodied woman and privileged accounts

Waring (1988) and Hewitson (1996) are two feminist thinkers who suggest that
sexual indifference and universalism is one of the myths used to support the abstract
individualism of hyper-capitalist, neo-classical economics resulting from the quest
for a universal system of economic knowledge. As has been indicated, feminist
literature aims at re-thinking these issues through the re-positioning of economics,
capitalism, politics, and identity. Feminist economists such as Hewitson (1996) and
Waring (1988, 1996) offer extended explanations to illustrate how ‘economic
rational man’ is sexed and gendered, and that this tangible masculinity translates
into real effects on policies and people's lives. Boserup (1975), Martin (1994)
Waring (1996), and Hewitson (1996) also explore the relevance of post-structuralist
ideas through their analysis of ‘economic rational man’ as characterised by a pure
disembodied consciousness. They challenge thinking that blindly accepts ‘economic
rational man’ as a pre-existing referent outside discourse, and they hold up for
scrutiny the idea that ‘rational economic man’ is able to predict real world

economics and real world happenings through language that is transparent and
fixed. As productive contestation, the tensions they expose point to the need for
different economic models that might take into account women's worth and make it
count for something. They support the idea there are no pre-existing characteristics
imminent within individuals as pre-determined beings. What this allows, instead, is
an exploration of the multitude of specificities involved in the world of leadership,
business, politics, and economics in order to move “from one specific place to
another, from one singular point to another… producing the effects of transversality
and no longer universality of thought and ideas” (Deleuze, 1986, p. 97).

What the literature reveals is that the current ways of talking about the role of
women leaders within economic and organisational structures remain inadequate,
because many of the theories underpinning economics and hyper-capitalist business
contexts are the textual productions of singularly male subject positions. Such
privileging is obviously inadequate as an explanation of how women are managing
to succeed within masculinist environments, and neither does it lead to
understanding how they are performing and what outcomes this creates. This is not
a call for a mere revaluation of the feminine, or of ‘difference feminism’, or for
Paglia's (1991) advocacy of a violent androgyny in which creative women get in
touch with their strong masculinist self, or for transcribing masculine sets of values,
or for re-inscribing Butler’s (1993) critique of gender. What is needed are more
points of exchange, and more unruly, risky crossings between the many theories
intersecting here, so that we might map the ways in which particular women are
working within the transversality of being both woman and leader. In Haraway’s
(1991) terms it calls for praise for the cyborgian possibilities for women and

3.5.5 Scented with possibilities

Throughout this chapter, it can be seen that theories in themselves can be
problematic, but it could also be argued that all discursive regimes and modes of
thinking require rigorous and ongoing theoretical interrogation to reveal the
complexity of assumptions and the ‘congealing of categories’ underlying them. As
has been discussed, normalisation imposes homogeneity, but it also individualises to
make it possible to determine levels, to fix specialities and to render the differences

useful by fitting them into one another (Foucault, 1979, pp.184-185). Russo (1994)
also calls for further understanding of the terms and processes of normalcy with the
resulting concealments and visibilities in terms of how these are performed and
read. However, there is clearly a general refusal of the ‘add-women-and-stir’
approach, with its idea of the ‘abstract individual’. It is inadequate to simply argue
for the incorporation of both male and female as a theoretical solution to the
difficulties of analysing the performances of women leaders. As Bhabha (1994)
states we need thinking that is “adding to” rather than “adding up to” (p.163)
existing knowledge and ways of thinking. But in order to re-vision ‘actualisation’,
‘homogeneity’, ‘normalisation’ ‘normalcy’ or ‘the abstract individual’, there is a
need to show how the powerful and specific truth-claims work to shape particular
contexts and social relations.

3.5.6 Slippery bodies with ‘no ends … but additions’

What this calls for is an interrogation of the role of language and the power of
particular discursive regimes. Re-positioning language, not as fixed and stable, but
as a set of relationships containing particular structures where meanings are
constantly produced, re-negotiated, and embodied is a way of refusing fixity and the
‘congealing of thinking’. Derrida (1984) coined the idea of ‘endless deferral’ to
illustrate how meaning is constantly shifting, and never complete in and of itself.
Language, he argues, involves a multiplicity of meanings that are slippery, un-fixed,
and context-bound. The abandonment of “the notion of a single totalising reason as
the organon, guarantor, and guardian of knowledge” (Komesaroff, 1995, p.10)
raises the possibility for existential choices not just in the external circumstances of
lived-realities, but also the nature of identity and subjectivity. In revealing the
underlying constructs of particular ways of understanding, it forces us to re-examine
specific situations in particular contexts, rather than work from a one-theory-suits-
all approach. It also allows us to see who and what is in the theory, who and what is
outside it, and who is both similar and different. If the stones cannot be deciphered,
as T.S.Eliot suggests, then there is only the trying – not for ends, but for additions.
A lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one [person] only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered…
For us there is only trying…. there is no end but addition…
(T.S.Eliot: Four Quartets)

In summary, even though feminists have passionately engaged with critiques of
major political and intellectual narratives writ large within our culture, there is an
ongoing desire for different ideas to unsettle existing epistemological and
ontological frameworks. Theoretical universalisms have been unmasked as false and
inadequate modes of explanation. Critiques of Enlightenment thought, and
philosophical ‘liberalism’ with its doctrine of rationalism and the Cartesian centred,
purposive, autonomous subject have allowed different sets of questions about
identity, subjectivity, and performativity to emerge. Critiquing the gendering of
modernity where the political emphasis lay in theorising ‘woman’ and the ways in
which the feminine was cast as inferior to, or outside the masculine has unmasked
those things regarded as “within the true” (Foucault, 1987 p.60). And a critique of
materialism, particularly as it applies to determining social structures on which
culture, beliefs, subjectivity and agency rest, has also influenced our ways of
understanding how women and leadership might be theorised differently. Perhaps,
after all, we do not need new ideas or theories, but a more imaginative, unruly
approach to the complex web of what Foucault (1987) describes as the “enigmatic
treasures of ‘things’ … the regular formation of objects that emerge in discourse”
(pp.60-61) by revealing what is ‘within the true’ of a particular discourse within
specific contexts (Foucault, 1987, p.60-61)

3.5.7 Changing the subject

The conceptualising of the ‘subject’ from a post-structuralist position is not
synonymous with the way hyper-capitalist enlightenment thinking describes the
‘individual’. It is no longer sufficient to work within foundationalist ideas about a
rational unified whole being consciously constructing knowledge. Rather,
understanding “how human beings are made” (Foucault, 1982b, p.208) demands
acknowledgement that a range of social, political, cultural and historical relations
constitute identity, or subjectification, at any given point in time. In contrast to ‘the
individual’, the ‘subject’ is understood as being produced within language and it is
language itself that creates the way in which subjects are self-present, and hence
meaning-ful. Because particular contexts determine specific meanings, it is possible
to think in terms of discourses, as sets or systems of meanings. Discourses involve
not just the understandings of particular theorists, but also the contexts in which
they are positioned – the academy, United Nations, the media, business, professions,

governments. The influence of the many intersecting discourses within such
structures creates the complexity and diversity within which women as leaders are
historically positioned and politically produced as normalised subjects. No longer a
“seamless category of women … but a fictive unity ... produced and restrained by
the very structures of power through which emancipation was sought” (Souter,
1995, cited in Hall, 1996, p. 16). Theorising identity and subjectivity is one of the
most significant challenges of our age, and is, as Hall (1996) argues, “a matter of
considerable political significance” (p.16). For women in leadership, it is

Foucault’s (1991b) relevance to the argument is made all the more pertinent when
questioning the relationship between the subject, society, and the state. Rather than
thinking of the state as centralised through specific properties, Foucault (1991b)
proposed, instead, that the state be considered through sets of governing practices
that contain within them their own sets of logic for governing. He demonstrates that
an exploration of contradictory ways of thinking is important for any research,
because it is through contradictory positions that refuse to congeal, that possible
sites of resistance arise. By looking at which subject-positions are more-or-less-
powerful and/or more-or-less-dangerous as they are enacted and performed within
the public arena, leads to further understandings of the ways in which hegemonic
power works within specific sites. Corporeality and embodiment is one such site,
but new sites of theorising such as this, cannot simply be grafted onto existing
theoretical frameworks, even though they have been given significant thrust by the
fecund body of earlier feminist work.

In understanding how the embodied woman leader is enacting leadership requires an

examination of “the effects of subjectivity, and all the significant facets and
complexities of subjects … including the subject's corporeality” (Grosz, 1994b,
p.vii). Materiality, as an effect of power relations, can usefully be examined through
the complex transactions involved in theorising the subject, identity, corporeality
and “the lived-body” (Leder, 1990, p.5) of woman-as-leader. These complex
transactions require an analysis of the inscriptions and transformations of the
subject’s corporeal surface and embodied performances, as ways of understanding
sexual specificity, gender construction, embodied differences, and the social,

cultural, and political consequences of being similarly different as woman and
leader (Grosz, 1994b, p.viii).

If bodies are inscribed and produced in specific ways then it is possible that they
may be re-inscribed and re-produced in different terms, terms that have thus far
been mainly ascribed by men, for men. To re-think embodiment and performativity
in terms of “the reiterative power of discourse to produce the phenomena that it
regulates and constrains” (Butler, 1993, p.2) marks a decisive shift for thinking
about women and leadership because what enables may also constrain. Iterability
and citationality are key ideas in an analysis of women leaders enacting leadership,
because if performativity requires a power to effect or enact what one names, then
unravelling who is the ‘one’ with such a power, how such a power has come to be
thought, including what it produces – how it works, offers productive lines of
investigation (Butler, 1993, 1995).

3.5.8 Corporeality and leadership

The above ideas suggest the possibility of a fascinating departure for both women
and leadership. If leadership is an embodied material and symbolic enactment, it
evokes Foucault’s (1977) ideas about the ‘aesthetics of existence’ – those practices
of the self including the idea of self-production, and the “deliberate stylisation of the
self in daily life … in specific modes of conduct, in particular contexts” (Hall, 1996,
p.13). Historically-specific discourses produce embodied positions and modes of
bodily comportment that reflect prior actions or understandings, which
simultaneously intersect with ongoing “practices of subjective self-constitution”,
writes Hall (1996, p.13). This offers another lens to investigate how women fashion,
stylise, produce, and perform leadership practices. It is important to question what
might be produced if women leaders are in a “constant, agonistic process of
struggling with, resisting, negotiating and accommodating the normative or
regulative rules with which they confront and regulate themselves on a daily basis”
(Hall, 1996, p.14). Why is it that some women never manage to successfully
accommodate themselves to the normative demands of a masculinist leadership role,
or who find themselves in a constant state of antagonism on a daily basis? Risky,
un-ruly questions should also form part of the account.

What is apparent through this literature review are the limits of an emancipatory
identity politics that are summed up here by Judith Butler (1993):
In this sense, identifications belong to the imaginary; they are the
phantasmatic efforts of alignment, loyalty, ambiguous and cross-corporeal
cohabitations, they unsettle the I; they are the sedimentation of the ‘we’ in
the constitution of any I, the structuring present of alterity in the very
formulation of the I. Identifications are never fully and finally made; they
are incessantly reconstituted, and, as such, are subject to the volatile logic of
iterability. They are that which is constantly marshalled, consolidated,
retrenched, contested and, on occasion, compelled to give way. (p.105)

That bodies are differentiated through discourses, and that different bodies live
different realities because thinking is context and ‘discourse-dependent’ is of
interest and relevance here. For example, how can the embodied sight/site of
politician Cheryl Kernot crying and frustrated on election night at her seeming bitter
defeat, after what promised to be a glittering career, be theorised and understood
away from binary thinking? And how to understand the spectacle produced by the
public images of a young smiling female Commander of the USS Mount Vernon
(Commander Maureen Farrer, the first woman in American naval history to control
a warship) (The Courier-Mail, 25-9-99). Or a petit, blonde feminine Air
Commodore and Commandant – Air Vice-Marshal Julie Hammer, the first woman
in the history of the airforce to attain General status, and first woman Commandant
of the Australian Defence Force Academy (The Courier-Mail, 17 Dec 1999, p.1).
As a consequence, different questions emerge. How does a woman ‘properly man’ a
warship in an arena of war? Might a woman leader be subject to her ‘emotions’ and
‘maternal nurturance’, rather than have the necessary discipline to assume a
‘properly strong’ and leaderly command? And if leadership enactments accumulate
the force of authority through repetition or citation of a prior and authoritative set of
ritualised practices how does a female Air Commodore, Commander, Prime
Minister, or CEO perform within such frameworks (Butler, 1995, p.205)?

Because embodiment is constituted and signified in particular gendered ways, the

meanings produced when women take up leadership positions will, Russo (1994)
suggests, be already within the realm of the “bodily female grotesque”, because
such women “are in one way or another in error” within the norms (p.15). There is a
need to look at the ways in which these senior women transgress and affirm the
norms and conventions of leadership and what this produces. For example, the

troubling of the stereotyped binary thinking that occurs when viewing woman as
Commander, Commandant, or General, such as man-as-hero/woman-as-nurturer,
man-as-rational-thinker/woman-as-emotional, men as tough/women as soft and
connected, because it places in tension the impossibility and the necessity of
multiple identities that must be more fully acknowledged.

What this preliminary thinking demonstrates is that stereotypical readings of the

body translate into real consequences for how women live and enact leadership.
Binary formulations still underpin a range of issues pertaining to women and
leadership. For instance, sex-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation,
explanations about why women are excused from armed combat, and why women
are largely absent from all but approximately 5-8% of senior leadership positions
(EOWA Report, 2002), but the problem with binary thinking is that it covers over
the complex constitutive conventions and specificities in the categories. However,
to move beyond such thinking is risky. As Russo (1994) points out, “because the
practice of risk …points more to possibility than to sustained progress… this study
is about images of female performers who are, one way or another in error” (p.13).
The fascination of studying such riskiness is in identifying what these errors might

Bodies as social products or texts are written by and situated within discourses.
Bodies are acculturated and produce meaning in particular contexts – meanings that
are read in particular ways and which influence and create outcomes. Theorising the
bodies of women as leaders and senior managers in this way allows us to theorise
ways of producing the body as a social product; the meaning of which is produced
in and through the specific discourses in which they are located. Once again, this
draws attention to the work of Russo (1994) who suggests that the very fact of
woman's body performing within a masculinist domain is already ‘in error’ just as
the idea of the female grotesque challenges and disrupts ‘what goes without saying’.
To study the role of women leaders in this way, acts as a lens through which to
make visible the ways in which women are enacting their leadership roles. It also
allows the de-formation of the ‘normal’ for a re-configuring of new connections
between and within genders, cultures and subcultures. Far from coming to
conclusive endings this chapter finishes with new beginnings. That is, the idea that

“The end of all our exploring,/ Will be to arrive where we started,/ And know the
place for the first time” (Eliot, 1969, p.197). It is now important to consider the
theory-method relationship, and to interrogate again, what constitutes a suitable
method of analysis to read woman-as-leader similarly and differently.


4.0 From Universalising to Conditional Thinking and Theory

4.1 Identity as Assemblage

4.2 Woman-as-leader as Assemblage

4.3 Beyond Solidarity

4.4 Groundless Solidarity as Methodology?

4.5 Groundless Method?

4.6 Ironic Methodology

4.7 A Cyborgian Self?

4.8 Grotesque Females and Transgressors

4.9 Material Matters

4.10 Making, not finding, data

4.11 Producing the Body as Assemblage

4.12 The face is the body

4.13 Turning bodies into data

4.14 Cyborgian bodily performances as research method

4.15 Phases of data collection

4.15.1 Phase One

4.15.2 Phase Two

4.15.3 Phase Three

4.0 From Universalising to Conditional Thinking and Theory

The work of the previous chapters demonstrates how feminist theorising has
provided alternative theoretical accounts to extend and re-vision traditional
enlightenment orthodoxies and/or truth-claims. The theorising of gender in all its
complexity, including the influence of gender in leadership research, unsettles
established conventions about the nature and boundaries of the political, the
personal, and ‘the slavish subordination’ (Deleuze, 1983) of gender in conventional
leadership thinking. According to Sinclair (1998), Garratt (1998), Burton and Ryall
(1995), and Sinclair and Wilson (2002), new ways of researching leadership should
be encouraged, because much of the existing leadership research suffers from
assumptions of gender-neutrality and an ongoing resistance to the incorporation of
gender and identity issues in its research focus.

Feminist critiques have extended the thinking and theorising of the categories
‘woman’ and ‘women’, through an interrogation of the identity-formation of
‘woman’, the multiple roles of women in the workplace, political issues of equal
opportunity, discrimination, diversity, economics, market-place logic, and the
highly gendered nature of leadership norms and conventions – including how these
work as normalising practices to govern the labour of performing a ‘leaderly’
identity. Sinclair (1998), Sinclair & Wilson (2002), Burton & Ryall (1995), Hatcher
(1998), and Squires (1999) draw attention to the problematic view that the political
and leadership perspectives of white, western, middle-class, educated, male leaders
are still assumed to be impartial and gender-neutral. Sinclair and Wilson (2002) also
caution against the continuing dominance of business and management perspectives
in leadership research, because, they claim, it remains focused on masculinist
endeavours, and perpetuates a hegemonic view about what constitutes leadership
and leaders, while ignoring how this works in the everyday enactments of
leadership, and across diverse contexts.

One of the difficulties here is addressed by Elizabeth St. Pierre (2002) in her
critique of epistemological research. She argues that much “research ... fail[s] to
achieve the inclusiveness its rhetoric promises” (p.25). She demonstrates how
discourses can be undermined by competing and/or dominant discourses. For

example, discourses of “diversity of perspectives”, “alternative paradigms”, and the
“contestation of knowledge accumulation”, (p.25) may be undermined by
conflicting discourses grounded in fixed beliefs about the nature of reality, truth,
objectivity, rationality, and what constitutes a scientific enterprise in terms of
“trustworthy knowledge” (p.25). She writes:
Unfortunately, it is often the case that those who work within one theoretical
framework find others unintelligible … it is not that a postmodernist (if
anyone should claim that label) would reject reality or objectivity or
rationality as .. [a] mistaken definition of postmodernism claims; rather, a
postmodernist would say these concepts are situated rather than universal
because they are understood differently within different epistemologies.

The relevance here for an analysis of woman-as-leader is that postmodernist (and it

is argued here, poststructuralist) arguments are “very supple categories that include
diverse and contradictory theories that resist, refuse, and subvert” (St. Pierre, 2002,
p.25) any single or unitary category of explanation. The problem is that traditional
leadership discourses have been grounded in universalising beliefs about
masculinity, truth, and rationality. Therefore, along with St. Pierre (2002) it is
argued that for a different analysis of women and leadership a range of thinking
might be assembled that could draw upon “certain feminist theories, critical
theories, postcolonial theories, race theories, queer theories, poststructuralist
theories, and others” as relevant to the particular research being undertaken (p.25).
She cites Judith Butler (1992) who argues that these diverse theories do not all have
the same “structure, or intent, or specificity” (p.5) of either epistemology or
ontology, so that the conclusion that could be drawn from a rejection or refusal of
such theorising is “an excuse not to read, or not to read them closely” (Butler, 1992,
p.5). This is a criticism that has also been levelled at much of the leadership
research (Sinclair, 1998; Sinclair & Wilson, 2002; Burton, 1991; Burton & Ryall,

If it can be argued that women leaders are simultaneously within and at odds with
leadership thinking, then what is needed is a different vocabulary that can work with
a multiplicity of views and incorporate different theoretical and methodological
tools that refuse to cohere. Gender and identity is clearly important in any analysis
of leaders and leadership, and this becomes even more compelling when it is

revealed that even within recent mainstream leadership texts (Cohen 2000; Goffee
& Jones 2000; Drucker, 1998), the discussion is still limited to mostly white, male
business and political leaders as the models for analysis (see also, Appendices 4 and
5, pp.357-361). In the face of the limited numbers of women leaders, or women in
senior positions, and the almost imperceptible change in these numbers over the past
decade, it is illuminating that gender and identity-formation issues are still sidelined
in much of the traditional leadership research.

Such contradictions point to an odd double-bind in the thinking, but it also indicates
a refusal to acknowledge the epistemological grounding in which the thinking is
bound. The arguments follow a circular path: gender is obviously not significant in
leadership terms, because there are ‘no women present’ .At the same time, because
there is limited commitment to understanding how leadership is constituted in terms
of gender and identity-formation, women are not included in the conversation. In
this way, gender research and theorising within mainstream leadership thinking, is
still considered to be largely synonymous with women’s-work – ‘feminist issues’
are ‘women’s business’, and indeed, most of the serious gender and leadership
theorising has been undertaken by women such as Amanda Sinclair, Valerie Wilson,
Caroline Hatcher, Claire Burton, Carolyn Ryall, Eva Cox, Joan Kirner, Moira
Rayner, Erica McWilliam, Leonie Still, Sally Garratt, Eve Boserup, and Marilyn
Waring to mention but a few. This is not to ignore the growing body of literature
about masculinities and gender, but in leadership terms it can be demonstrated there
is a continuing investment in the conflation of ‘leader’ with autonomy, gender-
neutrality, individuality, and male-ness.

If issues of gender and identity-formation are still absent or inadequately addressed

in terms of how leadership is currently constituted, enacted, and insisted upon, then
it clearly requires further work. However, breaks with traditional epistemological
and ontological thinking and the grand narratives of the past also challenge
problems emanating from the high ideals underpinning feminist orthodoxies, such
as thinking in terms of a specifically female subjectivity, regardless of how tactical
this might seem in political terms. Struggles over meaning are common, but one
significant problem that continues is how to deal with the increasing fragmentation
of the concept ‘woman’. Moi (1999) argues for an alternative theoretical framework

to incorporate multiplicity and to account for the distinctions between normative
and descriptive aspects of the concept. It is argued here that it is possible and
desirable, to theorise leadership and woman-as-leader from other theoretical
perspectives as well. The impetus here is because investments in the idea of a
grounded politics of emancipation and/or truth, for example, or even a politics of
solidarity, as seen in earlier feminist thinking, are now rendered problematic.
Colebrook (2000) draws from Deleuze and Guattari (1988) to make the case that
“[t]his is where molecular politics comes in. In addition to the grounding ideas of
movements [such as feminism] there must also be activation, question and
confrontation of those tiny events that make such foundations possible” (Colebrook,
2000, p.1). Such challenges are clearly relevant to an analysis and re-theorising of
women leaders and women in leadership.

To argue for the imperative for studying women leaders and leadership in different
theoretical terms, is not to take lightly the problem of a loss of political identity that
has been forged out of a ‘feminist movement’ and the politics of a ‘feminist
identity’. What is suggested, instead, is to build on feminism’s strengths – that is,
the productiveness of ‘thinking differently’ to enable ‘a re-thinking’, for ‘a different
theorising’ of how the ‘identity formation’ of ‘woman-as-leader’ is an effect of
performing within highly circumscribed male-defined and male-dominated
domains. This is not to discard feminist thinking about identity, subjectivity, the
subject, power, and so on, but to suggest that all theorising is partial, situated, and
dynamic, and that there are other ways for re-thinking and re-imagining subjectivity
and identity to extend feminist theorising. Such shifts offer the possibility of
examining the specific details of how women leaders are currently working within
senior management and leadership positions, in order to identify how they are
performing and managing the daily conventions and requirements of leadership.

One identifiable and significant change in social theorising is towards thinking that
is ‘conditional’ and ‘speculative’, rather than all encompassing, essentialising, and
universal. What this offers, is ‘go-between’ categories that have the power to
disallow polemical thinking, to take into account different theories, and ideas, and
new ways of inhabiting concepts, rather than merely re-inscribing them or adding on

to them. Trinh Minh-ha (1989) concurs with this claim, and states that earlier
traditional 'biunivocal' approaches are by definition limited in perspective:
Theory no longer is theoretical when it loses sight of its own conditional
nature, takes no risks in speculation, and circulates as a form of
administrative inquisition. Theory oppresses, when it wills or perpetuates
existing power relations, when it presents itself as a means to exert authority
– the Voice of Knowledge. (p.42)

Lennon and Whitford (1994) also critique traditional feminist epistemology and
suggest how it might relate to post-feminist thinking generally. They note that,
“feminism has moved from its moment of critique to that of construction; it has
become implicated in the power network” (p.14). Yet, this raises the paradoxical
dilemma that if attention is called to gender and sexual differences, they may
become further reinforced and stereotyped: woman as perpetual ‘other’, for
example. Or, that by ignoring difference and diversity, the powerful hierarchies and
normalising practices are left in place, so that the dominance of men and sterotypes
of masculinity in leadership thinking remains the unnamed norm and gender as an
analytic category is silenced or excluded (Squires, 1999, p.2).

Post-feminist, post-structuralist theorising addresses these exigencies by working

against the prescriptiveness or endless re-descriptions within traditional thinking,
and by creating multiple ways to interrogate ‘woman’, ‘leadership’, ‘subjectivity’,
‘corporeality’, and ‘performativity’ within a shifting and changing post-capitalist,
post-patriarchal, post-human, and technological age. If theorising over time is to
have ongoing value and applicability, it should continue to question the way it
builds its narrative structures, while accepting the temporality of its explanatory
tales. To keep theory ‘theoretical’ is to understand the value of troubling theoretical
bases, or as Gayatri Spivak (1989) writes, “to live within the moment of techne or
crafting” (p.206). Such movements away from bordered theoretical approaches to
women and leadership might reveal where specific ideas do not relate, or where
concepts are not making sense in specific situations. In so doing, they open up
spaces for action and engagement by showing how competing ideas are juxtaposed,
or are connected to each other, or how they are constituted from both ‘fidelities and
infidelities’ (Neil, 1998) rather than as ideas operating autonomously in isolation.

A conditional, problematising approach to theorising, therefore, recognises the
limitations of thinking and theorising by acknowledging that the quest for a single
universal theory of leadership is flawed. In these terms a statement such as this from
leadership writer Parry (1998) is rendered nonsense because of the futility of the
endeavour. “This general orientation [to deploy quantitative methods and ignore
qualitative research] in leadership research has not yet led to an enduring and
integrative theory of leadership” (p.89). Rather than searching for a single integrated
theory, what is needed is an understanding of what relevant concepts and practices
do, that is, how they work in terms of leading and leadership, rather than what they
mean in any fixed or determinate way (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988; Rose, 1998;
Colebrook, 2000).

To think in this way is not to suggest the possibility of a “free-ranging

interdisciplinarity … of being able to do whatever one wants” (Matthews, 1994,
p.vi). It is about questioning and confronting the limitations of particular ways of
thinking; to activate not only how specific people, places, and times locate
theoretical concepts, but also to show how ideas work to produce particular kinds of
power, knowledge, and identities within specific contexts and moments in time.
Assertions such as ‘it’s just a matter of time before women achieve equal status
of/in leadership positions or directorships’; ‘there just aren’t sufficient numbers of
senior women of merit and so the numbers are temporarily unequal’; ‘women are
victims of a patriarchal capitalist system which privileges the male over the female’;
‘the glass ceiling prevents women from progressing’; or, ‘women can actually do it
if they try - Margaret Thatcher did’, are clearly inadequate for an understanding of
women and power as it is performed in everyday contexts.

Such claims are also limited in terms of how power and discourse have contoured
the categories ‘woman’, ‘leader’ and ‘leadership’ and as explanations of what is at
stake. They also allow little understanding of one of the most significant problems
of our technology-driven post-modern age: how power, economics, and market
values operate, the modes of signification, and, how this codification institutes and
makes possible relations of power that determine who does what, where, when, and
for what rewards. What this calls for are different ways of thinking that juxtapose

impossible and disturbing paradoxical configurations and images of women and

4.1 Identity as Assemblage

To accept the above, demands different approaches for understanding how identity
and subjectivity is constituted. An exploration of the identity of woman, as subject
and as leader, should not simply double or work in opposition to man, but accept
that it, too, is a fluid, dynamic event. In other words, identity can be more
productively understood as “a regime of signs and events that intertwine the
relations between signification and subjectivity in a process of becoming,” claim
Deleuze and Guattari (1988, p.71-72). What emerges from their different theorising
is a call for a re-evaluation of redundant, bounded thinking, and the partial,
fragmentary ideas that have taken currency as hegemonic explanatory theoretical
tales. They explore other ways to multiply theories rather than allow them to reduce,
‘congeal’ or ‘totalise’. Their images of ‘nomads and nomadic thought’ (p.492-497);
‘lines of flight’ (p.88-89); ‘assemblages’ (p.22-23, p.331-334, p.242-243);
‘machinic assemblages’ (p.333-334, p.343-344); ‘multiplicities’ (p.22-23, p.182-
183, p.239-252); ‘rhizomatic thinking’ (p.3-25), and ‘becoming-woman’ (p.275-
279), lead away from theorising that describes political, social, or cultural
explanatory power in concrete, fixed or definitive ways. “Thinking as an event”,
Deleuze (1988) notes, “is about repetition without a model – a dice throw enabling
differences to emerge from within its very repetitions” (p. x). Thinking and
theorising are understood here as ongoing repetition, but repetition with a creative
twist, through deliberately seeking out creative departures that allow ‘otherness’ to
emerge in unpredictable, but productive, ways.

An epistemological imperative for this study of women in leadership, therefore, is to

keep ideas/thinking open: to work in spaces of radical uncertainty, repetition, and
contradictions. This is necessary, because we do not yet know what women are, nor
what they can be or do, even though the extensive writings and representations of
women might suggest otherwise. As Deleuze and Guattari (1988) put it: “The only
way to get outside the dualisms is to be-between, to pass between … never ceasing
to become” multiplicities (p.277). Therefore, if we no longer accept a fixed identity
of ‘woman’, then it follows that transformative or transgressive identity-formation

could be understood as a continual process of becoming: that is, as becoming-
woman and as a becoming-leader. Deploying the work of Deleuze and Guattari
(1988), therefore, becoming-woman-becoming-leader might then be understood as
“atoms of womanhood capable of crossing and impregnating an entire social field,
and of contaminating men, and sweeping them up in the becoming” (Deleuze &
Guattari, 1988, p.276). What follows, is that identity-formation and subjectivity, in
terms of leaders and leadership, can then be re-theorised as “multiplicities”
(Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.24) rather than in polemical or dualist ways. As go-
between ideas – the becoming of becoming.

In understanding the identity formation of woman-as-leader within current

leadership contexts, it is useful to also consider Deleuze and Guattari’s (1988)
theorising about the constitution of the self in terms of “assemblages in the process
of becoming” (p.306) That is, assemblages constituting woman-as-leader that are
amenable to completion, but never in or of themselves complete, and always
moving from one assemblage to another (see also Butler, 1993). Such expanded
thinking offer clues as to how a re-configuration of what feminism has and has not
been able to say about the identity formation and performativity of woman-as-leader
might proceed. Rorty (1989) echoes Deleuze and Guattari’s (1988) imagining: “No
such working out gets to be completed before death interrupts – it cannot get
completed because there is nothing to complete, there is only a web of relations to
be re-woven, a web which time lengthens everyday” (Rorty, 1989, p.43). If identity
is now seen as an endless and ongoing assemblage of signifiers, which time
lengthens and interweaves everyday, then theorising the future of identity politics
and ideas about human solidarity are opened up to very different questions. If the
process of assemblage is also understood as a simultaneous way of being and a
mode of signification, this, in turn, also produces different and fluid connections and
disconnections for new trajectories of our being-in-the-world to emerge.

The difficulty in understanding identity in this way is also a problem of signification

in regard to historically specific social relations. As Haraway (1991) puts it, this is a
“nightmare of the all-too-real imaginary narrative of sex and race” (p.148); yet, as
Deleuze and Guattari (1988) along with Baudrillard (1976,1979,1981) argue, such
narratives are also fictions, and narrowly constructed as well. Differences in social

relations are clearly not symmetrical, nor is it useful to think in terms of a simple
hierarchical or binary order: we will never iron out differences, nor come to the end
of differences between people, because the options and combinations of possible
identities are endless and ongoing.

What is clear, therefore, is a need to re-think the inadequacies of leadership

theorising to open up other understandings and forms of representation and identity,
but at the same time understanding the need for manageable methodological
frameworks to engage in useful analysis. On the one hand, women are immersed
within and must, therefore, address existing leadership traditions. At the same time,
they need to address ‘an other’ – that is a male ‘other’ who does not, yet,
acknowledge itself as other, because women have been constituted as the ‘other’ in
terms of leadership norms. To address these issues it requires “more than simple
interventions to open up other styles or modes of address, or a new field”
(Colebrook, 2000 p.4). The continual sense of ‘becoming’, ‘assemblages in the
process of completion’, never a point of arrival or complete, means that identity can
be more usefully constituted as an endless flow of individuated projected social
images traversing a perpetually unfolding screen of being and becoming (Deleuze,
1988, pp. 183-184).

4.2 Woman-as-leader as Assemblage

If becoming-woman is unfinished and ‘unfinishable’ business, so too is the work of
mapping women in leadership and senior management. Women leaders have been
mapped, traced, described, counted, represented, and reclaimed in myriad ways,
with each attempted representation and re-description pointing to the partial,
unfinished nature of the thinking. This ongoing work reveals the importance of the
historical contexts and socio-political issues influencing the ways in which women
and women leaders are represented. Such attempts to define and locate leadership
and woman-as-leader, reinforce the idea that there is no ‘original’ or ‘definitive’
leader or leadership model, because ‘identity’ is subject to ongoing, complex
challenges and shifts. What emerges is an awareness that these concepts involve
subtle, nuanced, and fluid leadership “assemblages” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988,
p.7), so that any move towards a unified idea of what constitutes ‘a woman leader’
is immediately shattered. Unless women in leadership theorising includes such

complexity, including a consideration of how past, present, and future directions are
intertwined, it risks limiting its power and practical efficacy as a project for women
and the future.

Including a range of perspectives and subject positions blurs earlier divisions by

encompassing complex theorising and multiple ideas. The potential of thinking in
terms of “multiplicities” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.24) is that it explodes
limiting and limited theories about both women leaders and women and/in
leadership. Clearly, the goal here is to take diversity into account in the distribution
of political power (in such areas as performativity and corporeality, power,
meaning-making, representation, the subject, identity, desire, sex, gender,
knowledge, the real, economic value and production, and so on), to allow for a more
coherent and powerful identity of ‘woman’ and ‘woman as leader’ to emerge.
However, there is the realisation that this too, is “bristling with irony, as the identity
of ‘woman’ is both claimed and deconstructed at the same time” (Haraway, 1991,

However, along with Haraway (1991) and Rorty (1989), it is argued that we might
be better served to take up an ironic position regarding the academically pervasive
‘out with the old and in with the new’ approach to theorising, because this too
“suspends thought” (Kristeva, 1998, cited in Grace, 2000, p.4) and refuses
questioning. The past should not be ignored, nor allowed to congeal. Instead,
thinking the present as both a present-past and past-present admits an active
questioning becoming-present. The challenge lies in generating new, different, or
radical ways of thinking about women in leadership that are not entirely
disconnected from, or alien to the old, but which address the problems of
conventional ideas that oppress, marginalise, or adversely impact on the lived-lives
of women leaders.

Women leaders per se trouble the orthodox images of both woman and leader by
dislocating some assumed, or seemingly understood, relationship between the
subject and the object of the gaze. Even though significant structural shifts have
taken place that have challenged thinking about women leaders – material progress
for women, changes in family life, access to higher education, equal pay and

conditions, and so on, the lived conditions of women within organisations still
reveal gendered hierarchical and social organisational structures, and the actual
number of women leaders in the workplace is barely changing. Currently, the
number of women in senior leadership positions is still between 2-8% (Sinclair,
1998, p.5-7; EOWA Report, 2002). Clearly, there is much unfinished business here.
It is indicative of the difficulty of high visibility because of the small numbers of
women leaders, but potential invisibility in terms of power and influence.

Demands for constitutive definitions of woman, feminist, woman leader, identity-

formation, and so on, have resulted in sites of “pragmatic productivity” (Grosz,
2000, p.216) that “function as the provocation for thinking ‘other’” (Grosz, 2000,
p.216). One example relevant to this research project can be seen in the debates
about how to make women visible and distinct from ‘the male gaze’, as a
disciplining, normative gaze, without resorting to polemics and binaries. At the
same time, Haraway (1991) cautions against “lapsing into boundless difference and
giving up the confusing task of making partial, real connections. Some differences
are playful; some are poles of world historical systems of domination.
‘Epistemology’ is about knowing the difference”, she argues (p.161).

What is needed it seems, are new ways of ‘holding in play’ the tensions,
multiplicities, and paradoxes at work within the thinking about women and
leadership. Deleuze and Guattari (1988), Rorty (1989), and Haraway (1991) offer
creative conceptual tools for a post-feminist re-configuring of what has been useful
and what has become ineffective for women and leadership. One idea, deployed by
Griggers (1997), by way of Deleuze and Guattari (1988), is to view women as
subjects of history, as ‘infolding’, or ‘assembling’, “a number of becomings, both as
resistance to and an outcome of, the cultural logic and political economy of late
capitalism” (Griggers, 1997, p.45). These ‘in-foldings’, or ‘assemblages’, reveal not
a deep interiority (Foucault, 1973; Deleuze, 1988), but a new inside of particular
and multiple outsides, as a co-option of the outside infolded into the body. It is not
as a doubling of the Same, but a re-doubling of the ‘other’- the ‘similarly-different’.
Haraway (1991) summarises it this way:
Finally and ironically, the political and explanatory power of the ‘social’
category of gender depends upon historicising the categories of sex, flesh,
body, biology, race, and nature in such a way that the binary, universalising

opposition that spawned the concept of the sex/gender system at a particular
time and place in feminist theory implodes into articulated, differentiated,
accountable, located, and consequential theories of embodiment, where
nature is no longer imagined and enacted as a resource to culture or sex to
gender. (p.148)

In terms of the contemporary representations and performances of women leaders, it

is also useful to consider the idea of woman-as-leader as constituted by assemblages
produced by ‘rhizomatic relations’ to a multiplicity of majoritarian and minoritarian
‘others’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988). Woman-as-leader is a relatively new
phenomenon in sites/sights of law, politics, business, the military, and the academy,
so that both woman-as-leader and leadership are becoming substantively and
materially re-defined, re-constructed, and re-written all at the one time – but with no
promises as to the outcomes. Re-theorising ‘woman’ and ‘woman-leader’ as
multiplicitous relations with heterogenous atoms or elements (which can no longer
be split into two), or multiple assemblages in the process of becoming, offers
productive challenges to feminist and leadership orthodoxies underpinning an
investigation into women leaders and leadership. To pursue such an approach,
therefore, calls for a closer examination of how women are assembling themselves
to perform as leaders in male-defined and male-dominated domains, what their daily
enactments of leadership necessarily demand, and how they negotiate both
similarity to the norms and differences from them.

4.3 Beyond Solidarity

If we accept that it is impossible to work to a more ‘complete’ feminism, or a more
‘pure encompassing’ theoretical approach, then what implications does this have for
this research project in recognising such limits? As Deleuze and Guattari (1988),
Rorty (1989), and Haraway (1991) argue, this is not easily resolvable, because
resolutions that congeal are resisted as unproductive. However, it begs the question
as to how this relates to a desire to improve the lived-conditions of people, in this
case women, if thinking remains within a disordered, even chaotic world of
endlessly competing ideas. One way to “re-weave our vocabularies … in order to
accommodate new beliefs, [is to] start where we are…with the we-intentions of the
communities with which we identify,” argues Rorty (1989, pp.197-198). However,
he cautions against believing in a false sense of human solidarity, by arguing that
we might be better served in taking up an ironic position to orthodoxies of all sorts.

In Haraway’s (1991) terms, this constitutes a “position of blasphemy” (p.149),
because irony is about a productive refusal of the congealing of ideas into larger
universalising wholes: working with the tension of holding incompatible ideas
together because they are both and neither, necessary and true (Haraway, 1991, p.

What becomes possible, then, is an openness of theoretical and methodological

options for the questioning and re-development of thinking, rather than resorting to
more rigid agendas or formulas. “Solidarity”, according to Rorty (1989) “has to be
constructed out of little pieces [those atoms or elements], rather than found already
waiting, in the form of an ur-language which all of us recognise when we hear it”
(p.94). The infinite possibilities for feminism, for women, and for women in
leadership research, come from the potential for developing a relational mode of
non-dichotomous thinking in both theory and practice. This includes how questions
about the body, sex, gender, identity, performativity, and representation are
differently framed, rather than simply re-described. If research is to remain a
constructive force, then it demands new “lines of flight along different trajectories”
(Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.88-89) to encourage radical breaks into the ideas
underpinning solidarities that work repressively against women, and that dominate
leadership literature. By juxtaposing what is similarly-different and what is
‘similarly-other’, with ‘normalised leadership activity’ by a ‘normal leader’, we
may give rise to new and different ‘little pieces of knowledge’ about women leaders
and leadership. That is, an investigation that can work with the “inspired and
multiplied” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.3) collaging of paradoxical images and
ideas about woman-as-leader in the daily enactment of leadership, for more
imaginative and productive outcomes.

As has been suggested, if these multiply different lines of enquiry are to be achieved
and worked with, then radically different approaches to research methodology are
required (Rorty, 1989). In accepting that there is no longer the possibility of
redemption, emancipation, or even some form of ‘the real’ or ‘reality out-there’ to
be found in research data, it demands a re-thinking of what it means to do legitimate
empirical research. Universal models have obviously fractured, as not only do
‘centres no longer hold’, there are no absolute centres to hold onto (Hutcheon,

1988). As a way to counter the potential incapacitation of what some describe as the
‘paralysing malaise of post-modernity’ (Jameson, 1991, Bauman, 1992), Dianne
Elam (1994) proffers the idea of “a groundless solidarity” (p.69) not as a
contradiction in terms, but as a way of re-theorising research, identity, subjectivity,
and subjection (p.69). Thinking in terms of a ‘groundless solidarity’, she suggests, is
a way for feminism to accept similarities and difference to create new spaces for
political action. For political solidarity to have strength, she argues, it needs to
embrace difference within “a grounding of solidarity” and the “suspicion of
identity” rather than insisting on a fundamental essentialist identity (Elam, 1994,
p.69). The interweaving of “the we-intentions of the communities within which we
identify” (Rorty, 1989, p.197) within “a groundless solidarity” (Elam, 1994, p.69)
offers possibilities for re-theorising rigorous and productively different research
methods. It is argued, that these ideas can be applied to an investigation of how
women leaders are performing their leadership within traditionally masculinist
fields such as business, politics, law, the military, and the academy.

4.4 Groundless Solidarity as Methodology?

The question that follows is whether a productive research methodology can be
developed without resorting to a fundamental grouping, specific ground, or
particular identity politics. The strength, however, is that through imagining the
possibility of “revolutions that as yet have no model” (Gayatri Spivak, 1980, title) it
acknowledges ‘otherness’ in an attempt to make visible and manageable the myriad
elements of similarity and difference involved in women leading. Deleuze and
Guattari (1988), Derrida (1992), Lyotard (1984), and Elam (1994) concur that the
present is not culturally self-sufficient, nor does it ground a politics any more than
does the past (conservatism) or the future (technocracy). The argument is that the
past can only be recalled as a promise (it still awaits fulfilment), and that any future
fulfilment is dependent upon a number of past promises. Consequently, any thinking
about women in leadership, especially in sites/sights where women have not
traditionally been leaders previously, demands negotiation of the temporality of the
political as being in a interwoven relationship with the past, the present, and the
future. Or, as Colebrook (2000) puts it: “The past is the possibility of a mobile and
active present” (p.17) relating to a present future.

This is not the same thing, Derrida (1992) notes, as a politics of the future, but
echoes an earlier idea developed by Lyotard (1984), that “events take on a
significance in that they are understood as that which will have been” (p.81). For
example, when women were first appointed to positions of leadership in particular
male-defined professions, issues current at the time extend into the present and
future because they contextualise and situate what might yet happen, what did
happen (Elam, 1994, p.86). What such a “politics of the undecidable” (Elam, 1994,
p. 86) points to is that women leaders are, in the public culture of post-modernity,
subjects in the making whose body of signs and bodies as signs are always up for
reappropriation and revision.

Identity-formation is also influenced by technology with its impact on the labour of

performing identity as human and machinic assemblages in the process of
becoming. In this way, woman-as-leader is, as Deleuze and Guattari (1989) put it, a
body of signs “carrying traces of their former emplacements, which give them a
spin defining the arc of their vector” (p.xiv) that bring all elements, both human and
non-human into play. To trace the placements, arcs, multiplicities, and the various
trajectories of disparate elements constituting human and technological leaderly-
assemblages is to reveal something of the style and composition of how women are
assembling themselves to engage in the everyday practices of their leadership and to
what identifiable effects.

One possible goal for this activity is the invention of concepts that do not add up to
a system, but have the potential for opening up thinking, in much the same way as
“a crowbar in a willing hand envelopes an energy of prying” (Deleuze & Guattari,
1988, p.xv). It is true that women leaders are still a minority in most high-status
professions, but, like many minority bodies, women leaders are managing both
becoming-majority and becoming-minority through their daily enactments of
leadership that by necessity involve similarities to the norms and differences from
them. In prying-open previously unchartered leadership terrains, women are
becoming military leaders, becoming judges, becoming fashion leaders, becoming
politicians, becoming commodity subjects, and so on. However, Griggers (1997)
argues that at the same time, the military, politics, techno-culture, Hollywood
power-brokers, and stock brokers are becoming-woman in endlessly re-imagined

ways. It is not only women who are in a process of becoming; organisational
structures are also involved in dynamic processes of change, and, in so doing, are
becoming something ‘other’ (Griggers, 1997, p.49).

4.5 Groundless Method?

For women in leadership, the politics of a feminist, liberatory politics of
emancipation and progress seemed to offer pathways to greater opportunity and
improvements for all women. As Griggers (1997) puts it: ‘[t]he call-to-being
proffered women, as their share of an Enlightenment legacy of individual identity,
brings with it a politics of shifting seductions and investments’ (p.xi). What post-
feminist, post-structuralist, post-human theorising offers instead, are ways of re-
imagining how both the embodied, lived, and symbolic experiences of women that
confound normative boundaries might work together for the new, the future, the
what-is-yet-to-come about leadership. Haraway (1991) describes this way of
thinking as “partial, critical knowledges, located in multiple sites, sharing the web
of connections called solidarity in politics and shared conversations in
epistemology” (p.191).

In other words, accepting a ‘groundless solidarity’ for ‘shared conversations to

occur’ is an acceptance of multiplicity, partiality, and openness. Given the immense
significance of this, it is important to reiterate that such a research quest is not
attempting to produce totalising or ultimate answers to lead to ‘an enduring and
integrative theory of leadership’ (Parry, 1998). Instead, the aim is to search for
productive and critical constructs that accept the risks and the price of open-
endedness, groundlessness, and uncertainty. In this study of women leaders and
leadership, the genealogical importance of earlier feminist activities (the past as a
possibility of the present) works alongside emerging and speculative trajectories of
knowledge for whatever present future awaits us.

Groundless solidarity and open-endedness is not a refusal to make decisions, as

Derrida (1992) argues, it is about refusing to ground decisions in universal laws and
fixed truths. In arguing that Derrida’s (1992) ideas about the politics of “the
undecidable” are timely for feminism in a post-world, Elam (1994) stresses that “the
political … should not be allowed to predict the future: the terror of political models

is when they leave no room for the undecidable, when they precisely try to fix the
future” (p.86). Elam (1994) further argues that:
We might even go so far as to say that the politics of the undecidable is an
insistence that we have to make a decision each time, in each case – that we
cannot avoid making a decision by just applying a pre-existing universal
law. The question then is not how to move beyond or out of deconstruction
so that judgements and actions can take place, but rather, how
deconstruction and feminism oblige us to judge and to act. To avoid a
paralysing relativism - I can’t decide therefore I can’t act - the politics of
undecidability must, in some way, engage with ethics and consider
obligations and responsibilities. (Elam, 1994, p.87)

It is argued, therefore, that methodological considerations in a research project

about women and leadership should be grounded within an “ethical activism … of
obligation and responsibility as a singularity in relation to otherness…but at the
same time, accepting that there is no recourse to self-present subjects, natural rights,
or transcendental truths” (Elam, 1994, p.88). As certainties become increasingly
contested, and in tension, a refusal to ground decisions in static universal laws opens
up different frameworks, images, and metaphors to work as a project for women and
for leadership in multiple ways. Such an achievement of unruly possibilities is about
acknowledging and embracing the paradoxes and contradictions underpinning
women leaders performing and making decisions within masculinist sites and
constructs of leadership.

4.6 Ironic Methodology

Accepting Elam’s (1994) idea of a “groundless solidarity” (p.69) offers a way to
incorporate Deleuze and Guattari’s (1988) challenge to traditional ontological and
epistemological thinking. However, it immediately raises the problem of what social
categories as methodology can be employed to perform useful research. One answer
to this is to pursue Rorty’s (1989) notion of “ironist thinking” (pp.73-95), which is
also explored by Donna Haraway (1991) in her text, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women.
Haraway (1991) argues that “ironic categories” or “blasphemies” (p. 149) offer both
rhetorical strategies and a political method for dealing with complex and sometimes
contradictory ideas. Managing such complexity, Rorty (1989) contends that an
ironist fulfils three conditions:
1. Radical and continuing doubts about the use and power of language;

2. understanding that no argument can ever underwrite, or dissolve these
doubts; and,
3. acceptance that there is no privileging of one ‘final vocabulary’ over any
other in attempting to describe ‘the real’ or reality (p.73).

Anything can be made to look good or bad by being re-described, which, according
to Rorty (1989), puts ironists in the position that Sartre described as “meta-stable”
(p.73). Ironists, says Rorty (1989), understand that the terms in which people
describe themselves are always contingent and subject to change. They are aware of
the fragility and contingency of their language and, thus, of their selves and their
identity which they accept are partial, strategic, fragmentary, and contradictory
(Rorty, 1989, p.73-74). This is not to imply a less than serious attempt to theorise
clear understandings, but is, as Haraway (1991) also claims, “a way that holds
incompatible and contradictory things together…refusing to allow them … to
resolve into wholes, because both or all are necessary and true” (p.149).

Haraway (1991) extends this by arguing that irony is ‘a rhetorical strategy’ and ‘a
political method’ that incorporates both humour and serious play. This addresses the
challenge “of trying to craft a poetic/political unity without relying on a logic of
appropriation, incorporation, domination, or taxonomic identification” (p.157).
Haraway (1991) welcomes the permeability of methodological boundaries, because
they offer an opportunity for research methods to move beyond strictly imposed
hierarchical boundaries of thinking and inquiry. It is strategic to make use of a
substantial body of social, political, and cultural theorising, but it is also possible to
refuse to be restrained by any one aspect of it. In these terms, theorising presents as
sets of possibilities to be continually realised.

Research methods that enable cross-pollination and cross-connections between

ideas have the potential to change the way we understand subjectivity and, for this
project, the identity formation of women and/in leadership. This is necessary if a
research project is to make in-roads into dominant thinking underpinning women
leaders and leadership. The paradox and the serious play here is that to argue for
such a methodology is challenging, because in a project that aims to explore the dis-
assembling and re-assembling of women leaders in the process of becoming, every

'one woman leader' has the potential to 'lose face' as a particular identity at the
expense of being understood as becoming-other. Or, in Deleuzian (1988) terms,
becoming everybody and no-body, and in the process becoming imperceptible,
which could also be seen as a problematic loss of identity and political coherence.

‘Ironic methods’, as outlined by Rorty (1989) and Haraway (1991), signal the sort
of categories that might be useful in turning women into data for a research project
about women leaders in the public domain. Likewise, the ideas offer a way of
holding together the many paradoxical and contradictory ideas about how women
are assembling themselves to enact their leadership in domains where they have not
been previously represented. ‘Ironic categories’, according to Rorty (1989), enable
research that:
 accepts the contingency of language,
 is dominated by metaphors of ‘making’ rather than ‘finding’,
 accepts diversification and novelty rather than requiring convergence to an
antecedent present,
 views the sequences of ideas as gradual substitutions of the old for the new,
 sees changes in thinking rather than discovering new facts,
 accepts a changing self image as re-creation and re-inscription rather than
inference and fact-finding, and,
 involves the playing-off of one language with another in a dialectic sense, as
incarnated vocabularies, always aware of the power of re-description to
humiliate (pp. 73-95).

Rorty (1989) cautions that this work is not for our own edification. It is directed
towards understanding the actual and final humiliation of the people who use these
final vocabularies, but being aware that they, too, are just another text just another
set of little human things constructed, contingent, and historicized (pp. 73-95). What
‘ironic methods’ offers this research, is an opportunity for working with the
productive disjunction of juxtaposing paradoxical and incompatible things, because
we can learn from the unstructured complications of similarity as difference.

4.7 A Cyborgian Self?
One ironic category already available for thinking about women's paradoxical
identity, which is taken up in the post-feminist work of Haraway (1991) and Sofia
(1993), is the idea of a 'cyborgian' self. Haraway (1991) conjures up the image of
the ‘cyborg’ to demonstrate the transgression of old boundaries between the
physical and non-physical, the linkages between animal-human-machine, and new
potent fusions and dangerous possibilities of boundary transgression. She argues
that, “the cyborg is a kind of disassembled, reassembled, postmodern collective and
personal self” (p.163). This is the paradoxical self, she states, “that feminists must
code” (p.163). Along with this idea, Grosz (2000) also argues, that “[t]hought,
genuinely innovative thought, as much as radical politics, involves harnessing the
power of the virtual” (p.216). Within a post-human technological age, cyborgian
identity extends thinking and being to both incorporate and simulate the world
within which it is operating. Cyborgs incorporate “technobodies or simulacra -
masculine mothers, animate tools, new worlds of technology” (Sofia, 1993, p.109),
that elide differences between ‘the real’ and ‘virtual’ realities, so that distinctions
are blurred and boundaries become both fluid and permeable.

The cyborg is itself a kind of disjunctive synthesis, incorporating and inter-weaving

human and machine, human and animal. Haraway's (1991) ideas about the
permeability between different states of being offers an opportunity for women in
leadership, because it acknowledges that women leaders may inhabit realms beyond
the boundaries imposed by the strict binary-based masculinist leadership models of
the past. Instead of traditional binary logics, Haraway (1991) prefers instead:
a network ideological image, suggesting the profusion of spaces and hybrid-
identities and the permeability of boundaries in the personal body and the
body politic. ‘Networking’ is both a feminist practice and a multinational
corporate strategy – ‘weaving’ is for oppositional cyborgs. (p.170)

The weaving of a tactile and physical cyborgian identity embodies both the real and
the virtual, as simulacra of techno-bodies, part-human/part machine, because it
incorporates both projections and ‘infoldings’ of our techno-socio-culture. As such,
it is not inconsistent with Deleuze and Guattari's (1988) “trajectory of serial-
becoming”: “woman-child-animal”, “human-machine-cyborg” (pp.233-305). Their
work illustrates how the idea of productive irony might be deployed, and by way of

illustration they enlist the writing style of feminist icon Virginia Woolf. They
describe the way Woolf simultaneously both reaffirms and becomes ‘other’ in her
quest to find a place from which to speak. Woolf demonstrates that it is more than
just finding a speaking part in a particular place. It necessitates researching the
itinerant moves of what is involved in becoming other, which may, in fact, render
her becoming-imperceptible, as she articulates an inarticulate politics that fractures
any sense of a party-line (276-280). Bodies and bodily desire are for Woolf, and for
Deleuze and Guattari (1988), fundamentally creative movements that shift between
and across ideas (p.276). For women in leadership this offers immense possibilities
for a re-working of the past man-woman binary, to become “no longer a binary
opposition but a binary apposition” (Flieger, 2000, p.60). This becomes possible
when dominant and majoritarian ‘man’ is placed in tension, questioned, and de-
positioned (Flieger, 2000).

Thinking the new and different in this way testifies to a desire to refuse any idea of
magical methods in search of complete solutions. Building coalitions around a
suspicion of universalising political practices, single political truths, and
essentialising notions of identity and subjectivity, offers fresh alternatives for a
research project such as this. Rorty (1989) and Haraway (1991) both suggest that,
“we do not need a totality in order to work well … but this time power must be
neither phallic nor innocent” (Haraway, 1991, pp.173-175). Sofia (1993) echoes this
in stating:
Women's bodies are already ‘transitional objects’ in horizontal states: they
leak more than men … and they have never been accounted for by classical
distinctions of self and other … Cyberspace is one of the places where male
bodies too become subject to technological penetration, invasion, leaky
boundaries and pregnancy-like states that have long been part of women's
history and ontological condition. (p.114)

A cyborgian hybrid-identity points to the confusion surrounding traditional

boundaries experienced in “technological introjections and visceral productions by a
feminised masculinised body …There is a narrowing of the gap between the
idealised off-world technological object and the embodied messy domain of the
subject” (Sofia, 1993, p.114). In other words, cross-fertilisation and cross-
contamination, creates a cyborgian enmeshing that culminates in hybridity,
transformation, paradox, and productive self-irony, because it is about ‘putting

everything in’, rather than excluding and suppressing those things that “allow us to
grow in the midst of things” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.280). Or in Haraway's
(1991) words, it is about embracing “blasphemies” (p.149). For women leaders, the
struggle to change traditional models and practices of leadership along with a
refusal to play boys’ games, while at the same time tactically playing the game in
order to challenge the rules, creates the ironic paradox of women leaders becoming
similarly different, at the same time as they are insisting on their difference.

Stripped of any original identity the image of the cyborg enables a freedom to re-
examine the texts of women’s bodies and society without the limit-texts of god/man,
self/other, culture/nature, male/female, and so on: subjects as etching machines
becoming data for research (Haraway 1991). Haraway (1991) further argues that
cyborg politics would be a politics of multiplicitous coding practices and noise in a
system of perfect communication, a politics of many in the place of one, of hybrids
in the place of boundaries. For those who have suffered from the domination of the
‘autonomous masculine self’, to etch the micro surfaces of the encoding social body
as something less and more than a ‘One’, may be an empowering re-
conceptualisation of the ‘Family of Man’. To use Gayatri Spivak’s (1980) words,
the politics of undecidability holds out for the possibility of “revolutions that have
as yet no model” (p.49). In other words, the ‘god-trick’ of producing enduring
universal answers is re-configured while at the same time, the temptation to position
the human as a final site of agency is refused. Cyborgian thinking allows
organisational patterns and assemblages of leadership – human, fleshly, and
machinic, to become data to be examined at one and the same time.

4.8 Grotesque Females and Transgressors

Along with Haraway's (1991) idea of the ‘cyborgian body’, it is important to
examine how women produce themselves as leaders in organisational, professional,
and public domains, and to investigate the various performances of leadership,
including the spectacles produced by the site and sight of woman-as-leader, that
might be identified as suitable data for analysis. In The Female Grotesque, Mary
Russo (1994) argues that, “[t]he figure of the female transgressor as public spectacle
is still powerfully resonant, and the possibilities of redeploying this representation
as a demystifying or utopian model have not been exhausted” (p.61). She further

suggests that the spectacle of the grotesque performances of the bodies of women
means that women in the public domain are always at risk, dangerous and in danger,
because “they are, in one way or another, in error” (p.13). It is questioned whether
these ‘errors’ can be re-deployed as creative movements in becoming-leadership, or
whether they might reveal how women are performing their leadership roles,
including how the paradoxes, ironies, and ‘errors’ work to both stabilise and de-
stabilise current leadership practices and conventions.

Russo (1994) examines how “the repressive effects of gender formation within the
‘strange carnivalesque diaspora’ of the twentieth century” (p.37) continue to define
the female against male norms. “The category of the female grotesque is crucial to
identity formation for both men and women as a space of risk and abjection,” she
states (p.12). Because of this, the spectacle of woman-as-leader might work as a de-
formation of the norms of leadership with a potential to reformulate new
aggregations of a becoming-leadership: “as signs of possible future worlds” but with
no guaranteed outcome (Russo, 1994, p.15).

Searching out the contradictory and paradoxical fragments of data about women
leaders reveals how the spectacle of woman-as-leader works ambiguously as a
grotesque mirror-distortion of the norms of masculinist leadership practices. “Those
gender and role-specific anxieties, sarcasms and embarrassments” (Russo, 1994,
p.32) ... “that refuse to keep every body in its place” (Russo, 1994, p.16), have the
potential to reveal the cultural formation and presentation of how the marketplace
“sorts, measures and ranks one female body or body part from and against another”
(Russo, p.23). She explains it this way:
A number of categories can be analysed to illustrate this comparative
process of bodily distribution and valuation. Fatness, for instance, functions
as an extremely significant differential in separating off women of different
classes and ethnicities, by placing them in different fields or markets of
representation. (Russo, 1994, p.23)

Such an expanded view of leadership embraces “provisional, uncomfortable even

conflictual coalitions of bodies which both respect the concept of situated
knowledges and refuse to keep every body in its place” (Russo, 1994, p.16). For
example, within traditional “sites and sights” (Angel, 1994, p.61) of leadership, the
fleshly bodies of women leaders might be deemed as excessive bodies to the sleek

uniformity of the male-constituted image for ‘leader’. As political aggregates, it is
impossible to keep each and every woman leader in any one place which inevitably
de-forms and irrevocably alters both leadership and woman-as-leader. Identifying
the production and counter-production involved in spectacles of the new is not just
about finding data in material, but about creating data from “the everyday
randomness and felicitous conjunctions … of the many apparently unrelated and
often common-place [images and] experiences of life” (Russo, 1994, p.19): in this
case as a woman leader. Such views offer a way of thinking the new, of opening up
thought and knowledge to the question of the future of leadership, while contesting
and providing alternative readings for multiple, and more far-reaching, research

Alongside Haraway's (1991) exploration of a cyborgian self, Russo's (1994)

analysis of the ‘grotesque’ reveals the relationship between the human and non-
human, as organising forces that combine, organise, and discipline each other within
specific organisational structures. To examine the spectacle of women leaders, as
both cyborgian identity in the process of becoming, and as a grotesque body
challenging the rules of female containment, reveals the possibilities inherent in
researching the bodies of women in leadership as assembled bodies in the process of
becoming. As Russo (1994) puts it, “the category of the grotesque might be used
affirmatively to destabilize the idealizations of female beauty or to realign the
mechanism of desire” (p.327). From this perspective, cyborgian spaces offer the
possibility of new configurations and images of gender identity to emerge.

Russo's (1994) theorising demonstrates that “negation, silence, withdrawal and

invisibility” alongside “bold affirmations of feminine performance, imposture and
masquerade (purity and danger)” can be read as a socio-cultural politics for women.
Further, they are not mutually exclusive but exist around, in and between each
other. The multiplicity or aggregates of the images of disorderly, grotesque woman
do not keep women in any one place, but instead, work to undermine and reinforce,
discipline and disrupt the renewal of social, political, and organisational structures.
Such strategies are not either/or affects - they are both and neither true, both at the
same time.

4.9 Material Matters
Ideas of “a groundless solidarity” (Elam, 1994, p.69), ‘productive disjuncture’,
‘assemblages in the process of becoming’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988), ‘ironist
thinking’ (Rorty, 1989, p.73), ‘ironic categories’ (Haraway, 1991), and ‘the female
grotesque’ (Russo, 1994), work to produce a set of social categories, which can be
deployed to investigate, document and analyse how leadership works as an
embodied and (im)material performance. These moves into more risky ontological
and epistemological territories are justified in order to study the embodied daily
performances of women leaders who are working in new and extended work
environments. Merely deconstructing dominant thinking does not guarantee creative
movements or “spatial turns” (Jameson, 1991, p.154) towards new ways of thinking.
Haraway’s (1991) idea of “blasphemy” (p.149) is pertinent here, as it requires us to
“take things very seriously”, because it is an “ironic faith” (p.149) that works to
hold unlikely contradictions, partial solutions, and incompatible things in play. “As
a creature in a post-gender world … the cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality,
irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional and completely without
innocence” (Haraway, 1991, pp.150-151). Such thinking offers creative movements
through new ways of theorising women leaders within traditional masculinist

To study the spectacle of women in leadership as an embedded, embodied, and

(im)material cyborgian performance requires a shift in the gaze towards the
embodied woman leader. But gazing at women’s bodies, or making women leaders
the object of the gaze threatens a violation which feminists have long struggled
with. Russo (1994) summarises this concern. “In relation to gender, the politics of
surface can be another opportunity to scapegoat the feminine” (p.27) through the
inference of shallowness, superficiality, and woman as marketable object of the
male gaze. Given the criticisms that have been made of the way women have been
objectified in the process, the challenge here is to provide a means of gazing at
individual women without the spectator/reader identifying with the voyeuristic gaze,
which is the historical orthodoxy. As Gamman and Marshment (1989) argue, this
demands a reversal or inversion of the relational gaze which challenges the
patriarchal “men look, women are looked at, relations of looking” (p.1-5) in order to
rupture the traditional relationships between beholding and being beheld.

The body is less a visible phenomenological entity than a locus of effect, because,
(as has been suggested with ideas about leadership), no-body knows what the body
is actually capable of. The elusiveness of the body for social theorising is, in part,
due to the dominance of the male body as the norm; a dominance that gives rise to
the privileging of a standard rational masculinist body against which other bodies
are measured and judged. Therefore, if it can be argued that leadership is an
embodied activity, then a study of women leaders will benefit from exploring forms
of embodiment that involve re-gazing at the bodies of women, but this time, by
investigating what such bodies do, what they are capable of, and the work of the
“lived-body” (Leder, 1990, p.5) of woman-as-leader within male-defined leadership
contexts. Viewed in this way, social research is enhanced by re-visiting the ‘men-
look/women-are-looked-at’ orthodoxy in order to alter it. The surfaces of the ‘lived-
bodies’ of women leaders are a complex interplay of the discourses and practices of
historical relations, socio-cultural norms, knowledge relations, and the desiring
body, rather than merely as an object of a male-gaze orthodoxy.

To recognise that the body is a situated body in context, socially inscribed, marked,
and “relational to that which is other: other people, other things, other contexts …
the lived body is not just a thing in the world, but a way in which the world comes
to be” (Leder, 1998, p.123). Woman as embodied leader is not determined in any
privileged essentialist way, but it points to the significance of ‘the lived-body’,
corporeality, and performativity which again refuses a thinking/materiality binary,
because as ‘a lived-body’ it moves beyond ontological dualisms, by suggesting new
possibilities for understanding the relationship between embodiment and the
everyday enactments of leadership as a woman leader in male-defined domains.

4.10 Making, not finding, data

Following the arguments of Haraway (1991), Deleuze and Guattari (1988), Russo
(1994), Elam (1994), and Leder (1990) that there is no such thing as a ‘solidarity of
the body’, but rather, bodies as ‘lived social relations’, ‘creatures of social reality as
well as fiction’, and ‘creative movements of bodily desire’, then it is possible to
open up different spaces where both a female and male gaze might cohabit and
intersect. To locate the body as “a set of possibilities… and a discursive and

material reality that bears meaning” (Butler, 1997, p.404) makes way for
investigating how performative accomplishments reflect our socially and culturally
mediated interactions with the world. For example, in studying the daily enactments
or performances of woman as judge, CEO, military commandant, or political leader,
the reader as “spec-actor” (Boal, 1979), rather than mere spectator, is required to
engage with the social and symbolic systems underpinning the legitimated model/s
for such performances, but without resorting to a traditional male gaze.

Such spectatorship also includes what is contradictory, seemingly incompatible or

oddly paradoxical about the bodies of women leaders, set against the male-defined
norms operating in such contexts. Being simultaneously similar to and different
from the norms, “women and their (virtual) bodies exist only in contexts from
which they continue to turn away” (Conley, 2000, p.29). Situating the body of
woman-as-leader as a cyborgian body “resolutely committed to partiality, irony,
intimacy and perversity” (Haraway, 1991, p.151) works to reveal the ways in which
women leaders are called upon, by necessity, to continually assemble and re-
assemble their material performances and fleshly, female bodies to function within
conventional masculinist environments. Hassard, Holliday, and Willmott (2000)
state that, “[i]t may be questioned as to whether bodies exist independently of the
interactions with a world that is productive of a conventional sense of the individual
material body” (p.2). This has particular resonances for a study of leadership where
the body as subject is male-defined, and the comportment constitutive of a leader is
masculinist. An inclusive ironist, cyborgian response insists on the body as a
simultaneous material reality, creative movement, and cultural and historical fiction
that, by necessity, includes both complexity and open-endedness as ‘assemblages’
in a ‘process of becoming’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988).

There are real implications here for the development of rigorous social research
methods in a study of women in leadership in contexts where woman-as-leader has
traditionally been absent. Research methodology requires more than just re-
describing the same through adding-on some supposed differences, or alternatives.
The challenge for a researcher is that if there are “no ‘safety nets’ of ‘the real’, or
the certitude of political truths, how are knowledges, discourses, and behaviours”
(Game, 1991, p.191) to be identified and turned into actual data for analysis and

evaluation? In embracing the hybridity that results from the intersections between
the different domains intersecting in women and/in leadership - the biological, the
conceptual, the sexual and gendered, the political, the socio-cultural, and the
machinic – it offers a corpus of diverse research data that has the potential to work
differently, but it may also seem unmanageable. The strength of the theoretical tools
offered by Deleuze and Guattari (1998), Rorty (1989), Haraway (1991) and Russo
(1994) is their potential to open up “a thousand tiny elements” (Barthes, 1983) of
data for a detailed and specific investigative method to be developed. This is
important for a study that is attempting to analyse the minute and particular
elements involved in the everyday enactment of leadership as a woman. It also
allows for the management of research into women leaders who are, by necessity,
paradoxically located within and without male-defined leadership norms, for better
and for worse.

What is perhaps even more significant, is the idea that through shifting the gaze we
can ‘make’ data rather than just ‘identify’ data, because it builds a different research
process through which to re-work understandings of how the embodied woman-as-
leader is constituted and enacted in the everyday performances of judge, politician,
military commander, CEO, director, union leader, and so on. Such research involves
what Ann Game (1991) claims is “a disturbing pleasure” (p.191), because it disturbs
conventional data analysis, and moves research pleasurably forward to create
different knowledges. She argues that such knowledges are never a point of arrival,
because completion infers negation and closure, or the death of further creative
possibilities (Game, 1991, p.191). Instead, “disturbing pleasures” (p.191) are always
in flux, in the process of becoming, of pleasuring and being pleasured, as a result of
desires and desiring.

4.11 Producing the Body as Assemblage.

Deleuze and Guattari (1988) in describing ‘lines of flight’, ‘assemblages’ and the
trajectories which emerge in the process of becoming, state that:
A line of becoming has only a middle…it is the in-between. Becoming is the
movement by which the line frees itself from the point and renders the point
indiscernible… [Also, there are] many becomings between the assemblages
of things. (p.293-294)

If our being-in-the-world can be conceptualised as endlessly multiple
interrelationships with the world – that is, serial assemblages that establish
connections between particular multiplicities - then it follows that attention is drawn
to how exteriority, the outside of the body, is actually produced. Understandings
about the becoming-self, and what a becoming-embodiment with the resulting
enactments of a becoming-woman leader might look like, are not about uncovering
particular interior and/or stable structures of the individual. As Deleuze and Guattari
(1988) claim, they arise from an immersion in the endless play on and of surfaces.
Their ideas about the body as a “machinic assemblage in the process of becoming”
(p.7, p.22, p.88), or as an “assemblage of enunciation” (p.22-23, p.80, p.88) pre-
empt research methods that allow an examination of how women leaders enfold into
and onto themselves multiple and endlessly expanding becomings, in order to
produce and enact themselves as leaders within male-defined domains.

To view women leaders as being in a constant state of transformation, necessarily

evokes the “play and inscription of surfaces” as seen in their actual bodily
performances: “[W]e think that one cannot write sufficiently in the name of the
outside”, claim Deleuze and Guattari (1988, p.23). To investigate the way the body
of the woman leader is produced and enacted in the daily requirements of leadership
is to re-make connections between the body and organising practices. This will
reveal how the practices of women leaders are embodied and assembled in specific
identifiable ways. Embodiment as assemblage, involving processes of assembling,
dis-assembling, and re-assembling a leaderly self provides a way of understanding
how women produce and enact themselves as leaders, because embodiment is a
visual field in which gender, cultural and socio-political differentiation are played
out and played upon. This playing out and playing upon always involves a body in
process, a bodily assemblage to come: the becoming body of the woman leader that
can be observed, documented, and analysed.

Imagining the woman leader in ways that incorporate complex and dynamic
relationships, interconnections, and assemblages “which orient [their] surface
outwards towards the world” (Mansfield, 2000, p.140), including the instabilities
and contingencies that constitute bodies, admits “the endless play of connections
and impulses on the surface of the skin” (Mansfield (2000, p.140). Maria Angel

(1994) argues, that to do this requires working “with rather than against the
complexity and paradoxical nature of [the body] by refusing to exclude materiality
from the problem of reference … because [t]he body is the site and guarantee of a
demonstration” (Angel, 1994, p.61, emphasis added). Without demanding stable
external reference points of identity, the “displayed materiality …[of a] … body in
motion” (Angel, 1994, p.61), makes visible the creative linkages that emerge from
the endless dis-assembling and re-assembling of a leaderly self that is also required
of women leaders, even though they do not constitute the norms of leadership.

Therefore, studying the embodied performances of woman-as-leader, as “a site and

guarantee of a [leadership] demonstration” (Angel, 1994, p.61), creates myriad
elements of data for investigating “processes of action and interaction at the level of
everyday reciprocities and exchange” (Turner, 1994, p.xiii), as they are being
performed in “sites and sights” (Angel, 1994, p.61) of leadership. Creating such
data for analysis could, therefore, include:
 the representations, images and symbols which depict the body, and the
ways in which these representations affect social relationships and
 the necessary props, accessories, tools, support materials, scaffolding,
technologies, and cyborgian prostheses incorporated into the process of
assembling the self to be properly-leaderly and properly-feminine;
 the social, cultural, and political disciplining and control of bodies;
 the tactical moves used to support, avoid, or challenge dominant
representations and regulations of the body;
 how women are producing themselves to negotiate the traditions, rules, and
rituals of leadership practices, and what kinds of moves this involves;
 the paradoxes, or ironies, emerging from the spectacle of women's bodies
within male-defined environments, and how these are managed;
 the discipline and labour involved in producing the body, and performing the
labour of identity;
 the necessary assembling, dis-assembling and re-assembling of the self to
perform ‘proper’ and ‘legitimate’ leadership enactments;
 the spectacle of the bodily surfaces of women leaders as embodied
performances within the public gaze of leadership;

 the social relations between bodies, socio-cultural norms, and society; and
 how women leaders are currently represented, and how they are read and
received in the public domain, including what this suggests in terms of a

The significance of this for women and/in leadership, is because as an embodied

performance of “the lived-body” (Leder, 1990, p.5), the organising practices of the
dis/dys-organised body of the becoming-woman-leader, become visible as data that
can be assembled for closer analysis. The body of woman-as-leader as a
constructed, assembled, re-assembled cyborgian body – “that which one desires and
by which one desires” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.165) can, therefore, be
deployed for an investigation into socio-political relationships and interactions. The
creation of data for this research involves seeking out these different assemblages in
specific locations. In so doing, Deleuze and Guattari (1988) caution that the data
must be constructed little piece by little piece, without any thought of the places,
conditions, and techniques being reducible to one another, because the data is not
leading to any sort of final or ultimate insight about women leaders or leadership.

Therefore, a question for this analysis of woman-as-leader is whether the pieces of

data can (or do) even fit, for a coherent research project to proceed, and what is the
price of an analysis that draws attention to the dis-orderly and similarly-different
assemblages constituting the performances of woman as leader. Deleuze and
Guattari (1988), and Russo (1994) suggests that the risk is that women leaders, as
cyborgian selves, may produce “monstrous cross-breeds” (Deleuze & Guattari,
1988, p.157) which could be too confronting in a research project for and about
women leaders who, by necessity, are working within and against current leadership
conventions and expectations. What is also suggested here is that creating data
through studying women leaders as ‘cyborgian bodies’, ‘monstrous cross-breeds’,
and as ‘the female grotesque’ … has productive potential for women and leadership,
because this different analysis enables a re-gazing at ‘the lived-bodies’ of women
leaders to theorise leadership differently. Re-gazing differently allows for the
inclusion of a range of bodies, images, and enactments along with transgressive
identities that ‘otherness’ evokes, within a tangle of multiplicity always in the
process of becoming.

Rendering the body amenable to inquiry, the body of the woman leader is, in
Deleuzian terms, a desiring body with potentiality, with no pre-established organs,
functions, hierarchies, or images … nothing but affects and local movements,
differential speeds, micro-processes, intensities and flows which refuse to be
bounded and refuse to align to the requirements of formal organisation (Deleuze &
Guattari, 1988, pp. 157-166). Such a re-conceptualisation of the body “implies a
teleological shift from bodies to discourse” due to a refusal to presume “a static
ontological, hierarchical, and post-partum distinction between words and things”
(Angel, 1994, p.65). In this way, the body now becomes “a body-without-organs
(BwO) … a living body populated by a fusion of multiplicities” (Deleuze &
Guattari, 1988, p.154): a body with new and different possibilities that can be
viewed and investigated differently.

4.12 The Face is the Body

However, it is through the idea of faciality that Deleuze and Guattari (1988) develop
the relationship between the intersection of significance and subjectification
(pp.167-191). For them, facialisation is an abstract process that relies on the way
faciality traits are specifically organised. “The face digs the hole that
subjectification needs in order to break through; it constitutes the black hole of
subjectivity as consciousness or passion, the camera, the third eye” (p.168). Angel
(1994) cites Erving Goffman (1967) who provides his own account of facialisation:
A person is said to have, or be in, or maintain face when he [sic] …presents
an image of himself that is internally consistent, that is supported by
judgements and evidence conveyed by other … in a situation. At such times
the person's face clearly is something that is not lodged in or on [the] body,
but rather something that is diffusely located in the flow of events in the
encounter and becomes manifest only when these events are read and
interpreted for the appraisals expressed in them. (Goffman, 1967, p.6-7)

Deleuze and Guattari (1988) extend this further stating that a whole body can be
facialised, not as a question of taking a part of the body and making it resemble a
face, but as “an unconscious machinic operation that draws the entire body across
the holey surface in which the role of the body is not as a model or an image, but as
an overcoding of all the decoded parts” (1988, p.170). It is, they suggest, produced
as a cartographic exercise on the surface of the body: “that face is a surface … a
map … that overcodes the body” (p.170). The reason is simple. “The face is not a

universal. It is not even that of white man; it is White Man himself. The face is
Christ. The face is typically European … Jesus Christ superstar: he invented the
facialisation of the entire body and spread it everywhere” (1988, p.176). Decoding
leadership in these terms calls into question how the introduction of women leaders
works to overcode or trigger “lines of flight” that can be analysed in multiple ways.

To re-gaze at the embodied performances of women leaders and question “who gets
to produce cyborgian bodies, who has access, who provides the labouring and
component bodies and who becomes, and who buys the commodities reproduced”
(Griggers, 1997, p.55) produces useful research data for re-theorising women
leaders differently. If the organisation of the body, of the self, and of being in
society is a process of serial-becoming, then the more women leaders become
visible, so too do the differences among women become more apparent. This too
suggests further re-assembling of the conventional patterns and images of leadership
and a woman’s place within it. The difficulty for a research project, is that the
cartographic exercise of mapping leadership experiences that flow through, and take
place on the surface of the body, are fleeting and constantly in play. However, if
these tracings can be read in identifiable ways, it can provide significant data for
analysis, about the facialisation of leadership and how the presence of women both
stabilises and de-stabilises the norms. Enactments of leadership draw from a vast
assemblage of resources, and for a woman leader newly entering a male-defined and
male dominated domain, this involves negotiating contradictory and competing
manifestations that can be then be analysed as “sites and sights of authoritative
display” (Angel, 1994, p.61).

Careful and informed decisions obviously have to be made as to suitable methods

for collecting data, and how the data analysis as a methodologically legitimate and
rigorous process is to occur. This analysis aims to embrace a range of data that tells
about the “forms of content and forms of expression” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988,
pp.88-89) underpinning women leaders and their performances of leadership. These
 details of the bodily comportment of the woman leader in the daily
enactment of leadership;

 analysis of the necessary props, tools, robes, uniforms, objects,
accoutrements, machines and other prosthetic devices required and
incorporated into legitimate and proper leadership enactments;
 an examination of the ways in which the different material and symbolic
tactical assemblages of woman-as-leader work to both reinforce and de-
territorialise traditional leadership conventions and norms.
 an analysis of public speeches, interviews, articles, public comments, and
photographic images;
 an analysis of the language and utterances through which leadership roles
are enacted; and,
 an exploration of the particular assemblages, both human and machinic
involved in producing woman as cyborgian leader, that are currently
deployed in the performances of leadership in specific contexts.

Therefore, “the data includes all the human and non human bits and pieces - a
bricolage of bodies, words and things … a network of wetware, software, and
hardware that makes some kind of sense to a number of people”, in particular
contexts (Parker, 2000, p.81). Researching data that emerges from the continually
shifting sets of relationships involved in women and/in leadership, is an attempt to
explore how leadership is simultaneously being reiterated and de-territorialised,
stabilised and de-stabilised by the involvement of women leaders.

In summary, the collecting of data about the enactment of leadership by specific

women leaders becomes both a point of reference and a point of departure, because
the enactments under analysis shift the present to a present-future. As Jean-Paul
Sartre explains: “I am, but I also go beyond as I move off towards what I might
become” (cited in Vergine, 2000, p.15). A study of women in leadership that seeks
to address more than binary polemics, or superficial organising practices, must, by
necessity, address the conjunctions and dis-junctions of the becoming-bodies of
woman-as-leader, and the variously assembled props, tools, and machinic devices
incorporated into their leading. That is, the fleshly bodies of the woman leader plus
scaffolding, props, and other machinic assemblages that are deployed in the
processes and performances of leading.

It is about identifying and collecting data that incorporates the range and complexity
of bodies “as a multiplicity or aggregate of images” (Grosz, 2000, p.218). The data
collection is aimed at revealing what the body can do, the things it can perform, the
linkages it establishes, the transformations and becomings it undergoes, the
machinic connections formed with other bodies, what it can link with, what it
contests, and how it can proliferate its capacities (Grosz, 1994, p.165). In Deleuzian
terms, the data collection for this research accepts that the data elements may not fit
in logical or coherent ways.
It involves the very different social formations through very different
assemblages (perverse, artistic, scientific, mystical, political, corporeal) with
different types of bodies…[The plane of consistency] is constructed piece by
piece and the places, conditions, and techniques are irreducible to one
another. The question is whether the pieces can fit together and at what
price? Inevitably, there will be monstrous cross-breeds. (Deleuze & Guattari,
1988, p.157)

Studying the daily performances of women leaders in terms of “forms of content”

and “forms of expression” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, pp.88-89) that do not easily
fit together, requires a deal of courage to create reliable and credible research data.
This is because of the myriad leadership elements that women take, shape, and
make into what they can, according to politics, tactical deployments, context, rules,
regulations, rituals, historical location, access to technological prostheses, and so on.
It is even more confronting if the results suggest ‘monstrous or grotesque cross-
breeds’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988; Russo, 1994) that contest and contradict the
positive images of equality and success that women leaders have been striving for.
However, studying the performativity of women leaders in these ways offers a
method to open up how women work to de-territorialise, rather than codify, the
systems within which they operate, the ways they change the modus operandi of
being, and the way they produce, assemble, and dis-assemble the self as both a
similar and different leaderly self, for better and for worse. It is a project that aims
to elaborate what is new and different, and what might become, for the emergence
of different understandings of the corporeal dynamics of leadership and social

4.13 Turning Bodies into Data
As has been argued through a variety of theoretical perspectives, struggles over
meaning are nothing new to philosophy, politics, or to feminism, but a woman’s
body, appearance, comportment, clothing, adornment, representation, and
performance style, have been challenging and somewhat difficult topics to analyse,
and so for some feminists they have become “sites/sights” (Angel, 1994, p.61)
where boundary riders have been alert if not alarmed. The significance for this
project is that it affects what might constitute ‘proper data’ for a serious research
project about women and leadership. If the research is to achieve the results it is
striving towards – that is, an understanding of how women are performing as
leaders in male-defined and male-dominated domains, the data should allow for the
incorporation of contradictions, controversies, disruptive ideas, uneasy moments,
irony and paradoxes, or what might seem ‘impossible fictions’ of the bodies of
women leading (Walkerdine, 1990).

The method of data collection should also allow for an analysis of women leaders as
situated within and against the moving organisational patterns of human and non-
human parts, as a becoming of the machinic assemblages that exist in and through
us. It is the task of this research to identify what these machinic assemblages are,
and how they are influenced by the multiple regimes of images and signs within
which the body of woman is assembled, dis-assembled, and re-assembled as judge,
CEO, politician, military commander, director, vice-chancellor, and so on. In a
technological age, within complex organisational sites of radical semiotic
multiplicity, the emergent assemblages of multiplicity offer a rich source of
analytical data for analysis. For example, judges have historically been defined in
terms of their masculinity, objectivity, and rationality, so how are women judges
working within what constitutes ‘a proper judge,’ and how are they assembling
themselves to perform ‘properly’ and ‘legitimately’ within specific sites, and to
what effect.

If women judges, politicians, military leaders, vice-chancellors, and so on, are

involved in daily processes of assembling the self into various kinds of
organisational assemblages to maintain professional propriety, then this has the
potential for shifting both the ‘real’ and the ‘possible’ within leadership practices.

Whether as ‘cymians’, ‘cyborgs’ (Haraway, 1991), ‘monstrous cross-breeds’,
‘female grotesque’, or any other ‘odd boundary creatures’ (Russo, 1994, p.15),
women leaders are subjects in the making whose bodies as signs, and bodies of
signs are up for reappropriation and revision under the influence of the law, politics,
culture, identity and subjectivity. It is the aim of this research to identify the myriad
elements as they “erupt into gesture” (Mulvey, 1988b, p.28) and influence this re-

4.14 Cyborgian Bodily Performances as Research Method

The research data is not intended to be definitive, nor a representative sampling of
women leaders. It is a ‘thick slice’ (Geertz, 1988) rather than an exhaustive
overview of all aspects of women leaders and leadership. The research documented
here proceeds as a description of how specific women are performing themselves as
leaders in the public domain. It involves the sites/sights, images, representations and
the performances of a range of women leaders derived from written and visual
material sourced from newspaper photographs and articles, videos, television,
speeches, academic papers, biographies, and portraits which are juxtaposed with
personal and public interviews. The elements constituting this content is presented
in detail to illustrate how women assemble, dis-assemble, and re-assemble
themselves as leaders, how they see themselves functioning within the
contradictions of leadership, and how they are depicted, portrayed, presented, read,
received, and understood to be, in the public domain. In constructing the data,
decisions necessarily have to be made about which rhetorical devices of the
participants’ comments, texts, and visual materials will be brought forward for
scrutiny and which left out, and so the analysis is to be a reading across a range of
data about diverse women leaders within the designated professional contexts.

The methodological design is developed to demonstrate rigour in both the approach

and the execution of the research methods deployed. The techniques involved in
generating and collecting the data are also detailed, including the challenges and
ethical issues encountered throughout the process. The rationale behind, and logic
of, the decisions made by the researcher in relation to the data is explained, as is the
development of the methods of analysis. It is not intended that the methods
described here be exhaustive “nor terminal, but emergent, unpredictable and

unfinished” (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994, p.479). Nor is there an attempt to avoid the
challenge of properly dealing with ‘the games of truth and error’, and the distortions
that constitute any disciplinary field, beyond making them visible as part of the
research process.

The disclosure of the researcher's dilemma in the process of weighing strengths and
weaknesses about which research tools to use and how, is reflective of the
knowledge that both interviewer and interviewee “do many different things with
words and stories” (Silverman, 1993, p.93). The decisions underpinning what to
include and what to leave out, require making critical choices about how to
incorporate and assemble an interviewee's stories and performances. It also requires
careful and rigorous preparation to address the difficulty of understanding the part
sense-making plays in a discourse-semiotic reading of visual images and texts,
while trying to adhere to, and revise, traditional rules of research. However, it does
not discount the value of the attempt, the final procedures chosen, or how the
methods are applied to the analysis if the reasoning and process is made visible.

Numerous researchers have struggled with what it means to engage in research that
has validity and which works from an anti-foundationalist context (Lather, 1986,
1991a, 1991b, 1993, 1997; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Mishler, 1990; Lieblich, Tuval-
Mashiach, & Zilber, 1998). Following Mishler (1990), Lieblich et al (1998) argue
that it is no longer useful to think in terms of validity as simple “truth-value”
(p.173), because this merges from a positivist/empiricist science base which
assumes that knowledge is an object that can be known and reproduced. Such an
approach fails to recognise the contingency and privileging of whose knowledge, in
what contexts and through what kinds of legitimation the claims are being

The exemplar of trustworthiness in a research project needs to be enacted through

all stages of the study. According to Mishler (1990) a researcher's willingness to
expose the difficulties of the chosen methods to “the evaluation of a community of
informed and interested scholars and researchers” (Lieblich, et al, 1998, p.173),
offers a reformulation of the importance of validating the trustworthiness of the
particular research methods employed. They argue that ‘authenticity’ can be

assessed through exposing the role of the researcher in the process of the research,
and through considering the comprehensiveness of the evidence, the coherence of
the different parts of the research data, the insightfulness, the sense of innovation
and imaginative presentation of the material, the parsimony or the ability to provide
an analysis based on a small number of concepts, and the elegance or aesthetic
appeal of the material (Lieblich, et al, 1998, p.173).

It is accepted that there are necessary options and choices to be made in every step
of the research process, but such compromises and critical choices do not, in or of
themselves, diminish the value of the research or its outcomes in terms of
“producing different knowledge and producing knowledge differently” (St. Pierre,
2002, p.27). Lather (1993) argues that good research practices can be judged on
their ability to transform the truth by revealing how the production of truth and
meaning within specific contexts occurs. Game (1991) also claims that the creation
of ‘methodological’ and ‘sociological fictions’ opens up new spaces to contest and
explore new spaces of research practices. For this research the specific approach
involves problematising the complex and paradoxical data about women leading,
rather than attempting to neutralise the difficulties arising from the contradictions
and complexities that emerge. This requires holding in tension and in play the
contradictory elements that emerge from women enacting leadership in male-
defined and male-dominated domains. In analysing the data in this way, the aim is
to identify the ‘ironic categories’ generated by the paradoxical elements generated
by the research.

Even considering the multitude of factors involved in post-structuralist research

methods, if the above issues are properly constituted, it should guarantee a fair,
critical, open, and mature dialogue between author and readers. Above all, this is a
research project that aims to celebrate the aesthetic sense of clarity, rigour, and
pleasure. As Russo (1994) and Silverman (1997) suggest, the ordinary lives of
people are anything but ordinary, and this is echoed in Drury’s (1984) account of
the philosopher Wittgenstein. He writes that ‘Wittegenstein stated to a student,
“[M]y interest is in showing that things that look the same are really different. I was
thinking of using as a motto for my book a quotation from King Lear: “I’ll teach
you differences.”’ (Drury, 1984, p.157).

Therefore, the kinds of ‘proper’ research materials that constitute the data for an
analysis of women leaders enacting leadership includes:
 Studying the embodied performances of a small number of women leaders in
specific sites, through an analysis of both public interviews and statements,
and personal interviews conducted for this research.
 Analysing the representations and images of women leaders as published in
newspaper representations (such as cartoons) and photographs, and the
 Supplementing the data through other source materials which may include:
material women leaders have written themselves; material that has been
written about them in autobiographies, biographies, articles, or papers;
academic papers they have presented; and public texts or articles.

4.15 Phases of Data Collection

4.15.1 Phase One
Phase 1 of the data collection involved assembling, over a period of four years,
images, photographs, videos, cartoons, articles, and documents, about women
leaders and leadership within the public domain in law, business, the military, the
academy, and politics. A number of selection strategies were used to build this
‘bricolage’ of materials for closer analysis. National and state newspapers were
examined daily for articles and photos about the key knowledge areas and objects
under investigation: women in leadership and women leaders. Television
documentaries, news, and current affairs programs were regularly scrutinised to
identify the kinds of leadership practises being valorised and/or criticised, what was
absent, and what was present about both leadership and women leaders.

The important question driving the process was what work these materials were
doing, how issues of embodiment about women leaders were being understood, and
how women leaders were assembling and re-assembling themselves to fit within the
current rules, practices and processes of being leaderly and to what effect. The aim
is to highlight traditional continuities of thought about women and/in leadership,
and the shifts in thinking about the discursive and non-discursive practices and
processes of leading and leadership by women.

A close reading of both the literature and the assembled data pointed to several
recognisable sites/sights of leadership where women have traditionally not been
leaders before. The focus finally rested on five male-defined and male-dominated
sites as established points of operation where women are relatively new to senior
leadership positions: politics, business, law, the military, and the academy. There
was no attempt to look ‘behind’ the language in order to identify a deep individual
linguistic grammar, but rather the analysis concentrates on the social relations
implied by the texts and images, by questioning how they were working to
legitimate, undermine, discipline, and reify the kinds of leadership practices and
processes being described in those sites. In the quest to identify ensembles of
discourse, it provides a window to understand what is said and un-said about
leadership and women leaders, and what “play of rules” (Foucault, 1991a, p.55) are
operating, and how this all works to make visible the practices and performances of
women leaders and women in senior positions. And finally, a discourse analytic
framework was deployed to guide the researcher in making judicious choices about
which aspects and elements of the discourse to focus on, and why, and what the
relevant questions were, to ensure that the research respects the rigorous
epistemological demands of a ‘proper’ analytical research project.

The discourse analysis framework was developed in the following way:

 Analysing texts and images based around women leaders and leadership
practices within specific sites.
 Identifying the work of embodiment and/in leadership and the ways women
are assembling themselves within the rules, norms and practices of
leadership. This includes the influence of corporeality and “the lived-body”
(Leder, 1990, p.5) as it appears to be influencing how women are performing
as leaders within masculinist sites of leadership.
 Locating objects of knowledge (for example, language, documents,
regulations, decisions, administrative practices, protocols) that create the
limits through which women leaders have been constituted in particular

 Identifying how meanings adhere to discursive and non-discursive practices,
and the results of this on the daily work of being a proper and legitimate
similarly-different leader.
 Identifying the paradoxes, contradictions, and ironic tensions in the patterns,
rules, and processes of operation which make visible and invisible specific
forms of performativity and embodiment.
 Questioning how certain forms of embodiment and performance constitute
legitimate and proper leadership appearances, enactments and practices
within specific sites of leadership.

4.15.2 Phase Two

To extend the assembled research materials, and to discover more about the
practices and assemblages constituting the performances of the embodied woman
leader, the second phase of the research involved identifying a small group of
women leaders or senior figures within the prescribed fields and to request a
personal interview. Interviews create an opportunity to directly explore the daily
negotiated decisions and tactical manoeuvres women are making to enact ‘proper
leadership’. While not claiming to provide any greater validity to the process of
research (Fielding & Fielding, 1986), a comparison of multiple and diverse forms of
data, generally described as ‘triangulation’ (Silverman, 1993, p.156), offers a
richness, “rigour, breadth and depth” (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994, p.2) to the study.

The participants were targeted through what Wiersma (1991) describes as

“purposeful sampling” (p.83), based on their profiles relative to the study to be
undertaken. The sole criterion was that the women were located within senior and/or
leadership positions within their particular field of work. Many women were
contacted by letter to request a formal interview (see Appendix Ten, p.372). The
letter detailed the objectives, aims, and general purpose of the research. Final
interviews were determined by the women’s availability and willingness to talk
about their leadership practices – all women who were available and who agreed to
be interviewed, were interviewed. Many of those contacted did not reply, or were
unavailable at the time. Fourteen women in all were interviewed.

There was no attempt to create a ‘typical profile’ from the data, or to embark on an
exhaustive account of the sites of leadership where women have recently become
leaders. The idea that within any group of women leaders there are competing and
intersecting discourses shaping the ways in which they assemble themselves, and
think about themselves as leaders was welcomed. The analysis resisted categorising
the women, because many of the women are multiply located within diverse
categories so that simple categorisation risks becoming artificially reductionist in
approach. For example, one senior judge was a former law academic and has
worked as a director on business boards for many years. Another was a business
accountant working within a large city accountancy practice, before she became a
solicitor, then barrister and finally, a judge.

A range of views were sought and expressed, but there was no deliberate attempt to
achieve maximum variation, or for perfect representation, nor was there any
pretence at selecting for typical cases. Instead, the diverse range of women studied
here were exemplary examples of women leaders within their own fields, either
through them being the only woman located in the field at senior levels (for
example, RAAF Air Vice-Marshal Julie Hammer, Commandant of the Australian
Defence Force Academy (ADFA); High Court Judge, Justice Mary Gaudron, the
only woman ever on the High Court of Australia), or being nominated by colleagues
or peers as being women who are highly regarded in their profession, field, or

The diversity and complexity that ensued, is reflected in the variety, richness, and
openness of responses particularly considering the constraints of seniority operating
here. One woman, for example, was adamant that there were no tensions between
being a woman and being a judge where others found that the adjustments they were
required to make on a daily basis were conflicting and, at times, ‘exhausting’ and/or
‘frustrating’. Some women accepted the tensions as part of the site/sight of women
newly entering leadership postions, where others were deliberately and sometimes
impatiently addressing the paradoxes and difficulties they experienced through their
writings and workplace interactions in an endeavour ‘to change things’ for ‘the

The letters of request sent to each woman detailed the issues and ideas under
scrutiny in the research. Complexity, competing discourses, paradoxes, tensions,
and contradictions as ways of thinking, seeing and ‘being leaderly’, were stated as
being welcomed as part of the interview. It was stated that the purpose of the
research was to interrogate traditional ideas, rather than merely re-work simplistic
binary patterns and narratives of good/bad, right/wrong, male/female, and so on.
There were a variety of responses to this. One woman, clearly stimulated by the
discussion, spontaneously commented, “This is jolly. I’ve never thought of these
things in this way. What else have you got to ask.” In contrast, another woman
judge seemed uncomfortable and guarded throughout the entire interview. She
stated that she had no issues of concern as a woman judge, and neither did she
consider there were any differences for women working within masculinist domains
such as law. However, as a former executive member of a women lawyers’
association it seemed paradoxical that she had ‘few thoughts on the matters’.

The interviews were not free-ranging conversations, but semi-structured, open-

ended interviews designed to elicit maximum discussion and reflection on the topic
of women as leaders in the contexts of law, politics, business, the academy and the
military. Following Silverman (1993, 1997) and Denzin & Lincoln (1994) there are
three rationales for this approach. First, there is an acceptance that respondents will
have their own particular ways of defining themselves and their diverse and specific
experiences; second, there is no fixed sequence of questions that could adequately
suit each participant, and finally, participants are encouraged to direct the discussion
and raise the issues that they consider significant, beyond the set topic areas
(Silverman, 1993, p.95).

To create a context for the questions, the interviews opened with a general outline of
some of the issues raised by The Hon Justice Mary Gaudron in an interview on
ABC-TV in May 1996. The specific professional practices in which the women are
working formed a convenient point of entry into the complex issues that were under
interrogation. The women were asked to describe their career paths and how they
had achieved seniority within their respective domains, including what influences
had been significant in the achievement of such success. This led to questions about
what, for them, constitutes appearing and performing ‘properly’ as a woman leader

within masculinist contexts. It was suggested by the interviewer that there was a
deliberate attempt to unsettle and trouble the ‘onward and upward,’ ‘climb every
mountain and ford every stream’ narratives of linear progress and reconciliation that
have been major strands of thinking within feminist and leadership studies.

Questions were designed to explore how their leadership practices and processes are
both and neither connected to, interdependent from, separate, supportive of, or
destabilising of, such discourses. Questions were also directed to the management of
‘ironic categories’ – that is, the paradoxes and contradictions underpinning the
everyday enactments of leadership. For example, the questions were designed to
draw attention to what each of the women thought was meant by performing as a
‘proper’ and ‘legitimate’ leader, or how being ‘properly leaderly’ as a woman
within their specific site/sight of leadership was read and received in the public
gaze. The attempt here was to build a “strategic knowledge” of the present (Gordon,
1980, p. 145), in order to understand how they see themselves performing as
leaders, and to what effect.

The questions then became more specific in order to examine the particular details
about the emerging ideas. For example, how did they learn about leadership rules,
norms, practices, and protocols within their specific profession; what
difficulties/opportunities were there for women as both insiders and outsiders to the
norms; how did they present themselves, and appear to colleagues – early in their
career, and then later when they had achieved more confidence and/or seniority;
were there any necessary adjustments required to produce themselves as a woman
leader; if so, what did these adjustments or changes demand and produce; how did
they think they were read and received; what were the difficulties, advantages,
strengths, weaknesses, problems, confusions, paradoxes, or double-binds that could
be identified and to what effect.

The questions then moved into an exploration of the management and negotiation of
‘propriety’, ‘legitimacy’, and ‘credibility’ as judge, business leader, politician, and
so on, and how this impinges on them in the everyday enactment of leadership,
including how they assemble and re-assemble themselves to manage this. Questions
were then asked about whether they are deploying any specific tactical manoeuvres

to manage both the performance of leadership, and the assembling of a leaderly and
womanly self. Finally, the women were asked about the work of props, objects, and
technology and how these intersect with, enhance, and/or constrain their enactment
of leadership.

Throughout, there was encouragement to address the micro-details of leadership,

including the inconsistencies, contradictions, strengths, possibilities, successes, and
dilemmas for them as women, including how they tactically manage these. There
were attempts, at times, to dismiss the significance of the questions here, but in
using relevant examples from other women in the study, it helped to contextualise
specific situations. In general, the women interviewed seemed to find analysing
their enactments of leadership in this way an interesting exercise, even though some
found it unnerving to raise the ‘spectre of negativity’ (see Appendix Seven, p. 369
for interview structure, and list of possible questions).

I was not able to tape any of the above interviews, due to the sensitivity and
uncertainty expressed by these very senior women. It is a difficult decision to make
– no tape and a more open interview, or trying to tape the discussion and being
refused an interview, or receiving heavily edited and guarded information. Full
notes were taken during the interviews, and these were immediately transcribed, and
copies of the transcriptions were sent back to the interviewee with a gift and a letter
of thanks for their time and generosity in contributing to the research. The women
were invited to comment on my notes. Two women took up this offer, which
perhaps suggests something about the demands of seniority. Another wrote back
saying she looked forward to “reading the book”, while another subsequently made
notes herself and sent them to me.

4.15.3 Phase Three

Phase three involved researching supplementary materials, both primary and
secondary, for close analysis. The materials collected include published papers, key
note addresses written and presented by the women themselves, public speeches
available in the public domain, or in documents such as Hansard, interviews
conducted on television, radio, or in newspapers, and autobiographies and

In summary, the research method developed for this project, includes both
discursive and non-discursive materials that have been brought forward for scrutiny
and closely analysed. What follows are the results of this research and data


5.0 Three Exemplars of Dys-appearing Double Acts

5.1 Woman-in-a-box: Anna Maria van Schürman
5.1.1 “Monstrum naturae”
5.1.2 Shifting the terms of viewing
5.1.3 Cyborgian performance
5.1.4 Propriety and performance
5.1.5 Re-assembling the gaze
5.1.6 Expanded spaces of visibility
5.1.7 Woman-in-a-box: So what for women and leadership?
5.2 An Amazing Spectacle: Woman as living-billboard
5.2.1 A disorderly-orderly political advocate
5.2.2 A working assemblage
5.2.3 Boxed-in spectacles
5.2.4 Stunted stunts
5.2.5 Disorderly women in their place
5.2.6 Cyborgian/hybrid identity
5.2.7 Accumulating spectacles
5.2.8 Grotesque boxes to virtually make it
5.2.9 Identity-formation as hybridity
5.2.10 Making a stand on a soap-box
5.3 Bronwyn Bishop: Parodic Woman-on-a-box
5.3.1 Brought-to-book on a box
5.3.2 Cartoons as social production
5.3.3 Dismantling, for the naming of parts
5.3.4 A line figure of a woman
5.3.5 Awkward moves as unbalancing acts
5.3.6 Boxing the naturally inauthentic
5.3.7 Just not up to it: prostheses for elevation
5.3.8 Problems solved and made

Russo, 1994, p. 15.

5.3.9 Leadership as seen and seen through
5.3.10 Prosthetically natural
5.3.11 Creatures of a fictive social reality
5.3.12 Boxes to enable constrained leadership moves
5.3.13 Cyborg multiples must be made
5.3.14 Boxes: So what, for women and leadership?
5.4 Conclusion: Making spectacle speak.



5.0 Three Exemplars of Dys-appearing Double Acts

The studies documented in this and the following chapter constitute an analysis of how
women as leaders have assembled themselves in order to perform their leaderly identity in a
public space. In Chapter 4, the rationale was declared to be an attempt to build a ‘strategic
knowledge’ of the present (Gordon, 1980, p. 145) in terms of women’s enactments of
leadership in male-dominated settings. The analysis of the literature suggests that in broad
terms, advocacy for female leadership has “stood increasingly for and with the normal”
(Russo, 1994, p.vii). In keeping with other postmodern feminist writers, Russo (1994)
argues that women’s attempts to appear ‘normal’ can be traced to the desire for, and by,
women to be seen as correct, conventional, rightfully placed, and performing properly in
positions of seniority and leadership. This leaves unspoken “the strange, the risky, the
minoritarian, the outlawed, and the alien” (Russo, 1994, p.vii) appearances of women in
leadership, particularly in sites they have not occupied before.

This chapter looks to three events in time where women ‘dys/appear’ (Leder, 1990, p.5) –
erupting as abnormal and alien in spaces that were open and yet constrained. In so doing,
they defied the normal and the ordinary, even as the enactments are within normal realms.
They are but three examples of “high-risk body-politics” in which three women create
“room for chance as signs of possible worlds” (Russo, 1994, 11-15). It is argued that the
“anxious and hopeful points in between the categories of visible and invisible” (Russo,
1994, p.vii) conjure up images of the grotesque as a bodily category that is useful as a lens
for analysis. The reading that is attempted below takes up the grotesque as a form of
“dys/dis-appearance” (Leder, 1990)23 – one that sees the woman transmuted as a re-
assemblage involving the body and other material elements and objects. The examples
could be substituted for many others, and they are not meant to represent all women or
mere multiplicity. “They have been taken up, instead, like the cunning array of stunts in the
adolescent joke, for their doubleness and generativity” (Russo, 1994, p.15).

Russo, 1994, p.15.
Leder’s theorising of the body does not reject the body as a bio-medical korper, but nevertheless distinguishes this ‘body’
from the body as a leib or “lived body”. He draws attention to corporeality or embodiment as a generative principle (Leder,
1990:5), insisting that 'body' become available as a subject of discourse as well as an object of external gaze.

In analysing three particular dys/appearances of women in public spaces, the focus is on the
work being done by the hybrid entity that is both and neither woman nor object. As a
‘site/sight’ of the grotesque, a dys/appearance is a newly formed entity that makes strange
the ‘normality’ of both the body and the discourses through which its work is articulated.
This act of ‘strange making’ allows ‘the other’ to be given a new and different visibility. It
does so by pointing to the performances of these women as historically constituted material
assemblages that are discontinuous, contradictory, and oddly normal.

The three exemplars included here for analysis are:

 University student and “celebrated Dutchwoman” (Fraser, 1984a, p.366) Anna
Maria van Schürman (1607-1678) dys/appearing in a box in a public lecture theatre
in the University of Utrecht, in 1636 (see p.154);
 Suffragist Vida Goldstein (1869-1949), dys/appearing as a living Votes for Women
bill-board in Swanston St, Melbourne, as captured by a photographer from
Melbourne’s Herald newspaper on August 6, 1912 (see p.164);
 Australian Federal politician Bronwyn Bishop dys/appearing as woman-on-a-box-
behind-a-lectern as Federal Defence Minister, as captured by a photographer (1994)
and reflected in a cartoon illustration in 1994 (see p.179).

Each of these three dys/appearances create a focus for analysing how women perform and
work in masculinist contexts where women have, historically, been absent. Each case
involved individual women in public performances that took place within provisional,
historically specific spaces. As such, they serve as “models of deviance” (Russo, 1994,
p.ix) for women as leaders, because they are both open and circumscribed, enabling and
constraining through the conventions current at the time. To argue this, is to refuse the idea
that these women could act as prescriptive models for the future of women in leadership;
rather, they can be interrogated as “women as spectacle and women as producers of
spectacle” (Russo, 1994, p.165), from which lessons can be learned about the ways in
which women are simultaneously enabled and constrained as public leaders.


In her 1991 key note address to the University of Utrecht, Professor Teresa de Lauretis
(1993) quoted from a brochure produced by The Anna Maria van Schürman Centre for
Advanced Research in Women’s Studies. Apparently, when Anna Maria van Schürman
(1607-1678) applied to study at the University in 1636, her acceptance at lectures was only
agreed to “provided she remained hidden in a ‘wooden room [or box] inside the lecture
hall, screened off by a board with holes in it’” (de Lauretis, 1993, p.393).

This figure is not available online.

Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library

Figure 1: Self-portrait of Anna Maria van Schürman

Source: De Baar and Rang, 1996.

5.1.1 “Monstrum naturae”24
Van Schürman’s shift from the traditional boxed-in enclosure of the domestic sphere, into
the discreet/discrete sanctuary of an academic box has been the subject of numerous and
contradictory accounts since the seventeenth century. This is due in part to the
disappearance of much of her writing, but it also reflects the difficulty male scholars have
had in deciding how to understand her scholarly performance (de Baar and Rang, 1996,
p.4). Beginning in the 1630s,25 she has variously been described as “theological scholar”,
“most learned virgin”, “pious Christian woman”, “exemplum”, “Utrecht Pallas”, “Tenth
Muse”, “Star of Utrecht”, “mad”, “femme savant”, “Marvel of Nature”, “miraculum”, and
“monstrum naturae” (de Baar and Rang, 1996, pp. 1-21). However, according to de Baar
and Rang (1996), it was these last three descriptors that set the tone of historical analysis
for the following decades and centuries. For example, many of the publications about van
Schürman have included the exact words of French Carmelite Louis Jacob in whose
publication Elogium eruditissimae virginis Annae Mariae a Schurman, Batavae (1646)
these descriptors first appeared (p. 6).

What is evident is that she was simultaneously portrayed as both ‘extraordinary scholar and
ordinary virtuous woman’ because society at the time did not know what to make of her or
how to depict her. What emerges is that it seemed necessary as a protection against
criticism, to reiterate her pious virtue and modesty “as a counterweight to her exceptional
erudition” (de Baar and Rang, 1996, p.12). Even considering the continuity/discontinuity of
knowledge about van Schürman, and the way biographers and theorists are dealing with
“constructions and ambivalences, image and reality, with interest and distance, with
learning and Pietism” (de Baar and Rang, 1996, p.20), van Schürman’s life, work, interests,
and writings, raise questions about the work of the academic performance in terms of new
identities for women desiring different knowledges that were not considered ‘useful’,
‘marketable’, or ‘proper’ for women at that time.

From Louis Jacob’s Elogium (1646) ‘miraculum seu naturae monstrum ob ingenui stupendi foecunditatem, ab omnibus
praedicatur and vocatur’ pp. 83-84. Cited in de Baar and Rang (1996) p.5.

Jacob Cats published Touchstone of the Wedding Ring ( Proefsteen van den Trou-Ringh ), in 1637 which included three
portraits of van Schürman (Sneller, 1996, p.133); French Carmelite Louis Jacob published his Elogium eruditissimae virginis
Annae Mariae a Schurman, Batavae’ in 1646, and two years later this eulogy was published in Opuscula among the letters
and poems that van Schürman herself had selected for publication (de Baar & Rang, 1996, p.5)

5.1.2 Shifting the terms of viewing
Among the many self-portraits painted by van Schürman (Appendix Nine, p.371) the most
intriguing is a painted miniature depicting her as a veiled woman (see Figure 1, p.154). The
only distinguishable features are her eyes, which look directly out above the veil, and a
glimpse of feminine curls framing her face. The viewer’s gaze is also drawn to the way she
herself is holding up the veil, provoking a sense of wonder and ambivalence in what is
being communicated. The provocative image is suggestive of the “wooden room or box
inside the lecture hall screened off by a board with holes through which she could look out”
(de Lauretis, 1993, p.393). It brings to mind the dilemma for women in negotiating “the
Renaissance position of nobly born and patrician man” (de Baar & Rang, 1996, p.19), with
the pursuit of a strong, self-sufficient, scholarly, and artistic identity as a woman.
Metaphorically, it also interrogates identity issues that women necessarily reveal and
conceal when they step outside the traditional domestic frame.

“Manufacturing distance” (Doane, 1982, p.87) from the “tightly woven systematicity”
(Irigaray, 1985, p.76) of male dominated spaces, can work as a provisional strategy for
women “to convert forms of subordination into affirmation, and thus to begin to thwart
them” (Irigaray, 1985, p. 76). Irigaray (1985) further argues that “[t]o play with mimesis is,
thus for a woman, to try to recover the place of her exploitation by discourse, without
allowing herself to be simply reduced to it” (p.76). Van Schürman’s painting of the veiled
woman directs the gaze to the covering-up of women’s potential which her own
considerable achievements – including that of portrait painter, obviously, then work to
unveil. It makes visible what was invisible: that a woman’s abilities are concealed not only
by social context, but by their own hands as well. Forms of being, this suggests, can be
played with, revealed, masked, and/or concealed in a politics of hide-and-go-seek. Even
within Renaissance Europe, Van Schürman’s image interrogates whether the masculine can
continue to define and inhabit everything, everywhere, and everyone. However, a woman
making even a cautious departure from the norms has to make deliberate choices about
what to obscure and what to disclose to avoid the risks associated with challenging current
conventions and rules (de Baar, Lowensteyn, Monteiro, & Sneller, 1996).

The “scant attention paid to the education of women and girls” (Fraser, 1984a, p.364) at
that time has been attributed to the idea that education (particularly Latin) had the
“unfortunate effect of making women more cunning” (Fraser, 1984a, p.364). The risk here

was that it placed those who pursued such knowledge in jeopardy of being judged un-
womanly, undesirable, and therefore, un-marriageable. It was only the wealthy privileged
few who could successfully survive as single women; for the rest, it was more likely that
being un-married condemned them to a life of poverty and/or servitude. Seventeenth
century Bishop of Padua and Chancellor of the Theological Faculty of the University of
Padua, Cardinal Barbarigo, had a fairly clear, and not uncommon response to the
suggestion that women (in this case Elena Lucrezia) be admitted to universities: ‘What? A
female doctor and teacher of Theology? Never! … Woman is made for motherhood not for
learning’ (cited in de Lauretis, 1993, p.394). As ‘cunning stunts’ (Russo, 1994), the risk for
women such as van Schürman, is that in challenging ideas about femininity by taking up
male-only pursuits such as academic study, she was in danger of “making a spectacle of
herself” and “alienating the powerful men in authority” or “otherwise making errors”
needing correction or worse, punishment (Russo, 1994, p.12).

5.1.3 Cyborgian performance

Prior to the 20th century, the European-model university was a site where women could not
publicly be seen, because women were not permitted as scholars. For a woman to correctly
maintain the rules of propriety within the academy at that time, she could not simply
‘appear’ as an embodied presence, because the woman’s body was itself characterised as a
dys/appearance in the homogenous world of an exclusively male university. From this
historical distance, it is tempting to mythologise the event – woman-in-a-box, as an heroic
journey of feminist progress over patriarchal oppression, but this analysis actively resists
such moves.

Boxed-up, Anna Maria van Schürman invites a fascinated curiosity, not simply because of
the intrigue of her dys/appearance, but because of the work being done by the cyborgian
identity of woman-in-a-box (part-human/part non-human). This work challenges traditional
notions of space and its occupation, as well as ideas about authority, authentication, and
gender. Importantly, ‘woman-in-a-box’ was able to take ‘woman’ into a space that was
previously unavailable, while at the same time, obliterating the materiality of her gender to
do so. In this sense, ‘woman-in-a-box’ is an assemblage which both constrains and enables,
permitting new learning for a woman, while disallowing learning for women.

5.1.4 Propriety and performance
In assessing the performance of woman-in-a-box and how it might be understood, it is
useful to begin by recognising that all public performance depends upon some sort of
‘appearance’; on being visible in some overt way. While this cyborgian assemblage
enabled van Schürman to access the academic space of learning, it was certainly an odd
and/or grotesque dys-appearance in terms of a material or gendered presence. As woman,
van Schürman was both present and absent, visible and invisible, made possible through
the cyborgian assemblage performing itself without speaking or moving, as indeed it had
to. Its performance was not only mute, but also cut-off from the very public and space
within which it was located. Enabled to learn, yet constrained from joining the community
of learners, woman-in-a-box stood as silent sentinel to the desire of a woman to learn.
Thus, van Schürman was part of a dys-appearance that remains an important story that has
come to be part of the history of women’s access to power and knowledge.

In the seventeenth century, life and career pathways for women were extremely limited.
The range of ‘choices’ for even the privileged was limited to Beauty, Wit, Political player,
Miss or Mrs (Fraser, 1984a, p.454), so what van Schürman was ‘supposed to be’, or ‘ought
to be’ demanded both creative invention and adherence to strict rules and practices for
submissively cons-training her body within this drama of dys/appearance. Russo (1994)
argues that the spectacle of freaks always involves their being apart, as beings to be viewed
at a distance “and in the traditional side-show they are often caged and most often they are
silent” (p.80). Taking her place silently within the ‘cage’ or the box created the necessary
distance for a way of viewing this boxing-in as spectacle, because the audience was
prevented from meeting face to face with this mute ‘freak of woman-hood’. Van Schürman
was, by definition and the fact of the box, a thing apart - both object and other (Russo,
1994, p.79-80).

Isolating her, by placing her alone in a box designed and constructed by a male academic
culture, reveals the doubleness of what is revealed and concealed: it challenged existing
structures and practices at the same time as it was working to carefully preserve them. By
drawing the gaze, this event works like a “prism which refracts reality” (Rowbotham, 1973,
p.27). It makes visible the limits of self-identity that were available to, and performed by
women in public spaces, along with the rules and conditions of those enactments. In taking
up her position in a box, van Schürman became both human and non-human, corporeal

body and socio-cultural identity inscribed by the attitudes and beliefs of seventeenth
century codes of being.

5.1.5 Re-assembling the gaze

The paradox for van Schürman was that, for a woman, there was no way to properly
perform in the academy at the time. It required a particular dys-appearance, as woman-in-a-
box’ in a dynamic process of difference and repetition incorporating normalised behaviours
for maintaining propriety, as a woman, with new modes of becoming something ‘other’.
That woman, then, had no legitimate place in public learning means that her new and
strange situation was both and neither enabling and constraining. Even though the doorway
into the male-authored academic tradition was shown to be ajar, a different form of
‘otherness’ became apparent through her exclusion from public view, except within these
odd, male-inscribed limits.

The power of corporeality and bodily performance is highlighted in this paradox of a

woman taking up a position of ‘university student’. The event points to the strange mimesis
at work here: a university student in woman’s clothing and masked in a wooden box. It
challenges ideas about what bodies can do, what the effects are, and the relations between
bodies (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.257-261). Ironically, Anna Maria van Schürman turns
the private/public body metaphor inside out, because finally, this was an un-controllable,
public and private boxed dis/dys-play. That the woman-in-the-box published texts, was
publicly lauded for her portrait painting, and had no fewer than three portraits of her
included in a 1637 text (hers was the first university catalogue entry of the University of
Leiben)26 is “telling evidence that van Schürman belonged to the cultural elite of her age”
(Sneller, 1996, p.133). The work of the assemblage, however, is not to tell of the specific
biography of this woman, because as woman-in-a-box she could be – is – anyone.

Leading thinkers of the day were drawn to her “uniqueness”. Statesman and intellectual
Constantin Huygens (1639) was to write, “I am also one of those fools who are charmed by
rarity” (cited in Sneller, 1996, p.138, my italics). Regarded with high esteem, and as “a rare
specimen” this woman artist, intellectual, and academic became an object of (foolish?)
speculation, rather than being accepted as “an independent and equal human being”
(Sneller, 1996, p.139). Such paradoxes draw their power from a desire to simplify

Jacob Cats, Touchstone of the Wedding Ring, pub 1637.

complexity, as evidenced by the way male leaders have historically taken their male
superiority for granted and othered ‘others’ as rarities and/or oddities. As “the miracle of
our time” and “a source of pride for women” (Jacob Cats, 1637, cited in Sneller, 1996,
p.142), Jacob Cats positioned van Schürman as an exceptional woman but as inferior to
men. The accomplishments were applauded, but he, like Huygens, remonstrated with men,
suggesting that she was shaming them;27 they were obviously not doing their best if this
woman could achieve such greatness (Sneller, 1996). Scholar, artist, thinker, theologian,
and writer constituted a different self-identity for a woman in the seventeenth century. As
Adkins and Lury (1999) state, because of the complexity and difficulties for women in such
contexts, “their labour of identity may be naturalised as part of their selves, and so cannot
be mobilised as a resource” for becoming properly and legitimately ‘other’ (Adkins &
Lury, 1999, p.611). And nor can such instances be transferred as options for all women.

What the above comments indicate, is that the spectacle of a woman achieving within the
masculinist world of intellectuals and artists, both activated and troubled the gaze of the
attending intellectual community. The trajectories of the said/unsaid about van Schürman’s
impure entry into the pure unified academic context is suggestive of Russo’s (1994) idea
that “what the open body discloses is not as certain as the desire to see and find out” (116),
what is in there, under there, in hiding, hidden, partly glimpsed, and what is both revealed
and concealed in this performance. The veiled performance of van Schürman offers a
vision of power as containment and resistance, because invisibility does not always mean
powerlessness. It is clear that concealment in the box enabled this woman to see, hear, and
learn in private, without being seen or bothered. “Access to privacy achieving devices …
can …symbolically define the powerful” and “the very achievement of privacy can provide
the basis of greater power”, argue Foddy and Finighan (1980, pp.10-11). As a boxed
assemblage, or screening device, woman-in-a-box is a dis/dys-play of how femininity as
visibility and invisibility has been dealt with over time, the effects of which can be read in
multiple ways.

The response by at least one leading figure to an etched self-portrait (Appendix Nine,
p.371) of van Schürman is an interesting example of the work for women, in negotiating
what can be revealed and what needs to be concealed for a proper enactment of the self.

“O glory to all maidens/ And honour to all women, but shame upon the men” (Jacob Cats, 1767, cited in Sneller, 1996,

The portrait of van Schürman hides the hands behind a shield, prompting this speculative
and ambiguous response in 1634 from the aforementioned intellectual Constantin Huygens:
“Why does the maid conceal those hands/ Which never found their equal?/ The copper
turned this way and that/ Has made her fingers black./ ‘Tis the fault of the first cut,/ That
she ever made in all her days” (cited in de Baar and Rang, 1996, p.22). That she was
unmarried, a woman, and a virgin, may well have meant that he was referring to an
assumed inexperience in the ways of the world (messy fingers due to this being her first
cut/etching): a familiar criticism of women entering new domains such as intellectual or
artistic endeavour. At the same time, it would have been instantly recognisable as a sexual
metaphor, because ‘giving some one a cut’ was a thinly veiled metaphor for sexual
intercourse. It could be argued that the shield works to both hide and reveal her desire to
live and die a virgin, even though as a sexually desirable ordinary and extraordinary
woman, she was, by virtue of her gender, still considered inferior to men.

5.1.6 Expanded spaces of visibility

The challenging assemblage of seventeenth century woman, intellectual, and artist,
illustrates how women have straddled the paradoxes of working within and without
existing rules of what is right/wrong, proper/im-proper conduct for specific sites in
particular moments in time. Her visible/invisible presence as woman-in-a-box constitutes a
machinic/human performance (the box being as much a part of her bodily performance as
was the materiality of her body), because it depended on specific rules to allow it to
seamlessly adhere to the proper academic context. But like the suture lines of bodily
rupture, this grotesque dis/dys-play extruded into the ‘natural’ male world to reveal the
asymmetry of gendered bodies where women’s choices were circumscribed and limited. “It
shows up the differences, which make the female body a crucial (though presumably not
eternal) site of contestation,” argues Russo (1994, p.123). Differences create effects that are
received and read in a variety of ways that are dependent on context: as a woman she acted
as a role model of possibility, but she still could not serve as an exemplum for all women
because of the uniqueness of her situation.

Such newly forged codes of conduct were, in Deleuze’s (1988) terms, “like events without
a model – a dice throw producing difference within its very repetitions” (Deleuze, 1988,
p.x). As a dice throw of possibility it had productive outcomes, as she reputedly “excelled
… in art, music, theology and literature, becoming proficient in Latin, modern European

languages, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Aramaic, and (curiously), Ethiopian” (Wilson
and Warnke, 1989, p.166). She also produced several publications, including a book in
1659 entitled (oxymoronically for most women) The Learned Maid: or whether a maid
may be a scholar. However, there was little likelihood of the development of any real
leadership capacity, except in highlighting the visible/invisible boundaries of homogeneity
existing at the time. In these terms, ‘leading’ from the inside, by taking her place as
woman-in-the-box, sets up the visual logic of being simultaneously excessive to, and
abnormal from, the all-male academic group, while at the same time being contained within
it, albeit enclosed and somewhat constrained. Enclosed and accessible, appearing and
dis/dys-appearing, visible and invisible, woman-in-a-box-as-event offers for women the
possibility of “an expanded space for visibility, and hence, power” (Russo, 1994, p.113).
This intersection of imagination, fantasy and the visible/invisible images of the body of a
woman entering academia through a cyborgian grotesque dis/dys-play works as a
metaphorical “light that one attempts to shine on the present [to] simultaneously illuminate
the future” (Davis, 1990, p.9).

5.1.7 Woman-in-a-box: So what for women and leadership?

So what might an analysis of a woman-in-a-box add to an account of women performing
themselves in public spaces, and, in particular, an account of women as leaders in male-
dominated settings? The historical moment in which van Schürman lived is important as
an illustration of how performances of the self are historically contingent and ephemeral.
As a ‘monster of nature’, the ‘van Schürman event’ locates van Schürman at a liminal
position between “language and silence, and between human and non-human … those in-
between, both and neither spaces that form … the source of her knowledge and power… It
is Sphinx-like ... a knowledge that shrouds itself in silence … [as a] possibility of desire, a
vision that is conveyed in a gaze mute as a great stone” (de Lauretis, 1993, p.396). While
constrained from accessing the immediate learners who surrounded her physically, by
taking up a position of woman-in-a-box, she nevertheless was able to achieve entrée
through the products of her learning to a more distant, but perhaps more powerful,
community of learners in the person of famous writers and thinkers.

She was reportedly “a friend of Descartes, Richelieu, Constantin Huygens, Jacob Cats and
others ... another Helena who had been well-instructed by her father” (Fraser, 1984a,
p.366). Yet, for a seventeenth century ‘exceptional woman’, performing the self in this

fashion placed her at some considerable risk of the misogyny which permeates statements
such as “nobody wants an educated woman”, and this opened her to “ridicule … and even
hostility … with which every woman who pretended to achievements beyond ‘the dull
manage of a servile housewife’ had to cope” (Fraser, 1984a, p.377). In such contexts, the
“practice of risk … points more to possibility than to sustained progress” for women
(Russo, 1994, p.13). Recognising the work of such ‘possibilities’ is crucial in
understanding the kinds of identity formation available to, and performed by, women in
specific locations at specific moments in time.

In insisting on the possibilities that bizarre or grotesque performances might provide for
women as leaders, this analysis cautions against any romance about the possibilities being
probabilities. Indeed, the risk-taking woman is more likely to have her performance
punished than lauded in the long-run. Van Schürman’s grotesque performance as woman-
in-a-box was not a radical politics, nor an enactment of solidarity with other women; it was
a singular, strange, and striking event through which one woman overcame a set of social
norms which applied to a particular public space to access what she desired to know. Most
importantly, it stands as an exemplar of the ways in which social rules can be transcended
without being broken.

Woman-in-a-box points to the speechless, voiceless, frozen-in-time, silent

presence/absence of a woman who is not, nor can she be, physically present to her learning
peers even though she is taking part in the same learning event. This foregrounds the
paradoxical nature of women’s performances in spaces where men have defined the rules
of propriety for social engagement and social influence. Woman-in-a-box works to both
hide and reveal the ways a woman, as a curiosity or freak of culture, can wrest to herself
possibilities that are denied those who would seek to remain within socially and culturally
defined norms when stepping into the male-stream. And finally, it is important to reiterate
that, just as there is no safety in flouting convention, there is no safety to be had for women
in investing in conventionality at all costs.


As the woman-in-a-box event indicates, survival for women in new and different spaces,
depends on a juxtaposition of the familiar and the known with the strange and risky, to
create “a world that can overlay the existing one like a transparency” (Deleuze & Guattari,
1988, p.280). It follows then that for women to maintain conventionality and propriety as
becoming-leaders in new and enmeshed spaces, everything is in the process of
development, or ‘becoming’. In Deleuzian (1988) terms, such situations call attention to
outside/inside relations as a constant folding back onto the self of the socio-cultural context
in which women exist as becoming-leaders (pp.96-98). Yet in saying this, it creates a
paradoxical dilemma for women. How do they re-configure existing male models of
leadership to account for women’s different experiences; how do they choose survival
tactics, and, what is more, how can women “predict which [tactics], performances, mimetic
acts, or re-presentations” (Russo, 1994, p.30) will be successful and which might end

According to de Certeau (1982), to be a leader requires a legitimate or proper place from

which to lead and strategise (p.xix). For women, because legitimate or proper senior
leadership positions have been unavailable to them within certain professional sites, the act
of leading becomes not a development of well-known, logical strategies, but a negotiation
of tactics, because as de Certeau (1982) puts it, “the place of the tactic belongs to the other
[the minority], which is not the same as strategy” (p. xix). Tactics are improvisational,
existential moments of possibility, fragmented opportunities to be seized when they appear,
which then must be cleverly re-worked to seem ordinary and natural. “A tactic insinuates
itself into the other’s place, fragmentarily, without taking it over … without being able to
keep it at a distance” (de Certeau, 1982, p.xix).

In the following example, Australian suffragist Vida Goldstein seizes the opportunity to
become a tactical suffrage advocate, by making a political spectacle of herself as an
assembled living billboard:

On the kerb at the corner of Swanston and Collins

Streets in the homeward rush hour stood a young,
attractive woman selling newspapers. For fifteen
minutes I watched this amazing spectacle. It was
1921- and only boys sold newspapers in
Melbourne streets in this era. On this wintry day
she had a bundle of newspapers tucked under one
arm and a poster pinned to the front of her skirt,
reading 'Votes for Women'… Most passers by did
not even see her. Groups of girls looked sideways
and tittered. Occasionally a man would stop and
give a disapproving grunt. I did not see one
person buy a newspaper. (Interview with This figure is not available online.
journalist May Maxwell, Herald, 8 June, 1974) Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library

Figure 2: Woman-as-living-
billboard: Suffrage leader Vida
Goldstein. Source: Bomford,
1993, cover illustration.

5.2.1 A disorderly political advocate

A photo of Vida Goldstein appeared in Melbourne's Herald newspaper, on August
6, 1912. She was shown standing in one of the most prominent streets in Melbourne
– Swanston St, at peak hour, 5:00 to 6:30pm, her body clad in a sandwich board of
posters advertising the newspapers Votes for Women and The Woman Voter. To gain
support for the suffrage cause, and raise money to fight the campaign against torture
and imprisonment of suffrage women in Britain, she assembled herself as a living
billboard by pinning the Votes for Women posters to her clothes and selling suffrage
newspapers in a public street.

Will you buy our non-party woman's paper, one penny?' asked the most
famous suffragist in the suffrage campaigns in Victoria, Vida Goldstein, of a
woman heavily laden with parcels. 'Why certainly I will,' and down went all
her parcels on the pavement, to enable her to get at her purse. My first
buyer! I felt inches taller… But, in the evening we took our stand in Chapel-
street, Prahran. Acute misery swept over me once more…Men stood by
watching, wondering. At last one, an elderly man, came forward and bought
a paper. I expressed my gratitude. He took off his hat, and, with a bow, said
with great respect, ‘The debt is all on my side’, showing that he understood
what it meant to stand in the gutter for one's convictions. (cited in Bomford,
1993, p.116, my italics)

The performance of a well-dressed, and well-known woman in a poster sandwich

board engaged in an extraordinary/ordinary event presents a tantalising image for
analysis, because here is no ordinary newspaper seller like the young boys or older
men that we expect to see. Likewise, ‘standing in the gutter for one’s convictions’
and selling newspapers on street corners was not a standard leadership enactment
for a prominent male political figure at the time, and, more particularly for women,
who had just been granted the vote, but who still had no place in politics, proper or
otherwise. The diverse angles for viewing “such unprecedented actions” (Goldstein,
cited in Bomford, 1993, p.116), considered, at the time, as unseemly modes of
display, are saturated with multiple and historically contingent meanings that are
ripe for analysis.

What is apparent in this complex image is that it is another example of a woman’s

performance openly boxed-in by objects that make possible, but also constrain, her
political and public advocacy. The bill-boarding or scaffolding, surrounding
Goldstein’s body is a tactical departure to allow the conditions of possibility in
which to enact her political advocacy. Unlike van Schürman, however, this time the
assembled tactics openly display both the human and non-human as a fleshly
machinic public dys/play, where the gaze works both ways to show the effects of
both the public gaze and Goldstein gazing back.

5.2.2 A working assemblage

The image of a suffrage leader selling newspapers in a public place, is both familiar
and contradictory. Goldstein appears awkward, defensive, self-conscious, but also
stubbornly resolute, and (re-assuringly?), meticulously well-groomed and elegant
be-fitting a well-educated woman of her time. As embodiment is to image, the

poster headline (‘Torture. By order of the Home Secretary’) binds her to her own
performance as an ironic parody of the seriousness of the occasion. To understand
the work of this assemblage is to insist on the holding together of the transgressive
newspaper seller ‘standing in the gutter’ and exposing herself as ‘tortured’ political
advocate, with the well-to-do-ness and elegantly dressed image of an educated
middle-class woman suggestive of a different life beyond this one on the street. The
assemblage highlights the contradictions in the grotesque spectacle of her-but-not-
her, through an interplay between the image of familiar woman with the masquerade
and scaffolding required by a woman who desires to work as a political advocate in
the public domain.

Because Goldstein was outside the halls of wealth and power, to succeed as a
political advocate she had to improvise her political tactics, because established
“strategic methods” (de Certeau, 1982, p.xix) available to those (at the time, only
men) with access to government, business and the professions were unavailable to
her. One such tactic available to her was the implementation of a ‘screen’ (the
posters appended to her clothing) which worked as both sanctuary and grotesque
spectacle. It is sanctuary because the ‘screen’ provides a familiarity for legitimate
newspaper seller and political advocate. It is, at the same time, a grotesque
assemblage, because public street hawker is an un-familiar, masculinist contrary
image for a middle-class, well-educated, and well-groomed woman. Complaints by
newspaper editors and academics who said she had “taken the subject [of politics]
out of the region of argument … into pranks” substantiate this view (Prof Ernest
Scott, Chair of History, University of Melbourne, cited in Bomford, 1993, p. 122).
Proper political advocates “strategise” (de Certeau, 1982, p.xix), while this “woman
intruder” resorts to “cunning stunts” and “pranks” (Bomford, 1993, p.122) thereby
‘proving’ her marginality even as she transgresses it.

The dilemma for the press was that they could not decide “how to depict a woman
who was as good as a man” and “a dangerously persuasive woman” (Bomford,
1993, p.223) who “engaged in pranks” (Bomford, 1993, p.122). It is both and
neither a natural and un-natural participation in political advocacy, and, as with van
Schürman, it illustrates how assemblages are existentially assembled, dis-
assembled, and re-assembled by employing familiar and strange physical and

intellectual artifices and screens to make differences possible (Deleuze & Guattari
1988, p.258).

5.2.3 Boxed-in spectacles

An assembled masquerade can, according to Doane (1982), “manufacture a distance
from the image, to generate a problematic within which the image is manipulable,
producible, and readable” (p.87). If this is so, then what are the readings and
implications for women and/in leadership? The spectacle of Goldstein is a re-
configuring of the hidden boxed-in spectacle of van Schürman, because it highlights
the play of surfaces that refuse an interiority/exteriority binary. Goldstein’s multi-
layered, cross-gendered practices work in-between the ideas of female transgressor
and legitimate public advocate, and in so doing, de-stabilise traditional images of
woman, advocate, leader, and leadership at one and the same time.

Because political advocacy within public spaces is largely a history of men,

Goldstein’s ‘standing in the gutter’ alongside the regular newspaper boys,
challenged the predictable boundaries deemed proper and becoming for both a
woman of her position, and for a proper political candidate. That it was an
assemblage of some risk is reflected in the following response by suffrage
colleague, Miss Colley. Writing in Woman Voter (June, 1912) she claimed that, “the
moment of deepest humiliation in her life was when she met our president in the
street”. For this woman, there was a critical disjuncture in seeing her leader
surrounded by posters and newspapers, and dys-playing what seemed like a
grotesque parody of herself, even considering the seriousness of the suffrage cause.
As living-bill-board, Goldstein was enabled to be a political advocate, but at the
same time, her dys/appearance further distanced her from the mainstream political
community that she was trying to engage.

5.2.4 Stunted Stunts.

In determining what work this spectacular assemblage is doing, and the implications
for women and leadership, it is useful to consider Guy Debord’s (1983) statement in
Society of the Spectacle that “spectacle is not just a collection of images, but a social
relation among people, mediated by images” (p.1). Goldstein’s conflictual and
spectacular advocacy stunt tells a lot about the socially mediated relations between

men and women at the time. This is evidenced by Goldstein’s self-description,
published in Woman Voter, May 1912:
People streamed by, some amazed, some amused, a few openly
contemptuous, but no buyers. … In the evening we took our stand in Chapel-
street Prahran. Acute misery swept over me once more…The first thing that
roused me was my own numb scared white face looking hard at me from a
convenient advertisement mirror.

Goldstein’s status as political advocate within mainstream (male) politics at that

time could not be monitored and regulated in terms that were set by her, because of
the gendered workplace relations operating at the time. Adkins (1995) argues that
for women, “workplace identities are not universally available as resources, and, in
particular that identities are not constituted as the cultural property of the self (or
individual) which all workers are free to exchange” (cited in Adkins & Lury, 1999,
p.604). And further, that embodiment for women is not achieved through
normalising processes, or through constant re-iteration, or as a result of
performativity. “Rather it is seen to exist – indeed, required to exist, independently
of a woman’s behaviour” (Adkins & Lury, 1999, p.604).

As a woman, Goldstein’s enactment of ‘political advocate’ was a gendered relation

of production that could not be mobilised as a resource for the development of the
new identity of ‘woman politician’, because unlike male politicians, a woman’s
embodied identity precludes her “from acting as a culturally individualised worker
with performable identities” (Adkins & Lury, 1999, p.604). As a result, for a
woman to engage in political advocacy in a public place, she was simply a stunt
woman attracting what was considered an ‘appropriate’ response: blame, mockery,
disparagement and rejection because of her ‘choice’ to engage in transgressive acts
and behaviours. Even though her advocacy work was making a real contribution to
women’s access to political power (and perhaps because of this), the abnormal
tactics that enabled some success, were also stunting in terms of building acceptance
as a ‘normal’ or ‘proper’ leader.

Angela Carter (1987) suggests that there is an ambiguity and critical conjuncture of
mirrors as mirroring reality: ‘Women and mirrors are in complicity with one another
to evade the action I/she performs that she/I cannot watch, the action with which I
break out of my mirror, with which I assume my appearance’ (p.71, my italics).

Desperately trying to assume a ‘normal appearance’, the boxed-in assemblage
mirrored not normality, because for a marginalised woman advocate at that time this
was impossible. It mirrored the self-portrait as stranger, as other. What she saw
reflected there was the self as a cultural repository of ‘humiliation’, because for a
woman to place herself inside and outside the box of ‘propriety’ and ‘legitimacy’,
she was already guilty of drawing adverse attention to both ‘woman’ and ‘political
advocate’. Goldstein’s response to the labour of the fleshly gendered body was
constitutive of thinking current at the time. It demanded correction for this
‘erroneous’, abnormal performance, which, in turn, highlighted the definitions and
boundaries of both woman and politician.

Even at the moment of enacting successful political advocacy, Goldstein’s lone

performance called into being both woman and not-woman. When she looked into
the mirror she recognised the paradox she was straddling: her yearning to enter
politics as a proper legitimate politician alongside her desire to appear as normal,
proper and respected woman. This oxymoronic situation, and the impossibility of
this desire, is encapsulated in this quote from Angela Carter (1987): “I am most
lonely when I am alone” (p. 67). ‘Normal’ political advocacy (that is, advocacy
enacted by male politicians) was increasingly held up against the ‘abnormal’ tactics
employed by suffrage women such as the lone and lonely suffrage woman as
transgressive spectacle. Notwithstanding the arbitrary, constructed, and contingent
nature of political norms and power, the tactics worked to further marginalise
women advocates, even as they demonstrated why women were engaging in politics
in the first place. In a seemingly diverse political culture the entry of a woman as
political advocate was revealed as a parodic double: limitation and opportunity, lack
and excess, normal and abnormal, all of which are mutually involved and

5.2.5 Disorderly women in their place

Goldstein’s performance points to the double crossings of becoming both and
neither powerful and vulnerable, alone and surrounded, visible and invisible,
mocked and respected, shamed and lauded, exposed and concealed. It was an
ordinary and extraordinary spectacle of a woman dis-assembling and re-assembling
herself into a hybrid entity involving both painful and liberatory political advocacy.

Natalie Davis (1987) explains it this way: ‘The image of the disorderly woman did
not always function to keep women in their place … it could both widen
behavioural options … and sanction riot and political disobedience’ (p.131). The
dis-orderly spectacle of Goldstein did not ‘keep her in a woman’s place’, because
she was clearly a successful political advocate for women’s suffrage both in
Australia and overseas. Nevertheless, her new place was restricted and
circumscribed, as evidenced by the grotesque representations of suffrage women in
newspapers and magazines, which emerged as punishing responses by male power-
brokers to the (feared) strong and feminine public enactments of ‘woman’ (see
Appendix Eight, p.370). Politics was clearly a key site of contestation between
public and private domains, but finally, Goldstein and other suffrage activists could
not be ‘kept in their place’ because, in reality, ‘her place’ as woman politician was
‘no place’.

Becoming something ‘other’ is a dynamic process, because it challenges what a

body can do, and is seen to be able to do. “Becoming is a dynamic verb with a
consistency all its own… it is not imitation or identification with something else”
(Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.239), because it has the power to alter and re-
configure what already exists and, in so doing, assembles something different.
While this is not about linear progress and ultimate success, it points to both the
possibilities and the risks here. Goldstein re-inhabited an older traditional image of
political advocate in the public gaze. As woman-as-living-bill-board she
interrogates the terms of normalcy and advocacy, and in so doing re-configures both
woman and political advocate, at the same time as she demonstrates the price to be
paid by women for such “high-risk body politics” (Russo, 1994, p.11-15). Such
opportunistic advocacy tactics illustrate that social practices and embodiment are
modalities of being, rather than specific ‘narratives’, ‘sites’ or ‘truths’ from which
particular meanings about leadership spring.

The traditionally repressed, rejected and under-analysed grotesque dys/plays of

women leaders in the public domain makes visible the machinic assemblages of
woman-leader-plus-necessary-scaffolding that women put onto or into themselves
to engage in proper leadership. Therefore, rather than re-working ideas of
resemblance to singular models of classical, rational male leadership, those harpies,

harridans, and hirsute grotesque dys-plays of women leaders work in between the
stereotypes. They open up for scrutiny overworked tropes of homogenous, heroic
leadership, and dys-place traditional feminist/patriarchal leadership narratives.
Goldstein and van Schürman illustrate that for women, the process of becoming a
leader questions how re-inhabiting older structures and styles of leadership might
effect or alter the practices and conventions associated with both leaders and

5.2.6 Cyborgian/hybrid identity

In the same way as it was impossible to think of van Schürman as separate from her
academic box, it is important to refuse the separation of Goldstein from her
embodied and living billboard assemblage. As a dynamic and fluid machinic
assemblage, the living-billboard made Goldstein’s public enactment possible. It is
not a case of the women being “enslaved by their machinic assemblages, but rather
… they act as the medium between subjects” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.457-
458); as props or screens to realise their desires. Straddling the paradox of
abnormally normal, Goldstein endeavoured to ‘correct’ her boxing dys/dis-play, by
re-working the being-looked-at-in-a-public-billboard, and at length she was able to
After the first agonising moments [of newspaper selling] one loses
consciousness of one's self in the deep interest aroused by studying those
who come and buy and those who don't buy, and the work grows more and
more interesting (cited in Bomford, 1993, p. 116-117).

Re-working the gaze, by gazing back in a different way, she re-assembled a

different self-identity to present as both ‘abnormal’ and ‘normal’. Normality and the
norm can be seen, therefore, as that which is habitually performed, even though
performing ‘normally’ “is the most difficult performance in the world” (Angela
Carter, 1987, p.77). Both van Schürman and Goldstein illustrate the paradoxical
desire and fear of challenging the norms. The responses to their enactments point to
the misogyny inscribed in ‘losing one’s femininity’, ‘making a spectacle of oneself’
or ‘alienating powerful men’ (Russo, 1994, p.12). Clearly, there are no real
guarantees of success.

5.2.7 Accumulating spectacles
In terms of what significance this has for women and/in leadership, the historically
contingent spectacle of Vida Goldstein engaged in public action, advocacy,
authority, and ‘the fighter’ in the public domain has moved away into symbolic
representation due to the “immense accumulation of spectacles” (Debord, 1983, p.2)
that now overlay and subsume historical figures and political acts such as these from
the past. The photographic re-presentation of the dense, but “enigmatically
transparent” (Russo, 1994, p.162) spectacle of Goldstein-as-suffrage-leader selling
political papers in the streets, creates glimpses of the cultural context in which these
performances took place. However, Derrida (1981) cautions that “the history of the
concept” (in this case the spectacle of suffrage leader Goldstein in the street), and
the “history of the meaning of being” (woman as suffrage campaign fighter, woman
as authoritative suffrage leader, as early 20th century political candidate, and so on)
reveals a “measure of the work that still remains to be done” (p. 59) to understand
how such images work; in this case, images as a dis/dys-placement of political
leaders and leadership.

The leadership trajectories dis/dys-played here are both transgressive and

transformative, as evidenced through the ever-increasing recordings and documents
about Goldstein’s leadership in photos, cartoons, and written observations over the
past one hundred years. She defied predictable stereotypical description, because of
her paradoxical assemblages incorporating both masculinity and femininity: here
was the “wit and eloquence of an orator, the knowledge and foresight of a
statesman, the devotion and courage of a brave woman” … and a woman who was
also “very much part of the main-stream middle-class, well-educated and stylishly
dressed”. This feminine and strong woman threatened the status quo, because she
could not be easily discounted or ridiculed; she was like them (a challenging
situation for a woman) and not like them (a risky position for a woman). As
“simulacrum” (Baudrillard, 1984) such dys/placement provides decipherable codes
with which to break the boundedness of the stereotypical boxing in of women in the
workplace. She was that terrible spectacle of articulate, efficient, non-emotional and
passionately caring woman who was seen to be “as good as a man” but also “one of
those dangerous and persuasive women” (Bomford, 1993, p.223). To be a woman
who was assembling herself to be “as good as a man” as a woman, puts ‘woman’,

‘man’ and ‘leadership’ at considerable risk, because the effect for all is profound
and radical change.

5.2.8 Grotesque boxes to virtually make it

The spectacle of Goldstein as photographic image can also be read as a discursive
space that speaks about the context and the place of political women leaders within
specific social, political, and cultural contexts. According to Debord (1983) who
takes a Marxist view of the significance of spectacle, “[t]he spectacle is capital to
such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image” (No.34, p.6, my italics).
What is temptingly easy (but should be resisted), is to construct her as a
romanticised political icon, a feminist ‘heroine’, or an attractive stereotype based on
a linear narrative to selfishly serve an emancipatory politics of change. Spectacle, in
these terms, has the power to replace the lived ‘real’ world with a choice selection
of accumulated (and often privileged) images that eventually cross the threshold of
their own possibilities, and move into the realm of stereotypes and iconography.

What is also illustrated in the risky performances of both van Schürman and
Goldstein was that they both and neither threatened the status quo, and so, they
could not be easily ridiculed, discounted, or dismissed even at moments when they
seemed most alone. Goldstein was described as a combination of “progressive even
radical ideas”, a “threat to conservative forces”, “an accomplished public speaker”,
“a rational, un-emotional, articulate and efficient woman leader and politician”, and
a politician “who disliked lobbying” (Bomford, 1993, p.222-223). The “dilemma for
the popular press [was that] they did not know how to depict” (Bomford, 1993,
p.222-223, my italics) a rational, articulate, efficient woman as leader: such
descriptors were clearly oxymoronic, and, therefore, monstrous. As with van
Schürman, the photographic image of Goldstein stands as another silent sentinel to
the complexity of women’s involvement in contexts where “participation never
amounts to belonging” (Derrida, cited in Ashley, 1994, p.3). Yet, at the very least, it
creates a substantial presence.

5.2.9 Identity-formation as hybridity
The discourse of risk surrounding Goldstein’s life and work left “room for chance”
(Russo, 1994, p.11), because women leaders can never be seamlessly assimilated
into male-dominated models of leadership. However, these new and different hybrid
identities also placed them in danger of being in need of correction and/or
punishment. Even though she constantly strived to be an acceptable and normal
public and political figure this womanly/militant, feminine/fighter, manly/womanly
advocate, living billboard, political advocate, suffrage leader, woman, and street-
fighter, remained a compellingly grotesque assemblage that the status quo had
difficulty in accepting. That ‘she was forever burdened with representing the new’,
finally resulted in her early retirement and disappearance from public and political
life, which is, as Russo (1994) suggests, one of the dangers of “high-risk body
politics” (p. 11-15) for women in public spaces.

Even considering the increasing diversity of women’s embodied assemblages and

their enactments, whenever women move into new and different areas of work, it
seems inescapable that their similarly-different enactments will be revealed as
“endlessly perverse and in excess of the normal” (Russo, 1994, p.101). Indeed, in
terms of leadership, it is questionable whether the phrase “feminine grotesque …
threatens to become a tautology, since the female is always defined against the male
norm” (Russo, 1994, p.12). The many powerful representations of the female
suffrage body as grotesque, suggests that there is a mutually constituted age-old
relationship between the two terms. This is not to suggest a re-dredging of the
‘essences’ that lay submerged in earlier feminist texts, but an understanding of the
work of the grotesque as a new and radical possibility.

The image-events of woman-in-a-box and woman-as-living-bill-board can be

mobilised for an analysis of women and leadership because they point to Haraway’s
(1991) ideas about “a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a
creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (p.1). For women leaders,
therefore, identity and political subjectivity can be re-figured in terms of fracturing
essentialism and the myths of female lineage and genesis. An example of this can be
seen in the increase in newspaper and journal publications with corresponding
cartoon images that occurred at the end of the nineteenth century when women were

newly entering the public domain. These images make visible how sections of
society responded to women political activists who were taking up a contradictory
and contested place as both advocates and women in the public and political

These hybrid creatures of fiction and social reality can be seen in the colourful
representations of the suffrage women as a range of freaks and “monstrous cross-
breeds” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.157). Women were represented as “ancient
decayed gentlewomen” (Fraser, 1984a, p.370), the grotesque, harridan, harpy,
hirsute and strident de-feminised masculine woman, man-hater, mentally-deranged
hysterical woman, home-deserter, eccentric, dowdy, home-spun, but also as “very
much part of the mainstream, middle-class, well-educated and stylishly dressed”
(Bomford, 1993, p.223) (See Appendix Eight, p.370 for cartoon images). Such
descriptors reveal how the idea of ‘woman’ enacting both the world of domesticity,
home and hearth, and the public, political world, put them at some risk, because this
monstrous ab-normality threatened the status quo in multiple and complex ways.
Yet, as the following statement suggests, the repetitive dice throws were both and
neither enabling and constraining. “In spite of defeat, the victory is already ours”,
claimed Goldstein, in the Woman Voter, 22 September, 1914, because as “factious
and freakish bodies” (The Age, 16 March 1916) within masculinist sites of
leadership, a woman’s work and mode of being was never done, but an ongoing
process of becoming. “That twelve years after her first campaign, it was still
necessary to prove she was a fitting representative of the people” (Bomford, 1993,
p.140) underscores the constant dis-assembling and re-assembling required of
women leaders in the public domain.

5.2.10 Making a stand on a soap box

The ambiguity of a woman political leader making a spectacle of herself “standing
in the gutter”, on a stump, soap-box, or on political platforms and hustings,
incorporates both the transgressive and the mainstream. Boxes, as an image, work to
open up analytical and practical possibilities for enacting other kinds of
corporealities, subjectivities, and ways of being as leader. The incorporation of
middle-class and political radicalism, feminism and conservatism, grotesque and
mainstream, educated and un-educated, and so on, indicates that corporeality and

leadership are multiply constructed, deployed and experienced across a variegated
social field (Nast & Kobayashi, 1996, p. 89). The experiences and images of women
such as van Schürman, Goldstein and others reveal a consciousness of desire, and
the desire of consciousness, for a different political and public trajectory of being;
for example, to study, to vote, and to be eligible for election to parliament. The
powerful spectacle of the boxing-in of women, whether hidden in a box, or visibly
framed in a living-billboard, allowed women to place themselves in new spaces. In
this way, they are part of history, at the same time as they are visibly making

Dissenters of unorthodox views had little choice, but to turn to open air venues to
express their alternative views, even though they were often harassed or arrested
by police. The Yarra river bank in Melbourne, The Domain in Sydney, Brisbane’s
King George Square and Centenary Place, and Speaker’s Corner in London’s
Hyde Park, were all famous places for political soap-box speeches and debates.
Even though they too were historically male-dominated domains, suffrage women
uch as Goldstein were also making a stand on soapboxes in these public places to
fight for justice, politics, and the social contexts for women. The soapbox or
stump was an alternative, cheap, portable, accessible, bodily prop with the
necessary elevation for a person to become politically visible in public places. As
a political contrivance, it was symbolic of democracy and alternative political
messages, and if the situation became too threatening it was simply picked up and
carried away. Easily replaced, it was the perfect prosthetically-enhancing tool to
create a visible political performance, and, over time, it became a potent symbol
of alternative political advocacy.

Historically, power and political control has been integrally linked with the
control of public spaces; who has the right to use public space, and how and why
this has developed - significant issues in a study of women in new and different
public leadership spaces. Suffrage advocates were also motivated by the idea that
there was a productive intersection in the paradoxical “might of weakness and
strength of simplicity” (Tickner, 1988, p.88). For Goldstein, and other suffrage
women, to stand tall naturally as public leaders was difficult, particularly when

those in power and the media “did not know how to depict them”, or relate to
them (Bomford, 1993, p.223). As a result, they recognised the need for
assembling different tactics and paradoxical hybrid identities to exceed the
historical constraints of gender, and to achieve in diverse social and political

In challenging the status quo, soap-boxes became machinic, prosthetic

contrivances of possibility, to extend bodily limits for standing tall and creating a
presence. The idea of presence necessarily contains the idea of absence and dys-
appearance; that is, enactments can be seen as overstepping the bounds of
propriety for specific sites/sights of leadership. It is hypothesised that it remains
so, with some variations, today. The following example of the Hon Mrs Bronwyn
Bishop MHR performing as politician in the public domain provides a point of
analysis to explore this hypothesis further.


Brought-to-book on a box (of books).

This figure is not available online.

Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library

Figure 3: The Hon Mrs Bronwyn Bishop MHR

Source: The Australian, Wed 5 January, 1994, p.7.

5.3.1 Brought-to-book, on a box (of books)

As a particular instance of the work of a present-day ‘soap-box’, Australian

Federal politician and Minister in the Howard Government, Bronwyn Bishop
MHR, invited to address an audience at an official function, had to stand on a box
behind the lectern in order to be sufficiently visible. Her Press Secretary
subsequently commented that “it happens all the time” (telephone interview, May
16, 2002). The occurrence was subsequently depicted in The Australian (Wed, Jan
5, 1994) in a political cartoon showing Mrs Bishop perched on four large books
behind a lectern. This depiction of her as the subject of a political cartoon, works
as a mini-narrative that draws upon, and reinforces, some of the taken-for-granted
meanings about women and/in politics. It provides an example of how the
gendered body is both product, and producer of gendered readings through its
iterative performances, and how boundaries are consolidated and challenged
through these everyday performative acts by women in the public gaze.

As a subject for commentary, the Bishop cartoon graphically re-frames the way
the rhetorical arguments and assumptions about women in politics are both
legitimated and de-legitimated through the representation of a woman who is
shown to need the prosthetic elevation of four thick tomes to properly enact the
role of politician. As a metalanguage for discourse about the socio-political social
order of women politicians, the cartoon positions readers within a discursive
context of ‘meaning making’ to open up alternative views about the particular
political and gender issues under analysis. This interrogates the symbolic
meanings about how a woman politician, both properly and grotesquely, navigates
a pathway through the everyday tensions and demands of what purports to be
‘normal’ political life.

5.3.2 Cartoons as social production

It could be argued that cartoons are to official portraits, as carnival is to church.

Cartoons have been integrally linked to political life for centuries, and are equally
legitimate as a commentary on the socio-political, as is any photographic or
discursive text, because they link into the social imagining of the particular

culture and community in which they exist (Sawer, 2001). It can be argued then,
that what makes photographs and visual images philosophical and reflexive is that
they simultaneously give rise to, but also defeat, theory. As an extension of this
idea, cartoons create spaces for doing serious parodic work essential to liberal
thinking, by forcing a “thinking-about thinking about” (McWilliam, Lather, &
Morgan, 1997, p.1) specific people and issues. In this case, it is the serious
parodic analysis of the enactment of a woman politician in the public domain.

Perhaps even more than the photographic image, cartoons produce a confusion of
the categories and boundaries of the ‘natural’, the ‘real’, culture, context, gender,
roles, meaning, and so on. Because they work through parody, irony, and satire,
cartoon images create meanings that are continually shifting into multiply layered
complex alliances, where the elements of the depiction are shown to have a
disjunctive relationship to each other (Edwards & Chen, 2000; Benoit,
Klyukovski, McHale, & Airne, 2001). In other words, in cartoon depictions there
is always difference, because cartoons per se, demand and desire a different gaze.
That is, the act of speculation becomes a difference (Derrida, 1997).

The clumsily balanced performance of Bronwyn Bishop MHR, on a stack of

books while attempting to present a speech, captures a socio-political appearance
and dys-appearance in the guise of a satiric or comedic mini-drama that is never
separate from, but enmeshed into, the political context from which it emerges.
According to Edwards and Chen (2000), the persistence of political cartoons, such
as this, is a reflection of their power to mix seriousness, humour, profundity,
pomposity, simplicity, conflict, spectacle, satire, tragedy, success, and so on, for
incisive socio-political critique. However, they are none the less serious for being
playful, mocking, and satirical. Bakhtin (1984a) explains it this way; that when
“lower genres” penetrated the “higher levels of life and literature”, “official
seriousness and fear could be challenged, could be abandoned in everyday life”
(pp. 13, 72, 97). Cartoons do not try to resolve oppositional logic, but, instead,
work as an inescapable politics. In ‘humanising’ Bishop as woman in need of
elevation, the cartoon depiction derides her as politician. It is this double-bind or
paradox of multiple spheres that woman-as-leader necessarily straddles, but

cannot easily inhabit, that is cleverly depicted in this image. Therefore, the
‘authenticity’ of the Bishop cartoon, is, in Baudrillard’s (1983a) terms, the
authenticity of ‘the simulacrum’ – as interplay between repetition and difference,
and ridicule and acceptance, of the visible differences and familiarities fore-
grounded here. The cartoon challenges the notion of any original ‘truth’ or
‘ultimate truthfulness’ about Bishop’s ironic political performance, by mocking
truth claims and revealing the self-deceptions therein. In this sense, the cartoon
allows an analysis of Bishop-as-subject “as data to be accounted for rather than a
source for a privileged account of the world” (Foucault, 1982b, p.208).

The comic representation of this woman and politician as social production, also
works as a ‘simulacrum’ (Baudrillard, 1983a). Instead of ‘the real’, we are shown
the politician’s world through a cartoon-mediated image, which thrives on
uncontainable differences and dislocation, on multiple meanings and the
carnivalesque, so that we see only an image of an image. The value of such
cartoon-mediated images as a legitimate object for the analysis of women in
leadership is that they open up a different form of investigation, where the lived
world and the cartoon image can exist side by side, but never merge, nor reduce in
complexity. In this way, reality is revealed to be that which is already reproduced
(Baudrillard, 1983a, p.146).

As an analytical tool, the inclusion of a recent cartoon allows for a productive

genealogical shift from the time and space in which Van Schürman and Goldstein
existed, to the particular historical moment in which Bronwyn Bishop MHR is
currently working. The shift in representation from the hand-etched self-portrait
of van Schürman, to the photographic representation of Goldstein, to the cartoon
image of Bishop is an important move to understand how the social production of
each of the women works and what each of the images is producing. In this case,
the parodic depiction of a woman politician performing publicly while standing
on four thick books as a boxed prosthetic device constitutes a cyborgian
assemblage that has, as its intent, legitimate public display.

As with ‘woman-in-a-box’ and ‘woman-as-living-billboard’, there is the
insistence for holding together the cyborgian assemblage of ‘woman-on-a-box’ as
‘cartoon-depiction-plus-figure-plus-box’ to reinforce the idea that the
performance can only exist through the interdependence of each of these comic
elements. The cartoon, therefore, dismantles and foregrounds the elements of
what constitutes the public performance of woman as leader, by revealing the
prostheses and negotiations required for that performance. The assemblage
demonstrates how the assembled political performance of Bishop becomes both
‘spectacle and producer of spectacle’. There is no attempt to ignore the oddity of
the assemblage as human enlargement; it is insisted upon, due to the importance
of the box as prosthetic aid. However, the public recognition of this woman’s
need for an aid is instantly stacked against current norms underpinning legitimacy
and credibility.

5.3.3 Dismantling, for the naming of parts

Dismantling, identifying, itemising, and analysing the elements in this cartoon

depiction of body-of-woman-plus-prosthesis is potentially damaging and even
dangerous. This is because the rendering of a woman politician as an ungendered
and unsexed figure for analysis, runs the risk of reducing corporeal woman to
merely a collection of dissected human bits and body-parts. However, to
understand the elements of performing within a discursive and material
framework requires an exploration of the work of each element in relation to the
whole assemblage of woman-as-leader. It is an inescapable move for analysing
and understanding the norms of corporeality, and how these intersect with the
performances of women leaders in public. To enagage in such altered
understandings demands gazing in a different way at the body of ‘woman’
performing publicly. As Barthes (1981) suggests, it is about developing a process
that “leads the corpus I need back to the body I see” (p.4), to understand what is at
work in the bodily performance of a woman leading. Nevertheless, in dis-
assembling the woman leader as figure for analysis, there is also the imperative
for re-assembling that figure as embodied woman; re-membering both the parts
and the whole together, to re-view the contradictions and cohesions between the
constitutive elements.

The move to dis-assemble the cyborgian hybridity of woman leader in the act of
political performance involves the careful Deleuzian move to render woman as
assembled cyborg, or as figure of “embodied memory” (Braidotti, 2000, p.159).
In other words, the assemblage as ungendered and unsexed enables an exploration
and analysis of the way external influences and elements are infolded onto, or
into, the body of a woman leader, and simultaneously unfolded outwards as
effects that can be read. It is, in Deleuze and Guattari’s (1988) terms, a process of
“deterritorialising” (pp.333-334), or destabilising identity to open up other
possible configurations of multiple subject positions that are beyond binary
differences. The cartoon depiction of Bishop also evokes Russo’s (1994)
grotesque or monstrous, because it plays with the representations and discourse
that surround the political body such as Bishop, who, as woman, seems a factious,
“freaky body-double” (Braidotti, 2000, p.162) to the norms of masculinist

5.3.4 A line figure of a woman

As Edwards and Chen (2000) argue: “cartoons are often seen as iconoclastic and
irreverent … [but cartooning is] also a fundamentally conservative enterprise in
that they rely on existing stereotypes and formulations to create meaning” (p.375).
The depiction of Bishop, standing on four large books behind a stereotypical
lectern containing two microphones, portrays her as a short, squat, ample woman
with thick ankles, sensible and feminine clothes, large beads or quite possibly
pearls, as reflective of her status and class, ubiquitous bee-hive hairdo, arched
eye-brows, a prominent jaw, long nose, and a large, full mouth, the protruding lips
coloured with a striking, deep, bright lipstick. Her nail-polished thumb is jauntily
pointing sideways in matey jocular style, towards Malcolm Fraser, former Prime
Minister of Australia, and now elder Liberal Party statesman, who is seated beside
her. With a broad smile, she says, “He’s fantastic”, which he accepts with what
appears as a serious and resolute demeanour. Fraser’s prominent and enlarged jaw
is thrust out in an upward, rugged, masculinist style as he immutably scans the
audience (his audience?), his gaze extending upwards and outwards beyond
Bishop. He does not smile. He is seriously clothed in a conservative double-

breasted suit, shirt, and tie. This juxtaposition of woman politician Bishop, with
stereotypical male leader Fraser, evokes assumptions about normality and
abnormality in terms of proper leaderly enactments.

Through parody, these assumptions work performatively as discursive norms,

rather than pointing to any ‘essential truths’ about leading or leadership. Yet, the
norms of gender and leadership as seen in this depiction do not exist in a vacuum.
As a form of ‘evidence’, they highlight how Bishop is simultaneously both
politician and excessive to the norms of politics, due to her ‘otherness’ as woman.
The specific set of images, or elements that constitute Mrs Bishop, particularly the
large lip-stick covered mouth, high hair, and ample maternal body are familiar
images in cartoon depictions of her. The stereotypical image of Fraser, as
patrician politician, incites no comment, because a male politician or leader in a
dark suit is within ‘normal’ expectations for ‘normal’ leaders. In contrast, the
matronly, motherly image suggests a dys-play for politician in the public domain
even as it contains recognisable components of legitimate politician. Bishop’s
statement – ‘He’s fantastic’ – incorporates complex connotative meanings:
fantastic, as marvellous, incredibly great, fine, wonderful; fantastic as odd, quaint,
eccentric, grotesque; as fantasy, imaginary, groundless, not real; as capricious,
fanciful, irrational; or even, as grossly impractical. The satirical textures evoked
by the numerous meanings are reinforced by the disjuncture between the comedic
bodily performance of Bishop, and the cool control of the masculinist legitimated
leader. Troubling echoes emerge from the accompanying headline, because if
‘he’s fantastic’, then what is she, why, and how?

Self-referential ironic parody, as reflected in this headline, is reminiscent of the

headline on the political poster worn by Goldstein: Torture. By order of the
Government which parodied her tortured performance as woman-advocate
standing in the street selling newspapers. “He’s fantastic” parodies Bishop’s
contrasting enactment as politician seen to be in need of physical enhancement.
Alongside this, the public ritualising of the little woman praising ‘another great
man of history’, while subversively undermining traditional beliefs about male
leadership, through the juxtaposition of fantastical, odd, unbelievable, or even

grotesque, may be one explanation for her very wide (crocodile?) smile. In this
way, it is image operating as ‘simulacra’, as an image of an image, where the
cartoon depiction thrives on dislocation and uncontainable differences to the
expected referential stereotypes. The depiction hovers between parody,
seriousness, and subversion, because it both supports and undoes fixed notions
about Bishop, speaking performances, and political leadership.

5.3.5 Awkward moves as unbalancing acts

The cartoon assemblage of woman-plus-box works to un-sex woman as politician

even as it renders her as ample, plump, maternal woman. This is due to the visible
disjuncture between maternal matronly woman and legitimate male politician, that
is clearly highlighted by the ‘role model’ seated beside her. Ontologically, the
interaction of codes of difference and similarity, parody and seriousness allows
for the communication of sensitive personal, bodily and performative issues and
ideas that are harder to address in words, as is the case in this satiric portrayal of
Bishop. The cartoon is not attempting an exhaustive argument about women,
politics, or women’s political performances, but in utilising exaggeration in a
deliberate way, it points to particular views, or ways of understanding, that are
recognisable by the broader community in which it circulates.

Tensions emerge as to why a woman would be depicted standing on a box, why a

guest speaker is required to present in this way, and what this says about politics
and women when they are engaging in odd balancing acts such as this. Through
irony and satire, the cartoon works to punctuate any pretentiousness and
pomposity (not uncommon descriptors of politics and politicians), for the serious
purpose of making visible the thinking underlying the ideas or issues. The image
of Bishop shows the leakages that can occur through permeable boundaries,
because meanings can never be fully contained in a parodic cartoon form that
offers multiple meanings. “The monstrous body” argues Braidotti (2000), “fulfils
the magical or symptomatic function of indicator of the register of difference:
which is why the monster has never been able to avoid a blind date with women”

The cartoon encapsulates in a seemingly simple visual form, complex and
sophisticated concepts about the personal and political composition, or cyborgian
assemblage, of Bishop as woman politician. Obviously, the more that is known
about an issue, the more complexity can be understood in the representation of it,
but the idea that a woman is depicted as standing on books, or on a box, to be
‘properly political’, when we know without even asking that the tall patriarch of
the Liberal Party (former leader) Malcolm Fraser does not, forces a different
analysis of this odd and comic image. Perhaps the image of the suit works
similarly to the image of the box – they both reinforce gender stereotypes. What is
troubling is that the figure of Bishop seems more constrained by her boxing-dys-
play rather than liberated by it. As a box enabling the enactment, it also entraps
the moves she can make. It answers the conundrum for the audience, as to who is
the more fantastic – Bishop or Fraser, and why we are fascinated by this visual

In trying to untangle who is the master and/or mistress of this public event, and
who has the best vantage point, shows, again, that political enactments are
paradoxically entwined, because it is not about what it means but what it
produces, and what it does. Having the vantage point of the height-enhancing
box, paradoxically further enhances the standing of the role-model male politician
juxtaposed beside her; he who is able to stand tall unaided and independently.
Bishop’s prosthetically-enhanced performance reinforces the importance of a
view, but in this case as a quite spectacular view.

In understanding the depiction, and how it relates to the social and political
context in which it circulates, the reader engages with both the fact of the display
- Bishop as politician speaking in public, and the form of the display - parodic
figure standing on books as a box, as prosthesis. Even though much has been
made of ‘Little Johnny Howard’ (Australian Prime Minister The Hon Mr John
Howard MHR) in the popular press, within the light of other obvious norms of
leadership, his stature is only one difference among a number of recognisable
similarities. By virtue of Howard’s structural-interconnectedness with the

dominant norms of white, male, middle-class, married, professional lawyer he
reinforces sameness even though he differs in this one aspect – height. That
Bishop is also white, married, middle-class, and a lawyer is subsumed in the
dominant and diverse images of a matronly, maternal, short, rotund, female body
who represents multiple differences, one of which is the need for a prosthetic
device of a box to enable her to properly appear. As ‘other’ to masculine political
norms, the figure of woman as politician is rendered ludicrous and comic, but at
the same time it works as a testing-ground for thinking about both politics and
leadership. Cartoons are indeed subversive, because they point to how ‘truths’ are
constructed and learned.

5.3.6 Boxing the naturally inauthentic

The ways in which a ‘normal public performance’ is organised has visible

material or practical ‘reality’ effects, and if variations, deviations, or gaps occur,
they can appear as a dys-appearance because they seem to lack expected
‘authenticity’. Apparent in this image is the potential misfit of the woman
politician as a speaker at a public function, a supposedly normal, ordinary, and
natural occurrence, but shown here as in need of extra devices to link it properly
to the normal. As with van Schürman’s self-portrait, Bishop too is partially veiled
or screened – but this time behind a lectern, and, again, the embodied
performance is integrally linked with the lectern. The lectern is the material and
immovable object behind which the performance takes place, but it is also
essential for the proper performance of Bishop the politician to be seen and heard.
It cannot be changed in height or structure (in reality many of the lecterns are
larger box structures where, for most women, nothing is visible from the chest
down, evoking a ‘John the Baptist’ image – bodily enactments so screened that
they are reduced to becoming a disembodied ‘head on a plate’).

Lecterns are proper and common contexts from which to speak, but as a small,
short woman when the ‘proper’ size of person for a lectern is obviously taller and
larger requires careful negotiation. It suggests to the audience that women are not
the natural speakers/leaders, because a real/natural leader would fit properly with
the lectern. However, just as the box-as-prosthetic is the agency that gives

meaning to the image of Bishop – it becomes the focal point of view for the
audience. Even taking into account the flawed reasoning underpinning this
thinking, the implication for women leaders is significant. Insisting on her right to
perform as authoritative leader, the one-size-fits-all rules and norms of
masculinity are shown to not fit as easily with the body of woman as they
naturally do with most men. Trying to appear natural, while balancing on a box
behind a lectern, makes visible the appropriations required by women to appear as
naturally proper and properly natural leaders. As a consequence, it is through
visible actions and behaviours such as this, along with the reactions and responses
that they provoke, that the work of becoming a leader is made more apparent,
even accepting that meanings and understandings “can be radically arbitrary”
(Shaviro, 1995, p.43). The satiric image can, therefore, be understood as both
reaffirming and distancing the norms of political speaking. It points to the
potential comic or parodic value in noting this discrepancy, evoking
Shakespeare’s (1600) claim that there’s “much ado about noting” which is never

5.3.7 Just not up to it - prostheses for elevation

The use of boxes for elevation is nothing new. Some male actors and politicians
throughout history, such as actor Alan Ladd, US President Roosevelt, and,
according to actress Nia Vardalos (2002, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) many of
the current US male actors, have required the assistance of such a device. In a
recent interview Vardalos (2002) claimed: “All the leading men in LA are 4ft
11in (1.5m). They come in with boxes to stand on to audition” (The Courier-
Mail, Sat 31 Aug, 2002, BAM, p.12). However, the wheelchair, the box, the
devices for properly performing in public have generally been subsumed and
seamlessly concealed into the performance; under rugs, out of frame, out of shot,
not visibly in focus. In the case of Bishop, the act of depicting the box ruptures
the seamlessness by revealing the lectern as a transparent frame through which the
melding of a prosthetic device onto the womanly body is foregrounded. In so
doing, it introduces the contrary idea that she could not properly stand tall, as a
proper leader (such as Malcolm Fraser) does – she needs assistance. Or even,
perhaps, that as a woman, she is just not up to it. As Wilson (1995) argues, “any

consideration of prostheses has to take into account their potential failure, and
even the conditions under which they might go wrong or turn against their users”
(p.242). The small woman leader shown balancing on high-heels and a box, as
height-enhancing devices, works to constitute woman as deficit even as they
enable; woman politician found out and found wanting, because she lacks the
necessary physical height to engage in an ‘invisibly proper’ leadership
performance as a ‘real’ leader should and would.

The prosthesis, as supplementary device, enables the performance, but it also

reveals the inadequacy of certain physical bodies, but not others. As has been
argued, to be identified as needing an unusual, artificial device, seems somehow
“out of place” for a political leader, and may even be considered as diminishing
the bodily enactments of politicians as a whole (Wilson, 1995, p.249). From here,
it is a simple metaphorical leap to the conclusion that, at least for certain women,
they are not to be taken seriously as proper leaders, because they sometimes look
odd, funny, queer, or out of place; ‘not sufficiently authentic’. Nevertheless, there
is the simultaneous element of possibility, that as a dys/functional dys/play of
leadership, it has the power to make other things happen, because a prosthesis is
an artificial bodily device that carries “a different operating system from that of
the body” (Wilson, 1995, p.243). If prosthetic devices can make other things
appear and happen, then they may also reveal both the risks and the possibilities.

The generative potential lies in the mix between the bodily and the technological,
because expected norms are blurred and the potential for alternatives are only
partially understood. As a particular sort of depiction, it offers insights into
leadership enactments, as assembled image-events. It points to the possibility that
comic depictions of women, as border-line figures, have the potential to dismantle
and displace traditional images of leadership. This odd, uncomfortable and
humorous image of woman as politician “simultaneously repels and attracts,
comforts and unsettles” (Braidotti, 2000, p.166), as a figure of respect and
aberration. “As a different operating system” from the traditional body of
leadership, Bishop’s hybrid leadership dis/display is both singular and multiple in

performative expectations and outcomes. Bishop, as comic ‘other’, signifies a
devalued difference, but also the alternatives of difference and becoming.

5.3.8 Problems solved and made

The media focus insists on both woman and box – not one without the other,
because like any prosthesis, the device is an indivisible bodily extension that
forms an inseparable cyborgian intersection between corporeality and
performance. In understanding the work of this assemblage, Haraway’s (1991)
ideas about texts, surfaces, and cyborgian techno-bodies, are evoked. In rupturing
the seams of invisibility, the world of the cyborg offers the alternative of joint
kinship between bodies and machines, as partial and contradictory identities (p.8).
It is through the differentiated boxed assemblage that Bishop solves the problem
of height deficit, but in so doing, the enactment of leader is problematised,
because of the visibility of, and need for, the box.

The cyborgian assemblage of politician-plus-box, therefore, is both a problem

solved and a problem made. It enables her to be properly visible, and, therefore,
able to take her leadership position in public. At the same time, both the photo-
journalist and cartoonist undo the traditional leaderly display, by revealing that for
this Bishop, the moves can only be oblique; as a woman, her lack of height works
transgressively to detract from her appearance as authoritative leader. Her
feminine ‘otherness’ proscribes her from moving in straight lines to leadership;
there are constant traps to check-mate her even at the moment of legitimate career

As a political cartoon depiction, it is temporal and transitory, because it is

responding to a specific event in time. This 1994 image specifically refers to an
event that has now passed into the shadows of history. Even so, in terms of the
gendered representation of a woman politician, it continues to be a productive site
for analysis, due to its sharpened and condensed visual and rhetorical impact. This
particular depiction readily lends itself to political fantasy, as a “creative and
imaginative interpretation of events” (Bormann, 1985, p.5), but it is also more

than this. It forces commentary about acts of woman as leader in terms of
apprehension, fascination, respect, ridicule, legitimacy, and credibility. In so
doing, the image effectively taps into socio-cultural-political understandings of
how a woman politician assembles herself differently to do the job of politician –
similarly-differently. In one seemingly simple image, the necessary, but awkward,
moves demanded of this woman politician are brought into satiric focus.

The image, therefore, is a frame in which the performance works, to persuade

readers to think about the performance and its multiple messages. As a parodic
image, it is ‘simulacrum’ to reflect how specific versions of truths have been
constructed, how these are supported, what the contrary views might be, how
alternative ways of enacting leadership become discredited, and how meanings
are continuously unfolding. The debunking of powerful politicians is one of the
most familiar cartoon genres of all. However, this cartoon, while a debunking of
Bishop, is also a representation of a woman politician, highlighting ‘inadequacy’
and the parodic value of noting this. That Bishop, as woman leader on a box, must
keep smiling while maintaining her balance, poise, and concentration does not
escape notice either. As an image of a woman leader, it points to numerous
underpinning and hidden discourses of power and gender, which continue to
invite analysis.

5.3.9 Leadership as seen and seen through

Bronwyn Bishop occupies a space that was not available to suffrage women. She
is a legitimate, elected Member of Parliament. Even though Goldstein stood for
election five times (1903, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1917), this particular political space
remained out of a woman’s reach at that time. While accepting Bishop as
legitimate politician, the audience also recognises her soap-box performance as a
comic dys-play. For rules about particular acts, such as the act of public speaking,
to have any power at all, it demands the complicity of the surrounding society. In
exploring the impact of society on individuals, Deleuze and Guattari (1988)
observe that society is like the water around the fish, “it commands its members
to swim in that society as a fish in water” (p.288). Likewise, the un-spoken acts
of assembling, dis-assembling, and re-assembling oneself, as ‘a proper leader’,

cannot survive without the complicity of society that is programmed to
understand ‘leader’ and ‘leadership’ in terms of certain prevailing norms.

What is illustrated here is that the verbal and non-verbal elements of what
constitutes a proper/normal/effective speaking act as a public politician are, as
Sapir (1921) argues it, “spoken by none, written no-where, but understood by all”
(n.p.). However, when the prosthetic, machinic, scaffolding devices become
visible, the productive elements of the performance emerge. Bishop’s enactment,
consciously and sub-consciously, calls into question how audiences come to
expect what a ‘proper’ political performance entails, and what the unspoken
elements and rules are for both leader and politician: deep powerful voice, large,
embodied, masculinist presence, upright, middle-aged male in a dark suit,
controlled and dignified demeanour, and serious facial expression.

In this image, performative rules act as markers in knowing what to expect, how
to applaud, and how propriety is constituted by a subtle interplay between absence
and presence in terms of rules, rather than chaos. At the moment of revelation
when the camera and lights called the gaze towards the box, the tacit rules of a
leaderly speaking performance were in jeopardy, even though Bishop was clearly
a proper and legitimate political speaker. However, it is questionable whether she
was able to diminish the importance of masculinist power “and the question of the
king, who remains the lord of the game” (Angela Carter, cited in Russo, 1994,

5.3.10 Prosthetically natural

Van Schürman, Goldstein, and Bishop ‘stand’ as illustrations of how three women
have assembled themselves to perform properly within their particular historically-
contingent moments in time. The past ‘real’ is equivocal; none of these highly
specific enactments would be possible at other times, and so should not be held up
as prescriptive or generalised models of leadership, for then or now. However, by
questioning the organising practices underpinning the training of ‘natural’,
historically-located leadership, the performances point to the need for a re-
examination of the games of ‘truth and error’ required to achieve such states.

‘Natural leadership displays’ often go unnoticed, or are hidden, in much the same
way as ‘whiteness’ does/is in western cultures, until those moments when mutations
through a box or a bill-board calls them forward for scrutiny in a different light.

In rejecting questions about any 'real thing' (Baudrillard, 1983a, p.253), images are
revealed as assemblages “totally imprinted by history and the process of history’s
destruction of the body” (Foucault, 1986, 83). The work of these images of women
who are entering the public leadership domain, is to question what ‘real things’ have
been taken for granted in the ordinary, usual performances of leading. There is
benefit in re-thinking how meaning is attributed to 'the real' of leadership within
particular signifying systems, and as modes of representation of that real. In reading
the images of Goldstein, van Schürman, and Bishop, it is not to suggest that the past
is a time of simpler or more worthy values, because there is no value in the past in
and of itself. It is not that the photo and texts of the spectacle of women leading
emit any clear or certain signals of truth, but show how the human/machinic/
cyborgian lines of flight defy, leak out of, or are emitted from the box, glimmer
through the half-opened box, through cracks in the box, or seem monstrous because
the box is revealed.

The examples included here work as screens on which projected images of women
and leadership performances transmute into continuously unfolding becomings.
They reflect points of intersection between bodies of discourse, new coalitions,
“nodes in fields, inflections in orientations …and where embodiment involves
significant prosthesis” (Haraway, 1991, p.195). The “significant prostheses” made
visible in the embodiment and practices of women leaders point to the methods
women are using to assemble themselves ‘properly’ in order to be regarded as
sufficiently authoritative, sufficiently feminine, and sufficiently leaderly. This
immediately draws attention to the idea that a prothesis is a supplement for various
forms of dys-functionality. As disciplinary enactments, it points to how women are
defined by, and subject to, various forms of dys-functionality resulting from their
location within masculinist rules constituting propriety and legitimacy.

5.3.11 Creatures of a fictive social reality
The image-events of woman-in-a-box, woman-as-living-bill-board, and woman-on-
a-box do not belong to linear history and nor do they work as fixed structures. They
represent moments in time where bodies erupted and juxtaposed across an only
partially temporalised plane of meaning. The different and new identities that
rubbed up against these ordinary and extraordinary bodies had identifiable effects.
In this way, women leaders are transmuted as “creatures of social reality as well as
creatures of fiction, cybernetic organisms, hybrids of machine and organism”
(Haraway, 1991, p.1). That is, they function within and without masculinist norms
for publicly performing, by wresting to themselves the necessary prostheses for
enabling leadership performances to successfully occur.

To engage in prosthetically enhanced hybrid performances, constrains women as

something ‘other’ to the norms in which they are situated. Woman as leader,
therefore, becomes spectacle in the public eye. The interaction between cybernetic
and organic bodily elements constitutes a condition of possibility for women and
leadership, because the technically produced assemblage offers a way to produce
and reproduce a range of subjectivities, such as woman as leader, woman as
advocate, woman as politician, woman as judge, as military commander, and so on.

This is not to suggest some ultimate success, but to argue that these hybrid or
cyborgian, assemblages offer women leaders a way to contest and rework the
narrow definitions of feminine identity and subjectivity. As Haraway (1991) puts it,
cyborgs remind us that we are always embodied. Cyborgs are situated knowledges
with embodiment; however, the ways we are embodied are never simple. Cyborgian
prostheses may confine women by seeming to be odd hybrid assemblages, even as
they enable leadership to be performed in various enlarged, enhanced, or
heterogenous ways. As a fracturing of binary essentialist myths about women and
leadership, and by forcing a re-configuring of the embodied enactments of women
leaders, they expand the narrow boundaries surrounding the way leadership is
constituted and enacted. Examining the historical and discursive interplay among
differentiated bodies and embodiment, moves thinking beyond individual women
towards an understanding of how subjectivities are produced and reproduced in the
hope of stimulating new ways of being properly leaderly and gendered.

5.3.12 Boxes to enable constrained leadership moves
The cyborgian assemblages constituting the bodily enactments described in this
chapter, offer constrained play for similar and different moves, but they also limit
the performance; the limits of submitting the body to the constraint of the box, the
weight of attaching the body to a bill-board, or the discipline required to balance on
a box behind a lectern. Surrendering the body to these restrictions turns the spotlight
of the public gaze towards these prosthetically enhanced public performances,
which puts the women at risk of censure or parody, at the same time as it enables
the attainment of certain goals. As these examples suggest, such dialogic spaces of
contradiction produce the conditions for thought to fold back over the past in new
processes of becoming something more diverse, which then works for better and
worse. Every re-combination of the practices and processes of leadership emerging
from the introduction of women into senior positions acts to both re-inforce and re-
configure leadership, but never with any guarantee of success. Heterogeneity and
the grotesque contradictions set up though these bodily enactments make possible
the idea of becoming no singular leaderly body in particular, but singularly multiple
in the face of contested leadership norms.

While making a difference, the public performances of women such as van

Schürman, Goldstein and others represent “a statistical aberration: an improbable
accident, a fortuitous encounter, an irreproducible singular event” (Shaviro, 1995,
p.47), rather than being part of any narrative of progress and emancipation. The
women in leadership story is not about linear progress to an end point called
equality or equity, but more about perpetual becomings, and endless mutations and
transmutations of an aberrant kind at singular moments in time.

For women leaders, the work of prostheses, boxes, or frameworks as cyborgian

assemblages need interrogation, because the everyday performing within ‘real’
masculinist leadership contexts creates both opportunities and risks and women can
and do fail. For women, the transitions into such positions of power are not easily
mutable. These three historical examples illustrate the naivety of thinking that any

woman can transmute herself into a powerful public leader.28 The boxing dis/dys
plays outlined here offer no simple alternatives to ideas about leadership and
leading. Instead, they are proposed as troubling supplements to extend limited
modes of thinking about women leaders and leadership to move beyond the ‘glass-
ceiling, matter of time, critical mass’ theories. Goldstein and van Schürman present
us with moments in time where there was no easily identifiable before – no memory
traces for women - and few identifiable role models of seniority and success. The
political and academic contexts current at the time, involved singularity and
homogeneity of approach, rather than multiplicity. For the women represented here,
there is a visible playing out of a desire for something ‘other’ that involves both
difference from, and sameness to, existing power structures. Where innovative
assemblages emerge, they represent moments of chance and repetition to generate
multiplicity, while also highlighting differences.

As has been argued, women in masculinist environments provide provocative points

of departure in a study of how women assemble themselves as properly performing
in sites/sights of leadership. The making of these assemblages or boxes, effaces
biography, because they work to de-familiarise linear biographical details, rather
than smoothing them out for orderly understanding. To point to the ‘scrupulous
fakes’ (Spivak, 1989) among the stereotypical ‘real’, is to underscore the many
ways women leaders assemble, dis-assemble, and re-assemble themselves to juggle
difference and sameness within the public domain. This is not a reassurance that
women, such as those illustrated here, can be ‘as good as, or same as, a man’, but
that these anomalous instances of women enacting leadership in the public domain,
show leaderly performances to be more multiple, and open to unforeseeable
transmutations. In leadership frameworks of singularly distinct identities, women
may, in fact, need to be ‘odd’ in order to be ‘proper’.

5.3.13 Cyborg multiples must be made

Whether male or female, it seems that leaders are necessarily condemned to
performing their leadership in the public domain. For women leaders, prostheses,
whether boxes, billboards or cyborgian hybrid assemblages still continue to be an

The numerous examples of senior women in the popular press, such as Dr Carmen Lawrence, Janine Haines, Ros Kelly,
Joan Kirner, Cheryl Kernot, Natasha Stott-Despoja, among others, are raw evidence of this.

integral element of a woman’s public leaderly performances. Deleuze and Guattari’s
(1988) notion of assemblage, multiplicity, and ‘becoming’ stresses that “the
multiple must be made, not always by adding a higher dimension, but rather in the
simplest of ways … with the number of dimensions one already has available –
always n-1” (p.6, italics in original). In these terms, becoming is about assembling
and re-assembling the number of dimensions one already has available. Aviation
pioneer, Amelia Earhart (1932) believed in the power of improvisation and
assembling apparently unrelated and everyday commonplace things and experiences
– taking up whatever was possible at the moment. She took up ideas and things that
seemed to her, to be promising at the time, rather than pretending to have any long-
term highly developed action plans. As Earhart (1932) herself tells it, “[a]lmost
everything comes in handy eventually” (p.36, cited in Russo, 1994, p.186).

The putting around, putting upon, taking to themselves, appropriating, or mobilising

multiple assemblages of being, reveals how these three hybrid performances also
incorporate elements ‘in the simplest of ways’ with what is available to them at the
time. The multiply constructed elements which frame them in tactically odd or
grotesque ways, allow the viewer to recognise and reject, be present and absent in
the reading of them. Appearance as dys-appearance, and leadership as difference, is
commonplace in the negotiations required of women leaders in terms of a dis/dys-
play as the grotesque, frightening, or monstrous. What is clear from Sinclair and
Wilson’s (2002) comments about leadership is that commanding attention, as both
woman and leader, facilitates and limits a particular sort of risky work. The risks
result from drawing attention to the paradox of women’s demands for similar status
and identity and the counter-pressures this provokes.

In terms of leadership, Van Schürman and Goldstein were not leaders per se, but
they were improvising experiences and ‘stunts’ that suggested they were learning
how to be leaderly through specific kinds of appropriations and assemblages. It can
certainly be argued that they were leading performances in terms of a woman’s
entry into academia and politics. For better and worse, what is learned from such
spectacles is that leadership performances for women involve more than just a quick
make-over. Like the carnival characters Bakhtin (1984b) describes who straddle
high and low culture, women leaders in male-defined domains draw attention to the

idea of “women as spectacle and women as producers of spectacle” (Russo, 1994,

5.3.14 Boxes: So what for women and leadership?

The three illustrations here demonstrate that for women to perform and survive as
leaders in the public domain it demands different models of leadership “that can
overlay existing one[s], like a transparency” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988, p.280).
Assembling and re-assembling themselves to fit within the existing masculinist
models of leadership requires women leaders to assemble the necessary tactics to be
recognised as legitimately and properly leaderly. The challenge for women is that
these hybrid assemblages and tactical departures may appear dis-orderly, or as a
dys-appearance within leadership norms, even when women most desire to get it

In understanding these points of contradiction, and how they simultaneously

produce enabling and constraining leadership enactments, it requires a dismantling
of the elements constituting hybrid assemblages to reveal the work of the prosthetic
devices that women appropriate to enact leadership in masculinist contexts. In
mobilising identities to be seen as properly leading, as an assembled cyborgian
leader, women become both spectacle and producers of spectacle because their very
hybridity challenges traditional understandings about leaders. The spectacle of
performing differently, however, can position women’s enactments of leadership as
cunning stunts, pranks, or parodies, because, as illustrations of social relations, such
spectacles point to where the paradoxes lie.

To search out those moments in time where women erupted into the public domain,
introduces the idea that women leaders are constituted as a double-crossing of the
normal and abnormal, powerful and vulnerable, alone and surrounded, visible and
invisible, shamed and respected, exposed and concealed, and ordinary and
extraordinary. Their very disorderliness may sanction social and political
disobedience in order to achieve leadership, but because of their differences, there
are no guarantees of success and no safe solutions. Prosthetically enhanced
cyborgian assemblages are productive in helping to realise woman’s desire for
proper leadership, but because of the paradoxical intersection of the dis/dys-

appearance of the woman leader in the public domain they are both productive and
restrictive. The etched drawing, the photograph, and the cartoon depiction show
three examples of the freaky bodies of women enacting leaderliness. They work as
simulacrum, as images of images to show that ‘reality’ is already that which is
reproduced, and authenticity is an interplay between repetition and difference, the
known and the strange. The ungendering and unsexing work attempted here
analyses the deterritorialised figure of women performing publicly, in a bid to
identify and name both the parts and the whole. As a dis-assembling and naming of
parts and prostheses, it is also important to re-assemble that figure as woman.

5.4 Conclusion: Making spectacle speak

In anticipation of the moves into the next chapter, the illustrations presented here
represent visible, but mute, moments in time that include no actual utterances from
the women themselves. The women examined here are figures of leadership
enactments rendered ‘speechless’. Jane Gallop (1997) argues, however, that
spectacle must be made ‘to speak’ to be properly understood. Further to this, she
also states that “[f]or spectacle to speak, it must be broken down into its
components” (p.7) to make visible what is involved. Spectacle analysed in this way
has the ability to not only present images, but also tell about them for different
understandings to emerge. The following chapter includes data where women are
literally ‘voiced’, as an attempt to make explicit how other forms of leadership
enactments occur, and to what effect.

Describing this move in terms of ‘utterance’ or ‘voice’ is to distinguish a shift from

the drawings, photographs, cartoons, and other images and representations of
women that have been analysed here. To include personal utterances of women
currently working as leaders is a way of augmenting the textual and pictorial modes
of representation. Addressing an expanded range of the elements and components of
the spectacle of women leading, the ‘voiced’ interview and textual data opens up a
different kind of scrutiny and analysis. The expanded spectacle questions whether it
is possible for women leaders to play with roles, practices, pleasure and
empowerment (Gallop, 1997, p.15). And further, what implications there might be
in the doubleness and dialectical relationship between the problems and successes,

the restrictions and potential, and the absences and forcefulness of women
assembling and performing themselves as leaders in the public domain.

To do this work, Chapter 6 includes a juxtaposition and close reading of interview

data and quotations, alongside current texts and images of women leaders to identify
the negotiated components of spectacle and performance as they relate to the
everyday enactment of leadership. The elements to be analysed here include:
personal and public interview data, speeches, texts, and quotations in the public
domain, visible behaviours as represented through photographs and visual
representations, prostheses, appearances, performances, image, style, clothing,
uniforms, props, rituals, habitus, and masquerade. The analysis also includes the
discursive practices that frame and surround women. In analysing how women
entering the public domain become spectacles, requires investigating how they are
dressed-up, re-presenting themselves and performing, but also how they appropriate
the complex socio-political and cultural constructions within which they are
working. A detailed analysis of what the composite images, elements and tactical
departures represent and become in terms of women leading is also addressed. The
purpose is to understand how the tactical components are working within current
enactments of leadership, how women become both public spectacles and producers
of spectacle, and how this mirrors the power relations in which they exist.

This analysis of women leaders is positioned in various sites/sights of business,

politics, law, the military and the academy. As indicated in previous chapters and
extended here, is the imaginative and rigorous work demanded by the questions,
‘Whose bodies, what work are they doing, and how do they relate to women leaders
and leadership?’ The analysis questions the stability and instability, along with the
possibilities, of the body politic for better and for worse. Obviously, something
particular and peculiar is at work when the images of women leaders continue to
inform and entertain, fascinate and be fascinating, in ways that paradoxically
undermine and defy stereotypes. That women leaders in the public domain continue
to incite fear, delight, support, criticism, defensiveness, rejection, and pleasure,
reveals the boundaries and alignments in which leadership is enacted, and how these
limits create blue-prints that can be read.

6.0 Behaving Badly for the Good
6.1 Four Ironic Categories
6.2 Legitimate Cross-Dressing
6.2.1 Legitimacy as mixing and un-matching
6.2.2 Tactical cross-dressing
6.2.3 Correct dress as incorrect assemblages
6.2.4 Propriety and forms of add-dress
6.2.5 Assembling the dress properly
6.2.6 ‘Visibility is a trap’
6.2.7 Make-over but not made-over
6.2.8 The feminine masks
6.2.9 Lacking greyness- changing suits
6.2.10 Corporeal elements
6.2.11 Subversive strength
6.2.12 Objects and detachable parts
6.2.13 Breaches and trouser-parts
6.2.14 ‘Facialising’ leadership
6.2.15 Meaning escapes everywhere
6.3 Assertive Defence
6.3.1 The face is a veritable megaphone
6.3.2 ‘Facialising’ presence
6.3.3 Tactical ‘donuts’ – supportive attacks
6.3.4 Assemblages carefully learned
6.3.5 The weightiness of correct weight
6.3.6 Breaking the rules to be the exception and the rule
6.3.7 Iron in the irony
6.3.8 Behaving badly for the good
6.3.9 “Take it like a man and give it like a woman”
6.3.10 Peerless dis-arming tactics
6.3.11 Double-edged sword of working in doubles
6.3.12 Bodies-in-connection
6.3.13 Repeating similarly-differently

6.3.14 Never the I of the storm
6.4 Proper Blasphemy
6.4.1 The material power of language
6.4.2 ‘General ideas are the General’s ideas’
6.4.3 ‘Disorderly polyphony’
6.4.4 Name games of fidelity and infidelity
6.4.5 “Get yourself a speaking part”
6.4.6 ‘The best and worst of times’
6.4.7 Grotesque reflections
6.4.8 Becoming legitimate is becoming multiple
6.4.9 Stroppiness as spectacle
6.5 Humanly Machinic
6.5.1 ‘Women as spectacle and as producers of spectacle’
6.5.2 Anything may go
6.5.3 Dancing up a storm
6.5.4 Sexual union – centre stage
6.5.5 ‘Irritatingly unabsorbable’
6.5.6 Yes Sir, No Sir
6.5.7 ‘A second coming’
6.5.8 Assembling C³I

6.6 So what, for women in leadership?


6.0 Behaving Badly for the Good

In Chapter 5, women performing within sites/sights of masculinist leadership were
interrogated as assembled spectacles of women leading in the public domain. The
data, in the form of historical accounts, examined three prominent women in various
male-defined public contexts. They were examined in terms of an identity that is
‘assembled’ rather than ‘developed’ or ‘acquired’. The purpose of this chapter is to
examine how contemporary women leaders and senior women are currently
assembling themselves to perform as leaders in the public domain. The analysis
investigates the specific leadership tactics mobilised by women leaders currently
working in established male-defined and male-dominated domains.

The data to be read in this chapter examines the leadership practices and processes
actively constituting the performances of women leaders who are currently working
in law, business, the academy, politics, and the military. The aim is to identify and
understand the negotiated decisions and/or tactical departures undertaken by women
in their striving for legitimacy and credibility as leaders. The data design includes
verbal accounts of the everyday practices of leadership, provided by women leaders
themselves. These accounts, gathered from personal or published interviews, are
augmented by visual representations, media depictions, academic papers (some of
which they have written themselves), and material written by them, or about them,
that is available in the public domain - newspapers, biographies, journals,
magazines, texts, and speeches.

The interviews included here make no claim to an exhaustive overview of all

women leaders, but are offered as particular insights into the everyday leadership
enactments of senior women in leading roles in male-defined and male-dominated
domains: Judges, Chief Commissioner and Chief Detective-Inspector of Police,
CEO’s, Chairs of Boards, RAAF Air-Commodore, Prime Ministers, Premiers,
Ministers, senior politicians, Union leaders, and so on. A range of women in senior
positions within the nominated sites, were considered as potential research subjects.

For example, data about business leaders has been drawn from a recent article in
Business Review Weekly (Gome & Ross, 2002) which includes a list “of the twenty
most powerful business women in Australia” as identified “by the Australian
business community” (Gome & Ross, 2002, pp.50-63).29 The article also presents
current statistics and excerpts from interviews with the twenty women and other
leading business identities, some of which has been incorporated into the analysis to
create a more extensive picture of women leaders and leadership.

In some areas, such as the military and the judiciary, there are very few women in
senior positions, and so all members of the cohort can be identified for possible
inclusion in the analysis.30 For example, there has only ever been one woman judge
on the High Court of Australia31, four women judges on the High Court of the UK,
fifteen women judges in Queensland, one woman Police Commissioner (Victoria
Police), and one woman military leader in the RAAF.32 This also raises ethical
considerations about the ease of identification, so care has been taken to conceal the
identity of specific women if/when necessary. If anonymity or privacy was
requested certain identifying aspects of the interviews were omitted to respect that
requirement, but when the data was drawn from the public domain the women have

In order from 1 to 20: Margaret Jackson, QANTAS Chairman; Jillian Broadbent, Economist, Bankers’ Trust, Director
Reserve Bank, Westfield America Trust, Coca-Cola Amatil; Helen Lynch, formerly Westpac, now a Director Coles Myer,
OPSM, Norwich Union Financial Services, Westpac, Southcorp; Gail Kelly, CEO St George Bank; Catherine Livingstone,
former CEO Cochlear, Director Telstra, Goodman Fielder, Rural Press, Chairman CSIRO, member of Aust-China Council,
NSW Innovation Council; Belinda Hutchinson, Non-Exec Dir Telstra, QBE Insurance, Crane Group, Energy Aust, TAB,
State Library of NSW, Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital; Helen Nugent, former Westpac Director, Nugent Report on the Arts,
Director Macquarie Bank, Macquarie Airports, Chairman Sydney Airports Corp and of Aust’n Operations of Swiss Re,
Director Australia Post, TAB; Catherine Walter, formerly Clayton Utz, Director NAB, Melbourne Business School, Aust’n
Stock Exchange, Orica, Qld Investment Corporation, Chairman of Fed Govt’s Business Advisory Group; Linda Nicholls,
Chair of Australia Post, Director of Southern Health Care Network, Healthscope, Perpetual Trustees, Insurance Manufacturers
Aust, Sigma Pharmaceuticals, Smith Family; Carolyn Hewson, former Director AMP, Director CSR, AGL, Chairman of
AGL’s Superannuation funds, Director SA Water Corporation, Neurological Research Foundation, Breast Cancer Research
Foundation, Flinders Medical Centre; Ann Sherry, CEO Westpac’s Bank of Melbourne, former head of Office of the Status
of Women and most senior female bureaucrat, former head of a division of the Victorian Dept of Health; Katie Page, CEO
Harvey Norman, Domayne Chain; Maureen Plavsic, MD Seven Network; Dianne Grady, former Director Lend Lease,
Director Wattyl, Woolworths, BHP Steel, AIM, Trustee of Sydney Opera House, vice-president of Chief Executive Women;
Elizabeth Bryan, first woman to run a large financial organisation - former GM NSW State Super and Investment
Management Corp’n, MD Axiom Funds Management and then CEO Deutsche Asset Management. Currently, Director Caltex
Aust, Ridley Corp’n, WMC, UniSuper, Melb Airport Corp’n, MediHerb; Elizabeth Nosworthy, “Queen of Queensland”,
former lawyer, Director David Jones, Ventracor, prime Infrastructure Group, Stanwell Power, General Property Trust, Port of
Brisbane Authority, former Dir Telstra; Carla Zampatti, Fashion business CEO, Chairman SBS, Director McDonald’s Aust,
Carindale Property Trust, AGSM, STC Foundation Trust; Adrienne Clark, former Chair CSIRO, Director WMC,
Woolworths, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, Head of Uni of Melb’s Plant Cell Biology Research Centre, Victorian Ambassador
for biotechnology; Barbara Ward, former advisor to former Prime Minister Paul Keating, Director Commonwealth Bank,
Delta Electricity, former CEO Ansett Worldwide Aviation Services, Trustee of Sydney Opera House, Director Allens Arthur
Robinson; Naomi Millgrom, Group CEO Sussan Corporation, Chair Melb Fashion Festival, Director Howard Florey
Institute, Aust’n Business Arts Foundation. (Business Review Weekly, Oct 3-9 2002)
Justice Mary Gaudron, High Court of Australia; Lady Justice Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Lady Justice Brenda Hale, Lady
Justice Mary Arden, High Court of the UK; President of the Court of Appeal of Qld Justice Margaret McMurdo; Federal
Court Justice Susan Kiefel; Qld Supreme Court Justices Margaret White, Margaret Wilson, Roslyn Atkinson, Catherine
Holmes, Debra Mullins, Anthe Philippides; Family Court Justice Michelle May; District Court Judges Helen O’Sullivan,
Patsy Wolfe, Debra Richards, Sarah Bradley, Julie Dick. See Appendix Two, p.354 for full list.
Justice Mary Gaudron, the first and only woman to sit on the High Court of Australia retired in February 2003, and has been
replaced by a man, Justice John Dyson Heydon, from the NSW Supreme Court of Appeal.
Air Vice-Marshal Julie Hammer.

been named. As a further measure, the interview fragments are not specifically
named except to identify the profession in which the woman works.

In the case of women leaders who are the only women in a particular site, such as
Air Vice-Marshal Julie Hammer (RAAF, currently Commandant of the Australian
Defence Forces Academy), Justice Mary Gaudron (High Court of Australia), Chief
Commissioner Christine Nixon (Victoria), and leading business women such as
QANTAS Chair Margaret Jackson, and CEO of St George Bank, Gail Kelly, the
interview data and images are drawn almost exclusively from the public domain –
newspapers, magazines, public speeches, television, and radio – and these are
specifically identified. Choices have had to be made as to what is finally included,
so within the necessary limits, the analysis is an attempt to present a range of views,
ideas, and issues focused on the thematics under analysis, and drawn from as many
women as possible. The personally conducted interviews were designed not as life-
histories, but as open-ended, semi-structured opportunities for women to detail their
leadership practices and tactics, and to reflect on the media representation of them
and about them.33

Because “no one research method (or data collection method) stands on its own”
(Silverman, 1993, p.19), the interviews augment and interact with the textual and
visual materials to extend the quality and depth of the analysis. The interviews
invited the women to reflect on the tactical methods they are deploying in
assembling themselves as leaders in the public domain. Public texts and documents,
including newspapers, magazines, biographies, and autobiographies are a valuable
and easily accessed source of data (Silverman, 1993; Silverman, 1997; Parker,
1999) about how the media account for, represent, and depict women leaders in
terms of leadership and leading. Daily newspapers, magazines, and published texts
have historical legitimacy and wide circulation across most sectors of society. This
makes them a valuable resource for understanding the current socio-cultural and
political organisation of leadership, and how it is being represented and
communicated to the public at large. The value of weaving interviews, texts, and
visual data lies in the potential for displaying the contradictions and paradoxes, the

See Chapter 4, ‘The theory/method relationship: How to read woman/leader’ (pp.102-149) for expanded discussion of

method and interview data.

repetitions and differences, of women leaders and leadership in male-defined

As in Chapter 5, ‘Dys-appearing Performances,’ the ‘technological’ and ‘human’

are not considered as oppositional, but as contiguous and relational in the everyday
enactments of leading. The deliberate interweaving of the utterances of women
leaders, descriptions of their tactical enactments of leadership, alongside textual and
visual images and representations, is designed to provide further understanding
about the following:
 How current women leaders can appear as different, odd, strange, or
awkward as leaders within specific sites/sights of leadership, in the public
 How women leaders are negotiating the demands of performing as
legitimate leader and woman, understanding the paradoxes involved for
women to appear as ‘properly leaderly’ in those domains.
 What women leaders do (rather than what they are) to properly appear. As
leaders and women, how “they understand themselves, speak themselves,
enact themselves, judge themselves, present themselves, and relate to
themselves and others” (Rose, 1998, p.172). What the practices of
subjectification are which constitute and shape the woman-as-leader,
understanding that this is always shifting and in a process of becoming. That
is, how women leaders are assembling, dis-assembling and re-assembling
the self to negotiate the practices and demands of being a woman leader in
male-defined domains.
 What the contemporary tactics and technologies are in these various
assemblages and practices of leading, including identifiable linkages
between assemblages that are being deployed, expanded, and appropriated
by women to appear as ‘properly leaderly’ within current leadership

In examining how women as leaders “are both spectacle and producers of spectacle”
(Russo, 1994, p.165), part human and part machinic hybrid, the analysis, therefore,
is a particular type of reading across the data. The focus is to see what woman-as-
leader ‘produces’ by way of spectacle, and the effects and outcomes of this in male-

defined leadership contexts. The analysis that follows is an intermingling of the
ideas indicated in the previous chapter, current media depictions, texts, and
interview data, as a lens for interrogating what is involved in performing as a
‘proper’ woman leader managing the daily enactments of leadership. It is not about
identifying simple linear progressions for women and leadership – comparing ‘what
is with what ought to be’ for instance, because, as previous chapters have indicated,
leadership is never that simple. As the analysis in Chapter 5 revealed, women can,
and do sometimes, sit awkwardly as leaders in male-defined domains, and there are
no easy solutions. Becoming a ‘legitimate’ and ‘credible’ woman leader is elusive
and complex: it is amenable to completion, but as a constant process of becoming, it
is never in, or of itself, complete (Butler, 1993; Grosz, 1994a; Leder, 1990; Shilling,

As indicated in Chapter 5, it is not simply about the imitative strategising of existing

leadership principles and practices. Strategies are for those with and within power,
who have a proper place, from which “a calculus of force” (de Certeau, 1982, p.xix)
can be developed, systematised, and communicated out to others. In contrast, tactics
are “a logic of action for the displaced”, the ‘other’ of power (de Certeau. 1982,
p.xix). Tactics insinuate themselves as disparate, non-systematised fragments (ideas,
behaviours, utterances, actions, presence, silence, gestures, and so on), that depend
on the moment, the timing, a specific opportunity. Tactics require a readiness, a
sense of “always waiting and on the watch for opportunities that must be seized on
the wing” (de Certeau, 1982, p.xix). Tactics work as “lines of flight” (Deleuze &
Guattari, 1988, pp.88-90) for stabilising ‘proper’ enactments of leadership, but the
recognition and identification of the use of tactics points to the differences and so
“deterritorialises” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988) both the enactment, and the
understandings, of leadership. Tactics work as “cutting edges” that cut into, capture,
connect, and carry meaning away (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.88) in different and,
sometimes, strange directions. They fragment belief in the immutability of
traditional understandings – in this case, of leadership principles and practices.
Caution lies, though, in what (if any) power they contain, to re-inscribe the
legitimacy of different sorts of leadership practices and understandings.

6.1 Four Ironic Categories
McArdle and McWilliam (2003) draw on Rorty (1989) to argue that, “[o]ne of the
key imperatives for working as an ‘ironist’ is to diminish the possibility of a final
vocabulary of explanation … to allow the possibility of thinking opposites together”
(p.1). For a study of women leaders and leadership, it allows the possibility to think
about appearance as dys-appearance, propriety as impropriety, similarity as
dissimilarity, equality as bi-symmetry, legitimacy as “scrupulously fake” (Spivak,
1983, p.186), conformity as non-conformity, verbal propriety as blasphemy, and
support as assertiveness. This is because performing as a woman leader within
male-defined conventions of leadership demands managing both similarity and
difference, simultaneously.

In thinking such opposites together, for elegance and manageability four ‘ironic
categories’ have been generated for closer analysis of the research data. These
1 Legitimate cross-dressing: What is questioned here is the relationship
between corporeality, legitimacy, and propriety for the embodied woman
leader in the public gaze. The analysis examines the ways in which women
are negotiating the complex rules, practices, and protocols associated with
dress, symbols, and the technologies of gender. The data-as-evidence
examines leadership appearance as forms of dys-appearance, and dressing as
a form of properly-improper cross-dressing. It considers the risks involved
for women leaders, in ‘getting leadership right’. This is no simple matter, as
the following statement from a woman journalist, directed at former
politician Cheryl Kernot, indicates: “Well sister, here’s a tip: if you play
dress-ups be prepared to be dressed down” (Lee, 2002, p.11).
2 Assertive defence: The research here examines the multiple tactics that are
being deployed by women leaders when their presence generates spectacle.
Technologies of representation, both visual and textual, as a means of
producing ‘social truths’ (Foucault, 1978) about sameness and otherness in
leading properly are examined. The analysis explores the tactical
manoeuvres resulting from the spectacle of the presence of woman in male-
defined contexts, including the tactical shifts for re-configuring the rules and
rituals of leading.

3 Proper blasphemy: This category examines the tensions between correct
and incorrect language use and styles, including the material power of
language to produce hybrid leaders within specific contexts and in certain
ways. The analysis here makes visible the tactical manoeuvres underpinning
what goes unheard, but recognised, in the “disorderly-polyphony” (Haraway,
1991, p.156) of women leaders. How the use of properly-improper
“blasphemy” (Haraway, 1991, p.146) draws attention to the contradictions
and unresolvability of the utterances and linguistic performances of woman-
as-leader who is both and neither legitimately placed within male-defined
4 Humanly machinic: Re-thinking woman-as-leader, as a hybrid of both
machine and organism, and as creature of socio-political and cultural reality
who is always assembling and becoming ‘other’ is another significant shift
in this analysis (Haraway, 1991; Deleuze & Guattari, 1988). Specific tactics
for manipulating public spaces and objects within those places are explored,
because identity formation and subjectification are never purely linguistic
operation. Performing propriety as impropriety, as a woman leader, refers
also to the assemblages involved in the use of objects, space, and specific
workplace enactments as instances of organisational power. This analysis
also includes the significance of screens and screening as tactics for cross-
disciplinary moves. And finally, the tactical re-assembling of the machinic
assemblage of “C3I … communication and intelligence, to subvert control
and command” (Haraway, 1991, p.175) as operative elements in the human-
machinic interface, for engineering a similarly different leadership is also

6.2 Legitimate Cross-Dressing

As Chapter 5 indicated, when women take up positions of seniority in traditional
male-defined domains, the gendered norms within those contexts require the
deployment of certain sorts of tactical responses and manoeuvres, for women to “be
seen to be getting it right” (Judge, 2000). In assembling “getting it right”, woman-
as-leader draws a different form of public scrutiny, because appearance can dys-
appear in terms of expected ‘rules,’ norms and conventions of male-defined

Women leaders work within specific frames and modes of enactment that are both
similar to and different from their male colleagues. The embodied leader - judge,
CEO, Commander, Chief Commissioner, and so on - functions within contexts and
conditions that privilege certain sorts of enactments over others, most of which have
been defined for and by men. This includes the body, and how it is framed and
publicly appears through dress, clothing, insignia, and other accoutrements, in a
context where image has become yet another powerful commodity of exchange.
Within male-defined norms of leadership, women leaders must necessarily negotiate
what it means for a woman to become ‘sufficiently’ and ‘properly’ leaderly. This
suggests the involvement of precise and specific manoeuvres for achieving
leadership recognition, acceptance, and legitimacy within male-defined contexts.
The analysis that follows is an exploration of the tactical manoeuvres and
appropriations that draw on traditional aspects of male-defined leadership, and
particular aspects of femininity, in the endeavour for becoming a ‘proper,’
‘credible,’ and ‘legitimate’ woman leader.

Clothing, rules of dress, and rituals associated with leadership have multiple aims
and functions which directly affect how image is represented, read, and received.
Even though they do not embody, unproblematically, a specific symbolic content,
clothing, uniforms, and insignia work in multiple and complex ways. They structure
boundaries, define limits, reinforce expectations, reduce uncertainty, enhance
recognition, symbolically link the collective body, highlight status, unite members
within each site/sight and body of leadership, strengthen existing norms, and help
perpetuate myths of a unified identity (Cavallaro & Warwick, 1998; Garber, 1992).
In saying all this, there is no attempt to identify where the body ends and where the
clothing, uniforms, or accoutrements begin. This is due to the interaction of the
many elements that constitute dress, uniforms, insignia, style, image, symbols, and
so on, that disperse the subject across multiple overlapping images and identities.

Women in this study spoke of the constraints imposed by an intense media scrutiny
of their image and their performance as a leader, at the same time as they are
enabled by “a political process that seeks to extend visibility and legitimacy to
women as political subjects” (Butler, 1990, p.1). This is because of the normalising

verbal and non-verbal languages through which women leaders are represented, and
that work to both reveal and distort assumptions of ‘truth’ underpinning “the
category of women” (Butler, 1990, p.1). It is through this inter-relationship between
gender, politics, language, and media-representations that the tensions between
image and identity emerge. Image, in terms of women leaders in the public domain,
involves how others, including the media, understand the woman-as-leader, as
subject, to be discursively positioned at this historical moment in time. Identity,
including a work-place leaderly identity, involves precise “arts of existence or
techniques of the self” (Foucault, 1984, p.11); that is, how women leaders are
attempting to position themselves within current leadership discourses that are both
enabling and constraining of them.

For the woman-as-leader, image and identity are continuously interacting within a
multiple ‘becoming-self’ that is never simple, or easily defined. The multiple
discourses that criss-cross “the thousand tiny elements” (Barthes, 1981, p.254;
Deleuze & Guattari, 1988) constituting the embodied appearance of a woman leader
in male-defined domains, result in a layering of complex vestimentary codes and
behavioural conventions that directly influence how image and identity is read,
received and, ultimately, judged. The difficulty for women newly entering
leadership domains, therefore, is how to manage the tensions between image,
corporeality, representation, and identity knowing that they do not easily fit within
the male-defined norms of leadership.

6.2.1 Legitimacy as mixing and un-matching

The following sample of newspaper headlines, demonstrate in various ways how the
normative frameworks of leadership in male-defined domains have certain
recognisable dimensions and characteristics that are betrayed and problematised by
the entry of woman as ‘other.’ For example: “All’s shipshape with Maureen”
(Military);34 “Rising star: Defence high-flyer lands star command” (Military);35
“Sexism, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment rife among our Top Guns and at
Defence Academy” (Military);36 “Betrayed by the body” (Politics);37 “Women

The Courier-Mail, 25-9-1999, p.7.
The Courier-Mail, 17-12-1999, p.1.
The Weekend Australian, Australian Magazine, 22/23-1-2000, pp.17-20.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 31-7-1999, p.10.

bosses lead with style” (Business);38 “Things go better with a Woman in the House”
(Politics);39 “Boys happy to call her Madam President” (Law);40 “Mum’s the word
for Ipswich Judge” (Judiciary); 41 “Fatuities flow over woman made Master”
(Judiciary);42 “The milk of human kindness runs through her veins” (Law and
Politics);43; “Women make legal history” (Law);44 “Sisters get savvy” (Politics);45
“Judge takes up appealing challenge” (Law);46 “Gender Agenda: many crash before
they break through” (Business);47 “Blokes still can’t see glass ceiling” , “Women
can’t break through glass ceiling” (Business and politics);48 “Blokey Board-rooms
ruin global standing” (Business);49 “Long way to the top for working women”
(Business);50 “Men-only High Court come under fire” (Law);51 or, “Women are the
new men”.52 The images evoked here work as guiding points to illustrate how
women leaders are constituted as particular kinds of gendered subjects in the
process of subjectification in male-defined and male-dominated leadership contexts.

In the above headlines, women leaders are depicted in a range of familiar gendered
stereotypes: as insiders and outsiders to a metaphoric and literal ‘glass ceiling’; as
breaking through the constructed and historical constructs of male-defined
leadership; as maternal ‘mum’s’ with dependable milky veins; as ‘other’ to the
blokey culture of board-rooms or judicial benches; as appealingly feminine, stylish,
sexualised, and seductive; as victims of abuse and sexual harassment; as history
making; as stars; as feminist sisters, and as a long way from power and seniority.
Dress, symbols, and insignia, such as judicial robes, wigs, uniforms, elaborate
military insignia, grey/dark suits of business and politics, or gold chains on a Lord
Mayor are identifiable symbols of status, prestige, and position that work to
conserve and configure leadership norms. For a woman to inhabit male-defined
apparel, “fitting in and not rocking the boat”, “looking like, but not being like male
colleagues”, and “being like but not looking like the men” (Judge, 2001) within
The Courier-Mail, 21-4-1999, p.5.
The Australian, 12-6-2002, p.3.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 26-11-1999, p.3.
The Courier-Mail, 8-3-1999, p.7.
The Courier-Mail, 6-3-1990, p.6
The Courier-Mail, 8-3-1999. p.5.
The Daily Telegraph, 13-2-2001, p.21 (UK).
Sydney Morning Herald, 24-1-2000, p.15.
The Courier-Mail, 1-8-1998, p.1.
The Weekend Australian Magazine, 22-23 April, 2000, pp.16-22.
The Australian, 27-11-2002, p.1 and The Courier-Mail 27-11-2002, p.1.
The Courier-Mail, 27-11-2002, p.7.
The Courier-Mail, 27-11-2002, p.10.
The Australian, 19-12-2002, p.2.
The Guardian, 1-7-1999, p.4.

such contexts, may seem to go without saying. In effect, to manage similarity and
difference in terms of appearance, calls for tactical manoeuvres as “techniques of
the self” (Foucault, 1988a, p.18), to assemble and re-assemble the paradoxes of
being a woman leader within masculinist constructs of leadership.

What is required of women leaders who are working within the norms of
masculinist leadership is an assembling of similarly different practices involving
formalised elements of dress, with similarly different assemblages of the elements
constituting corporeality and behaviour. As assemblages of femininity and
masculinity, they are inseparable and relational to each other, because there are no
clear demarcations between the body and the garments and symbols surrounding the
body, but there are visible points of similarity and difference. To understand the
interaction between the variable “separate tiny essences” (Barthes, 1981, p.254) and
“detachable parts” (Garber, 1992, p.148) involved in assembling an embodied,
leaderly self, requires an analysis of how the elements of clothing, dress, symbols,
objects, and prostheses intermingle with the gendered body, and to what affect.

These assembled elements, or ‘detachable parts,’ that have no precise models or

historical blueprints for a woman leader to follow indicate that women leaders must
necessarily develop similarly different understandings of the leaderly self as a work
of art, because art, history, and techniques of assembling relate problematically in
the embodied woman leader. In this way, the arts of leadership and the everyday
techniques for performing as a legitimate woman leader are inseparable, because
they are assemblages of both the familiar and the strange, the known and unknown.
Air-ace Amelia Earhart (1932) explained it this way: “This precision flying is like
tightrope walking – it only looks easy” (p.36). Women leaders face the double
challenge of not only making it look easy, but also legitimate, proper, and credible.
The challenge is if, or when, the assemblage betrays itself as insufficient, or deviant
in some crucial detail, women risk dys-appearing as clumsy impostors, or as
aberrant in the realm of leadership.

6.2.2 Tactical cross-dressing

In establishing the organising principles underpinning how legitimacy is constituted,
represented, read, and received the following analysis explores how assemblages of

the body, and assemblages of formalised elements of dress interact and relate. It is
one thing for a woman leader to occasionally dress in military uniforms, or male
apparel, for a specific purpose such as Queen Elizabeth I famously did at Tilbury in
1588. Dressed like an “androgynous martial maiden” (Garber, 1992, p.32) it was a
tactical move to inspire the troops with her kingly, masculine virtues for the
impending battle against the Spanish Armada.53 Or, as Catherine the Great did, and
Queen Elizabeth II does, for the Trooping of the Colours.54 It is another thing to
permanently inhabit the robes, uniforms, dress, insignia, and symbols associated
with male-defined leadership, which is what is required of women when they too
become leaders. Assembling the self, as a woman leader within male-defined
domains, points to many kinds of crossings underpinning image, identity,
corporeality, and dress. It makes visible an array of differences, where gender
categories are no longer contained and intact, but are shown to be constituted from
“a thousand tiny elements” (Barthes, 1981, p.254) of both similarity and difference.

According to Garber (1992) one of the hallmarks of ‘cross-dressing’ is whether it

“passes or trespasses” (p.283) in terms of legitimacy and acceptance. The paradox
and relevance of this for women newly entering male-defined leadership spaces, is
that because legitimacy has been developed by men, for men, it reminds women
“that only a man [leader] knows how a woman [leader] should look and act” (M
Butterfly) because theirs is the ‘proper’ face and body of ‘legitimate’ leadership.
The proposition to be explored here is that women leaders must necessarily engage
in a form of tactical and legitimate ‘cross-dressing’ as assemblages for propriety and
success. As legitimate, tactical ‘crossings’, the multiple assemblages are never
simple, singular, or innocent; one kind of crossing crosses over into another,
attaches to another, overlays another, highlighting the complexities and layering of
material, symbolic and discursive elements constituting the representation of
leadership, gender, and identity.
There is a long history of deploying male attire for specific ends. Empress Elisabeth of Russia tactically deployed military
dress to reinforce public confidence in her leadership capacity by showing that she had inherited her father’s “kingly,
masculine virtues” (Troyat, 2000, p.54-55). Russian Empress Catherine the Great also used the tactic of cross dressing, as
evidenced in her writings and in the portrait by Vigilius Erichsen (1722-1782). Catherine described her predecessor, Empress
Elisabeth, in her journal: “The only person who looked right was the Empress herself, since men’s costumes suited her
perfectly. She looked very beautiful in such an outfit” (cited in Troyat, 2000, p.44). Queen Elizabeth II regularly presides over
the trooping of the colours dressed in ceremonial military uniform based on the male uniform of jodhpurs/trousers, jacket, cap,
and elaborate military insignia. In another mode, Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, tactically took on the
modest dress of a nun even though she was extremely wealthy, and powerful in her own right. The tactical use of clothing
worked as a counterpoint to the extraordinary power she wielded as confidante, mother, friend, and adviser to a king.
Or as seen in famous women, such as Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Una Lady Troubridge, Vita Sackville-West - or even
more recently Madonna – appropriating male traits such as tuxedo, tie, monocle, slicked short hair, man’s watch, cufflinks and
cigars to talk, smoke and act like a man.

To explore the elements of cross-dressing, and how they work in terms of passing
and/or trespassing as a legitimate leader, is a tool for identifying the appropriations
and negotiations involved in assembling the self as a woman leader. However,
cross-dressing, as a particular sort of appearance, holds within it the potential for
dys-appearance, due to its transgressive capacity. A woman leader dressing-up in
male apparel, for example, may militate against the mobilisation of identity by
exposing excessive masculinity, the comic, or the grotesque, as was discussed in
Chapter 5. Woman plus leader, in the apparel symbolising male leadership but with
a twist of difference is, therefore, an intermingling of many crossings to create
“images of sexual and gender topsy-turvy” (Davis, 1987, p.136), which has
discernible outcomes. This juxtaposition of matching and un-matching elements is
directly implicated in how a woman leader may appear and/or dys/dis-appear in the
public gaze.

6.2.3 Correct dress as incorrect assemblages

For women leaders “fitting in”, “looking like” or “being like, but not copying”
(Judges, 2000-2001) male colleagues, requires consciously considered assemblages
of appearance, as necessity and as a politics of gender and power. Visibly, and
physically, women leaders are required to conform to gendered norms, at the same
time as legitimacy as a leader, is being evaluated in masculinist terms. The irony
here is that even though the appearance of a woman leader attracts on-going interest
and critique, the basic tenets of appearance go unspoken and are written no-where,
but known by all in minute detail when differences erupt (Sapir, 1921). While
accepting that it is impossible to be arbitrarily creative in assembling professional
dress, uniforms, insignia, and so on, the rules for women noticeably differ from
those for men.

Assembling the self as a woman leader involves paradoxical assemblages of

similarity and difference, rather than matching uniformity. For example, a (woman)
judge dressing ‘like a (man) judge’ requires a subtle and odd assemblage of tiny, but
crucial, gendered elements that are shaped by male-tradition, re-worked by women,
and inescapably denote the exact crossings between familiarity and difference.

I was trying very hard to fit in and not rock the boat… When I first began, I
wore what the men wore – you know – stick-up’s – the stiff, winged collars…
Still do sometimes… The younger women don’t though – they wear soft
collars, because they’re more comfortable. (Judge, 2001)

In replying to the question, “Do you wear trousers the same as the male judges?” the
woman judge responded: “Oh no – never trousers. Always a skirt. It wouldn’t have
been proper to wear trousers in court” (Judge, 2001). Maintaining propriety, in this
instance, involves distinct and contrary moves. While there were no overt rules of
appearance for this woman to follow, because there had never been a woman in the
position before, there were indicators to direct how the socio-cultural-political
norms underpinning a proper judicial appearance, might be translated into an
appropriate presentation of woman-as-judge. The woman judge here appropriated
the traditional stiff, winged-collars worn by male judges, but paradoxically,
im/properly un/matched them with a skirt as a way of maintaining feminine
propriety, or in her own words – to “not rock the boat”. Just as the history of
clothing demonstrates that no one item, or style of dress is intrinsically masculine or
feminine (Tseëlon, 1995), in the current judicial context, trousers are proper attire
for male judges, while currently, the skirt remains a dominant symbol of feminine
propriety within the law.

Even though the specific choice of collars may seem relatively inconsequential, they
appear in this instance, as symbolically significant; a sign of “not rocking the boat”,
“fitting in and looking like” an image of judicial propriety (set by male tradition)
and feminine propriety (similarly different in a skirt). The further shift from “stick-
ups or stiff winged collars into soft collars … by the younger women” (Judge, 2001)
is a further translation of feminine propriety and judicial propriety as a dis-
assembling and re-assembling of the norms. Assembling similarity and difference is
a productive force, and women have much to gain in the process. However, in
departing from the norms such moves place them at risk, because in appearing to
usurp or flout existing rules and conditions, they may actually ‘rock the boat’ and
dys-appear. As this illustration indicates, the dress and insignia of male-defined
leadership create a set of gendered presumptions about what constitutes a proper
appearance for those specific leaders. When women too become leaders and take on

these garments, it demands daily negotiations for managing similarly different as a
woman leader cross-dressing in garments designed for men.

6.2.4 Propriety and forms of add-dress

Cross-dressing is not about ‘anything goes’, and nor is it about simple mimesis,
because there are existing conditions and rules to be accounted for if legitimacy as a
woman leader is to be displayed. When women newly enter a male-defined domain,
they may be confronted with the realisation that they have nothing to wear, or that
there are difficulties with the design elements as did one woman judge.
When I was first fitted with my robes, I asked where the pocket was. There
was a slit in the side seam, but no pocket. I rang the firm that’s been making
judicial robes for many generations and they were stunned to think someone
would query their work. They told me the slit in the side was so you could
access your trouser pocket – but women judges wear skirts that don’t have
pockets. They’d never thought of this – it was always trousers. I sent it back
to them and they inserted a pocket for me. They asked me what other women
judges thought. When I showed the pocket to another woman judge she sent
hers back too. (Judge, 2002)

The first practising woman barrister in Queensland, Naida Haxton (1966) wrote
that, “I couldn’t wear the men’s clothes and there weren’t any for women,” (cited in
the Women in the Law Exhibition, Supreme Court of Queensland, February, 2000).
Consequently, designing an outfit for a proper woman barrister at law became part
of the job description for several legal minds at the time.
As no woman had previously practised at the Queensland Bar, enquiries
were made as to what was the appropriate clothing to be worn by a female
barrister in court. The Hon Justice Gibbs, prompted by his associate Des
Drayton, researched the matter and came up with the description of a bar
jacket, skirt, wings and collars, and shoes with buckles (see photo below).
Dame Roma Mitchell, then a barrister and solicitor in South Australia,
wrote to Naida with advice. She stated that on occasions when one needed to
go to court a hat was essential. Janet Coombs, then of the NSW Bar, wrote
and explained what was worn by women in NSW. Her letter included
drawings of collars with wings and a jacket with a skirt. Naida had a black
suit designed. When worn under robes the jacket presented as a Bar jacket,
but it was styled to look like a suit jacket and could be worn in the street.
Naida decided that unrobed appearances should be hatless. (Women in the
Law Exhibition, Supreme Court of Queensland, 2000)

The serious effort applied to the task testifies to the importance of getting
appearance ‘right’ which, does not mean ‘the same,’ and nor are the elements fixed,
as the historically situated comment from Dame Roma Mitchell about a hat being an

essential element when out in public or going to the court indicates. Professional
clothing and uniforms are generally conservative, which is also reflected here in the
reconfigured elements assembled for ‘proper’ woman barrister: black shoes with
buckle and elevated heel, black skirt, wings and collars, bar jacket to look like, and
double as, a suit jacket, black silk stockings – and for Dame Roma Mitchell, but not
Naida Haxton – a hat, which at the time was a familiar element of formal, public
dress for women, as it still is for the Queen.

What is apparent in this illustration is that propriety straddles reality by revealing its
unreality – its precise constructedness. Tiny elements escape confinement to draw
the eye for sharper noting - a black jacket, but differently styled; black coverings on
the legs, but stockings not trousers; black shoes, buckled not laced; higher heeled
court-shoes, not lace-ups; black skirt, not trousers; visible hair below the wig, rings
on the fingers, ear-rings, and so on. These multiple, contrary tiny elements become
particularly apparent against the rhetoric of uniforms, robes, and insignia, because
uniforms are a conscious attempt to erase difference, enhance uniformity and
recognition, and mobilise group identification. However, as resources for achieving
legitimacy, they are both constitutive and constraining of women, because they
point to the non-uniform uniforms assembled for and by women as similarly
different within and against masculinist norms.

6.2.5 Assembling the dress properly

Once assembled, the putting on and inhabiting of the dress, garments, insignia and
symbols of leadership influences propriety in sometimes competing ways:
The process and ritual involved in being sworn in as a judge is quite
extraordinary. You’re taken into a robing room and someone dresses you to
ensure you’re wearing everything correctly. Then you are left on your own
to contemplate the gravitas of the occasion. At the appointed time, you are
met and walked along an internal corridor to the court through a line-up of
all your colleagues in order of seniority. The ceremony is attended by
members of the bar (gowned and wigged if they approve of your
appointment, absent, or un-robed if they disapprove), sitting again in order
of seniority. There are also members of the legal profession, family, friends,
former colleagues, court officials, and the press – everyone is watching you.
You’re sworn in by the Chief Justice, or his nominee, and swear an oath of
allegiance by taking the bible in your right hand. I was so nervous I took the
bible in my left hand. The Bailiffs are used to this – ‘Your right hand Judge,’
he said. … They gave me three pieces of advice: ‘Don’t trip on your robes
going up the steps, don’t miss the chair or fall off the chair (it’s on swivel

castors and on an angle), and don’t wait for the court to sit down – they’re
waiting for you.’ …It’s an odd feeling as you watch yourself being
transformed into the image of something that’s familiar– I’ve been a lawyer
for a long time – but new – it’s always symbolised so much about the history
of law – its maleness – there’d only been one woman before me. (Judge,

What is vividly illustrated here is how elements of corporeality, dress, and

appearance touch every aspect of the assembling of a proper judicial self. For
women judges, unlike their male colleague, propriety immediately makes apparent
the gendered body, as an assemblage incorporating the twin markers of absence and
presence, and the strange and familiar.
I was aware I didn’t look like a judge, like the men did…I felt that those at
the Bar table would look up and see the trappings of a judge, but I still
wouldn’t be a proper judge – real judge – I felt they’d call me judge and
bow and so on, but resent my presence. You don’t look like them even when
wearing the same clothes …I watched and listened. If the Bar flinched I
knew I must have done something wrong. I tried to straining point. (Judge,

Successfully assembling the formal elements of appearance, therefore, does not

automatically protect a woman from dys-appearing, or seeming to trespass
legitimacy and credibility. For a woman leader to appear to be crossing the formal,
predefined norms of leadership, may also result in a fracturing of the assumptions
underpinning concepts such as merit and competency, and how they are read and
received. Kim Campbell former Prime Minster of Canada and Minster for National
Security, put it this way:
There is a deeply rooted belief that women are not competent and can’t lead.
…For some men it is unthinkable to have a woman at the top … and for
many people rather disturbing that a woman could be prime minister, no
matter how hard she tries. A woman wasn’t supposed to be prime minister. I
wasn’t entitled to be there. It was a challenge. (Gardner, 2002, p.20-21).

As Kim Campbell (Gardner, 2002) indicates, in terms of leadership, legitimacy and

femininity do not automatically merge, or automatically ‘pass,’ just because a
woman legitimately attains high-office, because ‘woman prime minister’ or ‘woman
leader’ has no recognisable identity except in terms of seemingly ‘stable’ male
leadership norms. As a result, the spectacle of a similarly-different appearance of
woman as leader in the place of a man may cause a Bar Table to flinch, disturb or
surprise some male colleagues, or seem impossible to others.

6.2.6 “Visibility is a trap”55
If bodies and appearance are assemblages that inseparably and relationally
juxtapose, then it is important to examine what legitimacy looks like, and what the
tactical moves are that constitute the passing and/or trespassing in the public gaze.
Some of the women suggest that,“Fitting in”, “being like” or “looking like male
colleagues” is both a trap and an opening for women, because the ‘wardrobe of
masculinity’ may dys-appear when worn too convincingly by a woman. For
example, assembling an image that “looks too much like a man”, may draw
criticism for appearing to trespass ‘too masculine’ or ‘insufficiently feminine’. The
Prime Minster of New Zealand, Helen Clark, for instance, has been criticised as too
overtly masculine, in voice, bodily comportment, and clothing style. Even if it was
an accurate description of Clark, these criticisms of her stop short of questioning, or
analysing, why this should be a problem. The power of these critical insights, is that
they provide an illustration of Butler’s (1993) argument that “bodies … live within
the productive constraints of certain highly gendered regulatory schema” (p.xi). The
criticisms of Clark illustrate the current regulatory schema of gender politics
currently operating.

New Zealand journalist Laugesen (1993) highlights the double-bind for women
leaders through the following observation. Clark, among other women politicians
“all stand accused of becoming more male than the men around them in their efforts
to master the hostile environment of politics,” claims Laugesen (1993, p.12). Clark
even made headlines in the local and international press in 2002, for receiving
Queen Elizabeth II in trousers, rather than a skirt – underlining the ongoing
symbolic value of skirts as images of propriety, safety, femininity, and perhaps
even, heterosexuality. In demanding that women perform within male-defined
norms, but marginalising them if they are too masculine or too feminine, it points to
the ‘aerial precision’ (Russo, 1994, pp.17-39) required of women leaders to appear
as legitimate leaders.

Observed and constantly on show, Clark has sustained ongoing attacks in the media,
for seeming to transgress the ‘norms of proper femininity.’ According to journalist

Foucault, 1977, p.200.

Elizabeth Wynhausen (2001), “Helen Clark has been savaged about everything from
her bad hair, to her stilted speaking style, her deep resonant voice, her private life,
her marriage ... her sexuality … and her childlessness” (pp.13-19). Clearly,
uncontained and unruly elements in behaviour and appearance (in terms of
leaderliness) are escaping for greater scrutiny, at the same time as they are failing to
escape gendered expectations and norms (in terms of femininity). Cutting across the
grain of vocal and physical expectation, Clark’s deep, low vocal tone, above
average height, strength, demonstrated intellect, acerbic style, trousers, lack of
make-up, and short, plain hairstyle, are being interpreted within masculinist terms as
‘insufficient femininity’ and, ironically, insufficiently leaderly, even though
strength, assertiveness, power, intelligence and a deep, strong voice are desired
leadership traits for male leaders and politicians. As a woman leader, therefore,
assembling legitimacy is clearly not just about simple mimesis.

Aware of research that suggested that “people still don’t know anything about her
except that she has a pudding-basing haircut and a voice like a man” … and that
“people didn’t think Helen was womanly or soft or kind or nice” (Wynhausen,
2001, p.7), Clark agreed to re-assemble her public image. Even though qualities
such as womanly, soft, kind, and nice are rarely associated with successful male
leaders, they appear here as significant, but nevertheless paradoxical, inclusions for
a woman leader. “The first time we worked with her, we said, ‘We’re not
deconstructing you – we’re getting you to be yourself’,” said Dr Brian Edwards
(Clark’s biographer). This comment sits oddly with the self-professed image of
Clark as a strong, active, assertive, forthright, and intelligent self that was the
subject of this make-over. What this also reveals is that ‘being yourself’ is an
assembled becoming-self, historically constituted, contextualised, and gendered:
that is, ongoing processes of becoming in the “arts of existence” (Foucault, 1984,
p.10). What Dr Brian Edwards was suggesting was that she dis-assemble and re-
assemble a different self to fit within the current socio-cultural expectations of what
constitutes sufficient femininity for a woman leader in the public gaze.

This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library

Figure 4: Prime Minster of New Zealand, Dr Helen Clark. Source: The Australian Weekend
Magazine, 2001, October 20-21, p.13.

Clark re-configured her bodily image - “a different hairdresser and different hair-
cut which is smoother, more sculptured, stylish, make-up, lipstick, smiling in
photos”; bodily performance - “smoothing out her over-emphatic delivery, to speak
more quietly, and fine-tuned the level of aggression” to bring out sufficiently
“womanly”, sufficiently “nice”; and, style of dress - Clark started wearing
designer suits … slimmed down, plain unfussy designer items, with an occasional
use of brighter colours, to re-negotiate the public demands for ‘properly feminine’
and ‘properly leaderly.56 “We brought it all altogether”, said Dr Edwards
(Wynhausen, 2001, p.18) raising further questions about what ‘it’ might be, or as if
the self can be developed from fixed elements that are chosen and ‘brought
together’ at will.

Lord Margaret Thatcher, famously described as the “Iron Lady” (a term developed by advertising agency Saatchi &
Saatchi), and disparagingly as a “man in a frock”, re-configured her political image when she became Prime Minster of the
UK. She re-worked her hairstyle, clothing, jewellery, vocal style, and verbal dexterity, to conserve ‘sufficient’ femininity with
the appearance of ‘sufficient’ toughness, strength, and masculinity.

The reconfiguring of Clark’s image demonstrates that assembling traditional
masculine traits with traditional feminine traits disperses stereotypes into another
order – both familiar and unfamiliar. In a world of spectacle and celebrity, the old
adage ‘what you see is what you get,’ is now understood as an assembled machinic
desiring self always in the process of becoming something ‘other’. The risk is that
woman as leader might appear as “a fetish masquerading as an object” (Stoller,
1997, p.155-156), which only functions as power while it is masquerade. The public
debate over Clark’s appearance suggests that woman-as-leader moving tactically
outwards into the public domain, and revealing a capacity for extensive re-
configuration, is simultaneously monstrous and subversive in terms of masculinist
uniformity and consistency (Haraway, 1991). As such, women leaders are signs of
possible worlds to come, and signs of worlds for which we are responsible (Russo,
1994, p.15), but in saying that, they are also never safe.

6.2.7 Make-over but not made-over

In attempting to draw public attention away from her re-assembled appearance,
Clark dys-appeared under even closer scrutiny. “Despite last year’s much-analysed
image-remake, which has made the Labour leader fair game for comment from
anyone who knows the difference between a skirt and a frock …, a new hair-do and
an arrangement with an Auckland fashion house do not, it seems, a fashion junkie
make” wrote Nichol (1994, p.10). Taking a different approach, journalist
Wynhausen (2001) claims that: “She seems less brittle after her image was brushed-
up (not that those close to her allow the word make-over to pass their lips) … yet
behind the sharp mind and acerbic answers, and the sometime insufferable
conviction that she is smarter than anyone around her, is a gawkiness with which
many frankly identify” (p.18).

The sometimes brutal fascination with the ‘making-over’ of women politicians such
as Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Helen Clark, Cheryl Kernot, Joan Kirner, or
even Amanda Vanstone’s resistance to change her brightly patterned Versace shirts,
reflects the differences between men and women regarding the normalised relations
between the body and the self. Adkins and Lury (1999) argue that “for men their
labour of corporeality is neither normalised nor trivialised but rather is recognised
as a workplace performance…. However, the ideal of a flexible corporeality is one

from which many women workers are likely to be excluded” (p.607). Ironically,
even though the labour of corporeality along with a flexible corporeality secures
greater workplace rewards for men. For Clark, even after the re-assembling the
journalists point to “a gawkiness” - a sense of the grotesque - that cannot be ‘erased’
in her. The accusation of awkwardness, “gawkiness”, or flawed ‘authenticity’,
suggests that women cannot own their identities, and cannot mobilise a leaderly
identity in the same way as men can. Women are gendered leaders, that is, ‘women
leaders’, and therefore, different.

6.2.8 The feminine masks

Women do ‘wear their rue with a difference’ it seems, because appearance both
reveals and distorts what is assumed to be true about women and leadership. Being
‘sufficiently’ or ‘legitimately’ leaderly also points to the negotiations required to
manage degrees of femininity: “I tried to fit in – to straining point”(Judge, 1999).
“We work hard to be like our male colleagues, but we also want to look like
women.” (Judge, 2001). “Parliament is about suits. Grey suits. The air-
conditioning is made for suits. The seats are made for suits. That’s why I always
wear suits – but colourful ones.” (Senior Government Minister, 2002). In tactically
negotiating sufficiently feminine and sufficiently leaderly, an image that appears as
too feminine may also dys-appear as insufficiently leaderly:57
Business is serious, conservative grey suits. You can’t be too feminine
because you won’t be taken seriously by senior pack-males who make the
decisions…. You’ve got to be feminine enough not to be thought of as gay,
because business – not only business though - other areas too I guess - is
still anti homosexuality. This’s all been unfairly used against Cheryl Kernot
too feminine, and Helen Clark, not feminine enough, for example. (Business
woman and Director, 2002)

For women leaders, the inter-relationship between the commodification of image,

and the nuanced performances of leadership that are neither too masculine nor too
feminine, involves transgressing the norms of consistency and uniformity. Women
consistently appear in non-uniform uniforms, because they cannot do otherwise. For
a woman leader, assembling the self constitutes a form of creative sculptural

The now in/famous photos of “the make-over” of former Federal politician Cheryl Kernot by Australian Women’s Weekly
magazine (April 1998) is a further example here. She appeared in a mauve dress, shawl, and gold sandals, but the real cause de
célèbre was her appearance in a long red dress and red feather boa. Former leader of The Democrats, Natasha Stott-Despoja,
also the subject of intense and on-going media scrutiny was photographed in bathers at the beach. It too created wide
discussion after it appeared in the daily newspapers.

I always wear a business jacket - but I like floral shirts with them.
(Professor Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, 2001). “I have never been described as a
masculine woman. I’m usually described in feminine terms because I love
dressing up in good clothes, entertaining, having fun, but people are often
surprised at how tough I can be as a politician. I’m from the tough north
(Yorkshire) not the soft south – I learned how to mix them in my work.”
(Peer, senior politician, 2001)

6.2.9 Lacking greyness – changing suit

Colour, style, line, structure, fabric, drapery, texture, hem-length, the absence or
presence of pattern, adornments, and accessories are elements that can both disrupt
and reinforce the assembled image of a woman leader. For example, former
Governor of Queensland Mrs Leneen Forde, the first woman Governor in
Queensland, was photographed in 1995 in front of Government House with the re-
elected Goss Government, dressed in a structured, formal, bright yellow dress
amidst a sea of dark suits. Lacking the greyness of male-defined leadership is both a
tactic of surprise and a reminder of the odd juxtapositions that can occur when
women too become leaders. The appearance of a brightly coloured, non-patterned,
structured dress cuts into, and carries away, both image and identity, so that both
otherness and legitimacy are simultaneously juxtaposed for all to see. This is both
an opportunity and a problem for women leaders, because for them, image and
identity must be constantly re-invented, because there is no one dress code for
women, unlike the uniform code of greyness that constitutes traditional male dress.
Women lack the greyness – the grey sea of suits.”… “When women were
first appointed [to the judiciary] they mostly wore black suits like the men –
now they don’t so much. They’re wearing brighter colours, pastel colours, a
different coloured jacket. Still suits, and mostly with skirts. The changes
have been noticed – it made some of the men sit up and take notice. (Judge,

In the photograph and text (below) profiling the appointment of the first woman
judge in Queensland (District Court, 1991), Justice (then Judge) Margaret McMurdo
(current President of the Court of Appeal) is framed as a highly aestheticised and
gendered subject. Journalist Kate Collins (1991) reveals her understanding of
feminine stereotypes, but in applying these to a member of the judiciary, the
elements contest and compete in quite dramatic ways. Woman, judge, robes, wig,
lace-edged jabot, flowers, blondeness, long curling hair, subdued lamplight, photo-
frame, sideways tilt of the head, demure smile, jewellery, lipstick, make-up,
femininity, and the erotic compete with the familiar inscriptions for professional

lawyer and judge. Justice (then Judge) McMurdo sits at her desk against a familiar
backdrop of (out of focus) traditional legal books, her hands are placed over opened
texts suggestive, perhaps, of a double play between legitimate working judge, and
new judge checking details from authoritative legal books. The light is subdued
lamplight, which seems inconsistent with the close reading of detailed legal
documents required of a judge.

This figure is not available online.

Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library

Figure 5: Justice (formerly Judge) Margaret McMurdo. Source: The Sunday-Mail, 17 January

The accompanying text loops back to the photographic image to reinforce

femininity, image, physical attractiveness, and the maternal, while sidelining her
considerable legal experience and judicial authority. The tone of the article is set in
the opening line:
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could use a heading like ‘JUDGE’S HANGINGS
IN EXCELLENT TASTE’ (capitals in original) …You can tell a lot about a
person, even a judge, by what they choose to hang, if you get my drift …the
youngest and by far the best-looking member of the Bench, Judge McMurdo
is as fresh as a daisy… despite a gruelling morning of engagements. …‘They
don’t give me time to relax. I went straight from morning tea to work!’ she
joked, brushing a wayward strand of blonde wavy hair from an impressively
high forehead and smoothing the folds of her bulky new robes…The feminine
splash of colours … are to my taste – strong but feminine …However, I can
be extremely loud when I have to be! A naturally elegant figure, petitely
slim, hair and make-up conservatively understated, a little lipstick, a hint of
eye-shadow, elegant ear-rings, and a Sloane-Rangerish Alice band over
blond flowing locks…wife of…, mother of …, dutiful daughter of .., modest

…and becoming very serious when asked about issues of gender. (The
Sunday Mail, 17 February, 1991, p.17)

She subsequently commented (3 Dec, 1999), that the journalist and photographer
had taken control of the situation, had re-organised her Chambers, and that she was
disappointed with how she had been represented. More recent photos of Justice
McMurdo show a re-working of her public image to place greater focus on her
judicial authority and legitimacy – short contained hair style, erasure of blondeness
(red hair for a time), a more serious demeanour, upright posture, direct gaze, and
less jewellery. Her altered image indicates forms of self-monitoring and ongoing
body-work, demonstrating that within certain constraints clothing, posture, hair,
objects, and so on, are manipulable and flexible, but not limitless and not always in
the interests of women even as they demonstrate leadership to be unfixed and fluid.
In terms of the labour of identity and workplace performance, even after such re-
working and re-imagining, women do not generally receive the same level of
recognition and reward compared with male colleagues, as the above story of New
Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark suggests.

6.2.10 Corporeal elements

It is not just about aesthetics and colour. Obvious and subtle corporeal cues,
gestures, and movement are also integral elements in assemblages of the body: “It’s
not just the position of the body, but the types of movement, qualities of the
movements underpinning the positions that the body takes up – that’s what matters
– that’s what’s noticed,” claims Alexander Farkus, leading exponent of the
Alexander Technique (Throsby 2002, 31 Oct). In contrast to the representation of
Justice McMurdo (above) the photographic image of Judge Sarah Bradley (below)
shows the play of similarities and differences, and the rhetorical significance of
gestural codes. Dressed in legitimate judicial robes, her hand is placed squarely
under her chin, her fingers are concealed, her head is tilted up, she sits straight on to
the viewer, and her cool, intent, and direct gaze looks straight out to the audience.

Here ,the books contextualise ‘legal chambers’, but in contrast to the photo of
Justice McMurdo, these are connected in a more functional way. The wig sits on the
desk in front of her – detached but symbolically powerful of her position and power.
She reflects a particular sort of control and power, as a drawing onto the body of the

attributes of stillness, strength, confidence, directness, uprightness, and legitimacy
reminiscent of masculinity, but re-inscribed with femininity – make-up and lipstick
for example. There is a hint of a restrained smile that also contrasts with that in the
photo of Justice McMurdo. In contrast to the opening line of the text above Justice
McMurdo’s photo (“Judge’s hangings in excellent taste”) [capitals in original] the
simple, direct by-line for Judge Bradley (1999) reads: “Sarah Bradley was sworn in
yesterday as a District Court judge … It is important for women to be seen in
positions of authority and power” (The Courier-Mail, 31-3-1999, p.3). This contrast
between hyperbole and factual statement could not be more apparent.

Figure 6: This figure is not available online.

District Court
Judge Sarah Bradley.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
Source: The Courier-Mail, 31 available from the QUT Library
March 1999, p.3.

The capacity for specific corporeal elements, such as ears, hands, and wrists, to
draw the gaze and convey information in multiple ways, is illustrated in this image.
As an image of ‘judge’ it also contains elements of jewellery - gold-hoop ear-rings,
ring, and a gold chain bracelet – which are uncommon accoutrements for judge,
even as they are common fashion items for women. That the presence of jewellery
can evoke strong opinion from some in the judiciary, as being a contrary image to
the seriousness of their judicial tasks, shows the symbolic power of objects (Judge,
2002). Inseparable and relational elements within a body-clothing-objects
assemblage highlight the risks and possible deviations that women must keep watch
over to contain these unruly elements. Jewellery works as both absence and

presence – a judge with a glimpse of pearls, gold ear-rings, or a bracelet, can be just
as transgressive it seems, as is the absence of jewellery on a woman Prime Minister.

6.2.11 Subversive strength

The more recent media coverage of the appointment of business woman Margaret
Jackson, “the most powerful female director in the nation” (Gluyas, 2001, p.33), as
QANTAS Chair (2000), presents a further view of the representation of women
leaders. Well-groomed by powerful men,58 and reputedly a “superstar” according to
Liberal Party power-broker and business man Ron Walker, Jackson (2002)
explained: “It’s hard to find women role models because most of the people I have
worked with have been men,” (cited in Gluyas, p.33). That Jackson’s role-models
have mostly been men is reminiscent of Moira Rayner’s (2002) comment that “you
can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep”.59 Descriptions of Jackson
include: “a potent mix of charm, ambition and ability … with sublime networking
skills … who now prides herself on being prepared to probe relentlessly … as a
fearlessly independent and probing director …[who] became a standard-bearer for a
new class of female directors” (Gluyas, 2001, p.34). Positioned within a traditional
gendered discursive frame as sufficiently feminine, modern, and fashionable, she is
also described in terms of a demonstrated capacity to appropriate masculinist
leadership traits.

A familiar masculinist leadership discourse is maintained in her “fearlessness”,

“potency”, “probing skills”, “independence”, “relentlessness”, “ambition”,
“ability”, while her soft-skilling ability is reflected in her “sublime networking
skills”, “interpersonal charm … approaching with a big smile, she plants a kiss on
your cheek”, which acts as a normalising force for reifying propriety for a woman
leader who can also “wield management’s scythe” (p.34). However, as “feminine
and softly-spoken on the surface, but underneath revealing a steely ambitious and
pugnacious woman, with strong commercial instincts and a good learner” (p.34), it
is still not an assemblage with any guaranteed outcomes. Critics from “the older
invariably male school” claim that, because of “the halo effect” of being a

Gary Pemberton (BHP), Ron Walker (Liberal Party Treasurer, People Telecom), (uncle) Alan Jackson (Reserve Bank,
Austrim), John Gough (Pacific Dunlop, ANZ, BHP), Charles Goode (ANZ), Don Argus (BHP Billiton, Brambles), Geoff
Moira Rayner, Clare Burton Memorial Lecture, QUT, 21 November 2002.

“standard-bearer woman” she escapes the “tough critical scrutiny to which they
are routinely exposed” (p.34).

Under-scrutiny by both the media and colleagues, but seen to be escaping ‘proper’
scrutiny is another instance of the way women must hold together in tension the
seemingly oppositional aspects of femininity and masculinity, and likewise perform
them knowing that there are no guarantees of success. For example, the soft-skilling
strengths traditionally attributed as feminine strengths, are criticised in Jackson “as
insincere and calculating,” because she is deploying them “for personal
advancement” (p.34), as if ambition and personal advancement have ever been
absent from masculinist leadership aspirations. The criticisms of Jackson’s soft-
skilling and communication style as artifice, illustrates the difficulty in assembling
the “arts and techniques of existence” (Foucault, 1984, p.10) required of women
leaders for legitimacy and credibility. The similar criticisms of her as lacking the
necessary authority and ‘authenticity’ of male leaders, show that woman as leader is
still both spectacle and producer of spectacle, where legitimacy and credibility are
never guaranteed.

Certain kinds of self-identity are key resources in the market-place (Adkins & Lury,
1999), but the mobilisation of self-identity, including their terms and conditions, are
not the same for even highly successful women leaders, such as Jackson. She cannot
escape notice and critique by the media and business colleagues, because of her
gender difference, but she is also criticised for escaping ‘proper’ scrutiny that is
applied to male leaders. Adkins and Lury (1999) argue that this is because
appropriating the hard and soft skills of leadership does not attract or accumulate the
same rewards for women, as it does for men. That is, the labour of identity cannot
be performed as a similar occupational resource, because “identity work is
naturalised as part of women’s selves” (Adkins & Lury, 1999, p.605) rather than as
a marketable resource.

The above descriptions of Margaret Jackson indicates that the presentation of her
workplace self-identity is being recognised similarly and differently from her male
colleagues, because her leaderly skills and behaviours are rendered intrinsic to her,
as part of her-self, rather than for mobilisation as an occupational resource. The

soft-skilling, care, and connectedness deployed by Jackson is normalised as part of
the self, as an assumed naturalised aspect of her femaleness. In contrast, her male
colleagues are able to claim ‘soft-skilling’ as an extended resource to their
workplace identity as their own property for exchange, contracting out, and reward
(Adkins & Lury, 1999, p.603-605). Therefore, as Jackson illustrates, women leaders
are likely to attract a different kind of scrutiny: that is, under continual scrutiny by
the media and public gaze as “the most successful business woman in Australia”,
but according to some male colleagues, “she escapes the tough critical scrutiny to
which they are routinely exposed” (Gome & Ross, 2002, p.34).

These illustrations of how leadership is always in the process of becoming more

hybrid may be one of the reasons why there is more limited recognition of women’s
achievements in terms of rewards, promotion, and financial remuneration. What it
suggests is the ongoing difficulty for women in achieving and maintaining propriety
as a leader within masculinist contexts: that is, it questions whether the becoming
can ever be normalised and equally recognised. A woman leader is always working
to become something ‘other’ that cuts across and into binary formulations
underpinning leadership.

6.2.12 Objects and detachable parts

Objects, symbols, and insignia may also disorder recognition and legitimacy when
im/properly appearing on the body of a woman. The face of power and the power on
the face of leadership has traditionally been a ‘5-M’ model of masculinity: white
male, middle-class, middle-aged, married and monied. To be visibly invisible is a
form of camouflage not possible for women leaders as it is for men within the
orderly sea of suits. In a similar way, familiar objects, or symbols, on the body of a
woman may be recognised, but as non-sense:
A barrister approached my associate and told her that the fellows in his
chambers had a ‘book’ going as to why she was wearing a barrister’s wig in
court, as a judge’s associate. She was shocked – it would be an extreme breech
of protocol to wear it without having been admitted – wigs in law have precise
meanings. It also reflected badly on me. It suggested that I either didn’t know
protocol, or that I would sanction a fraudulent claim to qualifications and
status… He was a barrister, but he could not make sense of this wig on the head
of a woman who was both associate and barrister. If it’d been a male, he
probably would’ve said, ‘I see you’ve been admitted - congratulations.’… It was
deeply offensive. (Judge, 2002)

That “it couldn’t be left there” (Judge, 2002) indicates the powerful symbolism of
wigs, but it also reminds women that ‘not all wigs are equal’.

From a different perspective, High Court Judge, and now Law Lord, Brenda Hale
questioned the wearing of wigs, not only because they are “heavy, uncomfortable,
and itch”, but because they reduce ‘otherness’ and conflate “the ideal (male)
stereotype of judge: anonymous, dehumanised, impartial, and authoritative. My
objection to wigs is not that they dehumanise. That might be acceptable or even a
good thing. But they humanise us all into men. They deny us our femaleness, let
alone our femininity.”(Hale, 2000). Even though the archetypal wig-plus-head is
designed to act as a symbol of authority for legitimating, separating, and elevating
the power of judge,60 for this woman judge wigs, as visual cues, cause women to be
taken for men, when they want to be recognised as women. Such confusions or
refusals of the wig, work as tactical trespassing to redesignate the ‘humanising of
maleness’ symbolised by the wearing of it. In often imperceptible ways, the
juxtaposition of mercurial elements within an assemblage draws the gaze to
determine legitimacy or ‘otherness.’“There is still much support for the retention of
wigs and gowns especially in the criminal court. …There is still some suggestion
that defendants want to be properly dressed down. Sent down by a proper judge
properly dressed” (Hale, 2000).

6.2.13 Breaches and trouser-parts

Legitimation, as a leader, obviously looks like something that can be identified for
closer scrutiny. However, as 80 year-old German actress Marianne Hoppe, about to
play Falstaff, explains, the difficulties and contradictions for women, are not to be
underestimated: “I won’t try to play a man, but I will forget that I am a woman. It’s
difficult being suspended between female and male” (cited in Garber, 1992, p.38).

In Australia, Supreme Court justices, wear full-bottomed wigs but only on ceremonial occasions, and by barristers who have
‘taken silk’ and become Queen’s Counsel, now Senior Counsel. Short wigs are worn in criminal trials, and occasionally in
civil trials. Wigs were abolished in the Family Court, but later reinstated after several attacks on Family Court Judges. The
protocols associated with the wearing of wigs are shifting and constantly under review. Individual judges vary considerably in
the wearing of wigs in court.

In the UK, there are similar debates. Dame Heather Hallett, Justice of the High Court (2002) recently stated: “The robes –
winter crime - are one of five sets of robes used by High Court Judges, depending on season and kind of work. I feel like the
judicial equivalent of a Barbie doll. They could be simplified. But I favour keeping the wig. I ask child witnesses if they want
me to wear it or not and they always say ‘yes’. There’s an argument against becoming too friendly and familiar – people find
it odd if they see this smiling friendly face who then turns round and imposes a swingeing sentence.” (The Times Law, 3 Dec,
2002, p.7)

In advising leaders on matters of appearance, Cohen (2000) urges them to:
“Remember, even when in civilian clothes dress like a General. … You don’t need
to wear battle-dress, but if you want to appear charismatic, you must take the time
to dress that way” (p.252). Within such contexts, the paradoxical and non-uniform
image of a skirt, rather than trousers, combined with the insignia and apparel of high
office is a hybrid image that draws on the symbols of masculine leadership, but
simultaneously disrupts them by the un-matching symbols of femininity. For
example, in the photo of Chief Commissioner Nixon as a young police graduate, the
appearance of the twenty-one males seems to ‘go without saying’, because what
more ‘needs to be said’ about the invisibility of such perfect uniformity.

This figure is not available online.

Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library

Figure 6: Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon (centre right) as a young police
graduate. Source: The Australian Weekend Magazine, August, 2002, p.10.

The questioning gaze is irresistibly drawn to the spectacle of the two highly visible,
un-matching different female bodies centre front, which immediately puts their
presence under a different form of scrutiny. The most obvious differences is the
smaller size, the presence of ‘bare’, untrousered legs, contrasting skirts, longer hair,
and different hats. The skirt, rather than trousers, it seems, is a symbol of spaces of
transition between one set of anxieties and another: and symbolises the unresolved
tensions between managing propriety as a woman leader and uniformity as a leader
or professional. It is a reminder of how appearance can be a battle-ground where
complex unresolved meanings of clothing and insignia fold back onto the body to
exercise power from within and without.

While refusing to either over-estimate or under-estimate the power and effects of

cross-dressing, the presence of these two similarly different women police officers
points to a category crisis in terms of the irresolvable conflict or epistemological
crux that destabilises and confounds the comfortable binaries underpinning the
male-defined and male-dominated domain of the police service (Garber, 1992). The
risk is that the resulting scrutiny evokes “the games of truth and error” (Foucault,
1985, p.6) in terms of appearance and dys-appearance, because woman as police
officer is both insider and outsider to the norms. Order and disorderliness, in terms
of a ‘uniformity’ that both matches and mismatches similarity with difference, and
visibility and invisibility, presents an opportunity to consider how women are
managing the everyday enactments required of them when they move into male-
defined and male-dominated domains.

Who gets to wear the trousers, that powerful symbol of masculinity, reminds
women of how men have co-opted power, and why the seduction of trousers - as a
fashion item, as protection, as warmth, as comfort, and as a symbol of masculinity -
disperses meaning in multiple ways across legitimacy.
When I first came into parliament one of the older women [politicians] told
us how lucky we were to be wearing trousers. They didn’t feel they could -
and be taken seriously as politicians. They sat in the House freezing because
they didn’t want to be frozen out by the men who wouldn’t accept them in
trousers. We encouraged them to do so, because it really is freezing in the
chamber at night. (The Honourable Glenda Jackson, politician, 2001)

That women would “freeze, rather than be frozen-out”, is testimony to the power of
normalising rituals associated with dress. It also reflects how outside/inside relations
mutually constitutes the fashioning and performance of propriety and particular
identities that, for women, are always in a process of becoming.

6.2.14 ‘Facialising’ leadership

It is not just clothing that influences how a woman leader is read and received. The
shape and style of hair may surprise, when it appears in the form of a blonde bob on
a President of the Court of Appeal (Justice Margaret McMurdo), an Air Vice-
Marshal (Julie Hammer), or a QANTAS Chair and Director (Margaret Jackson).
The impact of the surface qualities of hair – blondeness, the careful styling, curving
shape, length, smoothness, shine, curl, and the framing around the face - disrupts
and privileges the dominant image of short-back-and-sides masculinity that is
symbolic of power and authority. Feminine faces with their smooth, softness
continue to be surprising elements in leadership images, because they are faces that
do not fit the norms and expectations of conventional masculinist leadership.
Leadership has been ‘facialised’ by the face of masculinity, and this ‘facialisation’
works as a politics of the face and the face as politics that overcodes body parts,
clothing, objects and symbols, to trigger how we read the political power of
leadership operating through the face of the leader (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988,

It is not about the individual faces of leaders with the peculiarities of character they
suggest, but about “the conditions of possibility” (Kendall & Wickham, 1999, p.37)
that a face makes possible, as the aggregated face of leadership. It is about the
organisation and economy of power, because leadership assemblages require the
production of a face: the face of power, the power of the face (Deleuze & Guattari,
1988, pp.175-179). Within western models of leadership, “a dispassionate and
disciplinary gaze” (Jones, 1993, p.143) on the face of masculinity is one of the signs
of authority … “the ability to articulate universal and impartial rules, rules that
displace disorder with order” (p.143). However, even though these ‘facialised
assemblages’ may be dominant, they are not absolute. The presence of women
demonstrate that uniformity is a fantasy, because even ‘facialised’ images, such as
those underpinning the law, politics, or business are repetitive, recursive, and

revisable. What this demonstrates is that in terms of authenticity and legitimacy,
models of leadership are no more ‘authentic’ or ‘true’ than the copy within a world
of copies. The more insistent the attempt to tell them apart, the more it ends up
describing ‘simulacrum’, which again puts in tension legitimacy, credibility, risk
and stability.

6.2.15 Meaning escapes everywhere

It is unclear where the political thinking ends and the body begins, in the uneasy
relations between bodies and their clothing. For a woman leader to legitimately and
properly cross-dress is about safety, economic access, security, and a desire for
acceptance in a man’s world of position, class, status, privilege, and power.
Clothing and vestimentary codes, as signifying systems, speak of a number of issues
including politics, class, gender, erotics, wealth, and culture, but the difficulty for
women is to know which set of signifiers are in play at any given moment, and how
these might be productively managed to work in positive ways. As similarly-
different women leaders, decoding leadership norms is anxiety-producing, because
meaning may be sighted, but it is never sited in any one place – ‘facialisation’
always requires a specific context to make it readable. What this means is that “[i]n
terms of ‘a free play of signifiers,’ for women there might be play in the signifiers,
but they are never free” (Garber, 1992). As The Hon Glenda Jackson (2000) puts it,
“[w]hen I came in [to Parliament] everyone was waiting for me to fall flat on my
face” (cited in Bryant, 2000, p.231).
Envy, faux contempt for success, and a genuine incomprehension of
Glenda’s motives made many of her colleagues suspicious ... and resentful
… There was a very real danger that the traits that had been Glenda’s
strengths in the theatre – determination, a preference for work over
sociability, intellectual rigour – would prove to be weaknesses in her new
metier. (Bryant, 2000, pp.231-232)

Even as determined, hard-working, and intellectually rigorous leaders, within

traditional leadership contexts women are both contained within the norms, and
resistant to containment, and this must be managed at one and the same time. The
above example is but one illustration of how women leaders are continually set
against and beside the countering ideas of masculinist leadership as normalising, if
not preferable, states of being. Glenda Jackson discovered when she entered
Parliament, that displaying similar leaderly characteristics that are prized in men –

“strength, determination, a preference for work over sociability, and intellectual
rigour” must be re-assembled differently in a woman politician. They are not valued
in the same way when dys-played in a woman. The spectacle of the visible hybridity
of a woman politician juxtaposes formal codes of legitimacy and fabricated nodes of
difference – a clashing weave both matching and unmatching bodies, body parts,
shapes, movement, gestures, clothing, uniforms, insignia, objects, colour, textures,
patterns, contexts and action. Glenda Jackson summarises it thus:
I had criticism about the way I dressed. I had come from a life where I
dressed to get undressed and then undressed to get back into comfortable
clothes. I don’t and never have dressed to make an image. Some people
complained that I had no style, so I had to do something about it. I’ve never
had so many clothes in my life since I entered politics. (The Hon Glenda
Jackson, politician, 2001)

This is not to suggest that there are choices for women or ways to easily overcome
the problems – but that the contradictions and tensions are both and neither
necessary and true for these similarly different women leaders and their
performances of leadership.

Leder (1992) suggests that in an electronic age, the body may become even more
significant in terms of how “the lived body … as an intending entity … is a being in
relationship to that which is other: other people, other things, a specific context.
…The lived body is not just one thing in the world, but a way in which the world
comes to be” (p.23). The scrutiny of women leaders, as The Hon Glenda Jackson
explained, seems implicated in the ongoing process of fashioning, self-fashioning,
and re-fashioning (if not refurbishment in an age of cosmetic surgery) of the self as
“an intending embodied entity” or “bodily intentionality” (Leder, 1992, p.23),
heightened by the commodification of leaders as celebrities (Rein, 1997; Warby,
2001). No one type of dress and comportment will do for women leaders. They are
both attached to, and detached from, the multiple layers of meaning inscribed in and
on traditional assemblages of dress and appearance, as discursive sites of possibility
and containment. In these terms, it is about the way in which woman-as-leader
comes to be a hybrid leader, always in the process of becoming ‘other’ through
holding together both sufficiently feminine and sufficiently leaderly, at one and the
same time.

For women leaders, tactics for passing rather than trespassing, involve managing the
relationship between presence and absence in the close and detailed scrutiny of
embodiment and appearance. Art, history, politics, culture, and gendered techniques
of self-fashioning and re-fashioning are all implicated in how a woman leader may
both appear and dys-appear in the public domain. The cross-dressed woman leader
both escapes and fails to escape leadership conventions, because she can never be
where men leaders are. “I am many things – a complex mix of gender, sexuality,
class - different kinds of people in one. Hard to know how to describe myself – my
style - certainly not like my male colleagues, although I work hard to be good at
what I do - that’s important to me … but I’m different” (Judge, 2001). In revealing
the conscious and meticulous intermixing of elements of dress and appearance as a
form of legitimate cross-dressing, required of women leaders in order to maintain
propriety and credibility, it points to the crises in existing gender categories
underpinning what constitutes a ‘proper’ and legitimate leader.

6.3.1 “The face is a veritable megaphone”61
Presence may generate spectacle if/when that presence arouses suspicion, or
surprise, by not conforming to expected norms, or by breaking out into identifiable
degrees of difference. As the previous section demonstrated, the presence of a
woman leader is scored by complex aspects of embodiment: material, discursive,
and symbolic. In the following interaction, it is not just the materiality of the body
that is highlighted, but what the gendered body produces by way of the spectacle of
Lord XY was invited to speak at a dinner. They got quite a shock when I
turned up - they were not expecting a woman Lord Justice. There was deal
of embarrassment and activity all round - they were expecting a man. (High
Court Judge, 2001).

As this situation suggests, the presence of women’s bodies within sites/sights of

male-defined leadership conventions, “never quite comply with the norms by which
their materialization is impelled,” as Butler argues (1999, p.236). Presence, as it is
performed in the above example, is not just a singular, deliberate ‘act’, but, rather,
the result of the “multiple reiterative and citational practices by which discourse
produces the effects that it names” (Butler, 1999, p.236). Within the site/sight of
law, for example, heterogeneity is still a risky business, which is not to suggest it
should be avoided (Russo, 1994).

The spectacle that erupted from the presence of a Lady-Lord Justice is an effect of
the power of discourse to produce specific outcomes that are enabled and
constrained by the current norms governing that particular materiality. Specifically,
it highlights the particular norms and bodily contours underpinning judicial
leadership as it currently exists. When Lord Justice dys-appears as Lady Lord
Justice, the many languages of the body make visible what her similarly-different
absent-presence produces: in this instance, “activity all round” (High Court Judge,
2001). What was available for various readings within the constrained space of
normalisation operating here was shock, surprise, changed expectations, veiled
embarrassment, questioning faces, reassurances, disciplining protocol, watchfulness,
apologies in jerky speech rhythms and muted tones, placatory language, the

Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.179.

rewriting of welcoming remarks – that is, the spectacle of a disciplined
disorderliness of bodies in motion.

It is another example of Canguilhelm’s (1978) ideas about error creating thought

and history, because as he states, “life is what is capable of error” (p.xix). As this
illustration suggests, the purpose of the following analysis is to explore the impact
of the presence of similarly different women leaders, and the ways in which they are
managing the demands of performing as woman-leaders in male-defined domains.
Such an analysis is not about mere surface effects, but about how the processes of
materialisation, corporeality, and embodiment, “stabilise over time to produce the
effect of boundary, fixity, and surface we call matter” (Butler, 1999, p.239) that can
be read and received in particular ways. As the interaction above indicates, the
presence of woman-as-leader demands managing the delicate negotiations
emanating from paradoxical location of a woman leader who is simultaneously
“suspended between female and male” and required to perform likewise (Hoppe,
cited in Garber, 1992, p.38). Women leaders must work within the opportunities and
constraints of prevailing leadership discourses, but as similarly-different women,
which necessarily frames the way they assemble themselves and shape their

6.3.2 ‘Facialising’ presence

Presence is an elusive aspect of leadership analysis, due in part to its non-verbal
character, but also because the presence of a woman leader in male-defined domains
sets up a kind of intriguing dissonance that is never simple or innocent, and for
many women not easily broached. In analysing how the presence of a woman Lord
Justice could elicit such a response, demands a return to the work of “the abstract
machine of faciality” developed by Deleuze and Guattari (1988, p.177). That is, the
‘facialising machine’ constituting leadership images influences how presence and
appearance is variously understood, and whether it passes, is questioned, or rejected
for trespassing legitimacy and credibility. For instance, the presence of a woman
military commander at high level international military negotiations, or even a
photographic image of that presence, produces an unsettling hybridity, because
‘military commander’ has been ‘facialised’ in identifiably masculinist terms.
Woman-as-leader in such contexts necessarily draws on different and similar

elements of embodiment, knowledge, pleasure, power, sensation, performativity,
legitimacy, and difference, which play off, refuse, collide, and enhance each other
(Gallop, 1997, p.101). As “an abstract machine facialising the entire body … it has
identity already inscribed in its overall grid … where waves of sameness and
difference” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.177) can be identified, measured,
catalogued, and judged.

In terms of traditional leadership constructs, such as judge, politician, or military

commander, for example, “facialisation” produces “very specific assemblages that
have the power to impose significance and subjectification”, such as, how presence
is legitimised and visibly ranked (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.180). Or how certain
bodies - white, male, and able, for example, have come to signify leadership.
Comments such as, “I see they’ve sent a girl to do a man’s job” (Politician and
former union leader, 2001), make visible a hierarchical cataloguing of the presence
of a gendered and leaderly body. As with submitting the body to a box, assembling
the body as living-billboard, standing on a box, refusing to be framed by standing
outside the box, being photographically framed as ‘other’ to homogenous
frameworks, or seen to be cross-dressing within and outside the norms, ‘otherness’
continues to draw attention, comment, and critique. Woman-as-leader constitutes a
particular sort of ‘otherness’ that draws on a similarly-different presence.

The resulting effects for women, is that it demands the deployment of subtle and/or
overt tactical appropriations and manoeuvres that are productively constraining. The
difficulties of performing as such is highlighted in the following comments from
Gome and Ross (2002) writing in the Business Review Weekly:
The reluctance of [women CEO’s] to discuss what it is like to be a business
woman – as opposed to a business person - is typical of the attitude of
successful female company executives and directors. Many of the women
…will be unhappy to be singled out as among the 20 most powerful women
in Australian business … ‘Speaking out publicly can tend to backfire’, said
[Executive Director] Belinda Hutchinson (BRW, 3 October, 2002, p.50).

Refusing to speak out, refusing to be publicly interviewed, refusing to discuss

certain issues, or refusing to speak about family matters, for example, are tactical
responses to the problems and demands of the visible invisibility of a woman leader.
However, as with irony of a Lady Lord Justice, there are no safe places to hide, no

forms of camouflage, and no easy solutions available for the woman leader in the
public domain. The liminal spaces between conventional understandings about
leadership, and the different spaces occupied by women in-between these meanings,
become spaces where the action is, and where new things become possible.
However, the tactical shifts required are not about resolving the differences, but
about women articulating a problematic identity that both and neither conforms and
contradicts the norms. In describing a storm over the port, a woman judge (2001)
I have been annoyed at the many rituals men have developed that are
problems for women judges. The ritual of men-only at port on circuits, for
example. I’m encouraging them to think through what they’ll do with women
judges. The practice was designed for the judges to get away from their
wives and general conversation. To talk about judicial matters. As a judge I
need to be part of that. But as a woman I’m excluded. I reject this, and have
asked to be included- to change the ritual. On circuits, the historical
background of judges arriving in the town and being formally met by the
Sheriff and looked after, is also a problem as a woman with a family
because it means leaving home a day earlier. He’s supposedly also
responsible for entertaining the judge – but that was for men who stayed
throughout - I go home at weekends to my family. Black tie dinners - which I
can’t be bothered with – it doesn’t fit with me. I want to get my paper work
done and get to bed. … There are rules about the Master being the one who
can stand with his back to the fire. Who will bow and in what order, e.g.
getting in and out of cars. I can’t remember who I am supposed to bow to,
and who is supposed to go first. It doesn’t matter because I am a woman, so
they wouldn’t say anything, but I suspect they would if it was a male junior
(judge) who made the same mistake. Women do not fit with these rituals –
I’m trying to change some things. (Judge, 2001)

The tactical manoeuvres for managing contestation and conformity – wanting to

change the rules to be part of the rules, that are being described here are not just
deconstructing the traditional and the old, but are an attempt to construct liminal
spaces in-between practices and protocols. In this example, working simultaneously
with the acceptable and unacceptable, the important and the trivial allows for
different understandings to emerge – understandings that may simultaneously
dismay some, but please others. It demonstrates that the ‘otherness’ of women
within the norms of leadership is both enabling and constraining – it risks drawing
attention to the ways in which women contest loyalties to closely protected
traditions, but they may also escape a disciplining scrutiny because of their
differences as women.

Leadership is obviously not a closed book, and never has been all of a piece even
though much of the literature may suggest otherwise. The historical anomalies
illustrated in the above examples make the contradictions and ironic possibilities
visible. It is understandable that some people wish to protect traditional values and
practices, because they constitute the fabric of history and culture, just as it is also
understandable that these same traditions are seen by others as discriminatory,
inappropriate, intrusive into limited private time, or as privileging some and
marginalising others. The juxtaposition of frustration and pleasure emanating from
the tensions between change and tradition questions what constitutes a ‘proper’
judicial-self as a woman judge. The fidelity and infidelity of properly performing a
similarly-different judicial workplace identity, within the complex historically-laden
practices surrounding the legal system, shows the tactical manoeuvres that are being
deployed by women to manage being both insiders and outsiders to this history and
tradition. However, such constraints and opportunities exact costs at the same time
as they offer tangible benefits.

6.3.3 Tactical donuts: supportive attacks

Spectacle may also be generated when images escape, distort, or exceed
expectations, so that a kind of subversion of image and identity occurs. The
following example, drawn from the experiences of women politicians in Parliament,
details how they developed a specific tactical manoeuvre to manage potentially
disruptive behaviours directed towards them by their male colleagues. It is another
example that meta-communicates about what is involved in simultaneously
managing being both insider and outsider to the norms.
We developed a protective strategy to deal with the sotto–voce insults by
male colleagues in Parliament. Personal belittling and verbal insults are a
common practice, tradition, in the House. It circumvents the authority of the
Speaker, because of the low volume levels used. To counteract this, we
developed the idea of ‘donuting’ – as a protection device – a protective
circle around any woman about to make a speech or ask a question. It forces
distance. Any further invectives either become audible (risking the censure
of the Speaker, or possible forced retraction, apology, recording in
Hansard, etc), or they’re too far away to be a distraction to the woman
speaking. (Politician, 2001)

As an embodied and visible boxing-in, or physical framing, of women by women,

‘donuting’ draws attention to the oddness of the women’s tactics, while also

signalling the potential risks for women in male-dominated domains. As physical
and symbolic scaffolding, the women’s bodies are the active support structures
enabling them to ‘properly perform’ in Parliament. However, within this “play of
power relations” (Foucault, 1982b, p.219) the women risk dys-appearing within the
male-defined normalised practices of Parliament. By directing the gaze towards the
unusual and visible collective behaviour of the women politicians, the disciplining
practices of power from their male colleagues are masked and rendered invisible. As
spectacle, the tactical manoeuvres deployed by the women simultaneously contest
and affirm the legitimacy and propriety of woman-as-politician.

As a collective tactic, ‘donuting’ provides the necessary framework to re-configure

the “mechanisms of governance” (Foucault, 1991b, p.92) aimed at disciplining
them, while at the same time it makes visible the gendered gaps in the
organisational tactics being deployed. Performatively, the tactical ‘donut’ exposes
the malleable boundaries of political behaviour, at the same time as it reinforces the
gendered concepts underpinning power in this context – authority, politician,
woman, man, leadership, leader, uniformity, difference, ‘otherness’, sameness, and
their cunning replicas. What follows, is that the theatricality and performative nature
of so public a dis/dys-play can be “measured and catalogued” (Foucault, 1979,
p.184), as exceptions that prove the rule about the propriety and legitimacy of
current political performances.

The incongruence of a tableau of women’s bodies points to a struggle between the

genuine and false, the real and the artificial, and the natural and the introduced,
influencing the orthodoxies underpinning what is, and is not, accepted as
authoritative leadership. The legitimately subversive counter-tactics work to reveal
the particular interests of both male and female politicians, while making visible
possible reasons and explanations for their respective actions (Clegg, 1990, pp. 181-
182). As reality-leadership under construction, it reveals female desire, not as
‘Lack,’ but as “a world that can overlay the existing one like a transparency”
(Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.280). This layering is then revealed for increased
scrutiny to take place.

As a ‘transparent overlay’, it is not about imitation, but a becoming that shows
politics to be disarticulated and cohesive, disorganised and uniform at one and the
same time. Masculinist politics may have carved out a space and place within which
to claim political authority, but the presence and counter-tactical manoeuvres of
women is an intimation of the shaping-power of their presence. Conspicuous in the
above example is the idea that social and/or material boxes, or cyborgian
frameworks, are being mobilised in various ways by women, as volatile
assemblages for ordinary and extraordinary leadership displays. Within the norms of
Parliament, this ironic tableau as a self-referential parody of military strategy is
easily mobilised, however, it is important not to minimise the costs and the risks for
women who may dys-appear in the process. As the politician stated, “It is tedious.”

The collective action of the parliamentary women shows multiplicity being

tactically produced and reproduced (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988, p.6). The
‘donuting’ tactic reveals the assembling and re-assembling of masculinist
archetypes of leadership as a mixing of “the real and the imaginary” (Baudrillard,
1983b, p.150), the facts and the fictions of leadership, to reveal its actual hybridity,
or in Russo’s (1994) words “its true heterogeneity” (p.10). That donuts have a
hollow, empty, transparent centre can be read symbolically in terms of women and
leadership: that is, there is no centre or origin - empty or otherwise. However, the
eye of a storm is a space of deceptive order and calm, a space where force circles
around and back as its own counterforce, striking first one way, and then the other,
with the potential for devastating power and destruction (Schneider, 1997, p.57).
That women are wresting to themselves aspects of masculinist leadership as both
absence and presence, by hollowing-out different spaces in the public eye, shows
that leadership is not a fixed reality, but “a production space … a reading strip, a
strip of coding and decoding, magnetised signs - aesthetic reality - no longer by the
premeditation of art and practices, but by the immanence of power” (Baudrillard,
1983b, p.150). The tactics deployed by women reveal leadership codes as turning
back onto themselves in new and different ways. They are a manipulation of
indefinite reproduction – striking first one way and then the other, as both force and
counterforce, but with no way of knowing how things might end.

6.3.4 Assemblages carefully learned
The “facialisation” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, pp.174-191) of the presence of a
leader is not just about individual faces or bodies, but what ‘faciality’ produces,
what it compels and directs, and how ways of seeing and behaving are made
possible. For instance, “I was aware that I didn’t look like a judge like the men did
…that they’d see the trappings of office, but I still wouldn’t be a proper judge”
(Judge, 2000). It is not just a case of finding some sort of ‘balance’ between the
equality-difference dilemmas posed here. The facialisation of body-parts, or partial
objects (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988), involves the inter-mingling of complex
qualities of movement, materiality, behaviours, situations, confrontations, and so on.
“Consistency” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, pp.331-334) in terms of leadership
presence is a challenge for women leaders. Their hybrid presence is produced by the
similarities and differences that are continuously working to not only de-construct
traditional practices of leading, but, to also re-construct new manoeuvres in-between
the norms as consistent-inconsistencies and inconsistent-consistencies.

Through the everyday routines and practices of leadership, socio-cultural and

political norms are embodied and converted into habitual activity and attendant
expectations that finally ‘go without saying.’ Therefore, in understanding the
elusive qualities underpinning the different and similar presence of a woman leader,
it requires an examination of how they appear and/or dys-appear within specific
practices of leadership. For instance, understanding how women develop “the
judging-eye” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988) of law; or, how they manage the
inconsistencies of “being straight-up-and-down and thinking laterally” (Judge,
2001); or straddle the paradoxical position of being simultaneously consistent and
flexible – “I’m absolutely consistent in my actions with staff, but flexibility is
important” (Business woman, 2001). Problems immediately arise because such
ironic words and actions simultaneously reinforce and contest legitimacy, because
they reveal women’s specific peculiarities as leaders who are capable of becoming
“straight-up-and-down and lateral” at one and the same time (Judge, 2001).

According to one senior judge, for instance, some behaviours have become so
normalised that they are now ‘impossible images’ for a woman leader. “Crying is
an impossible image for a woman judge” (Judge, 2001), but “a good cry can add to

the courtroom drama … or be compassionate in a male judge,” according to David
Pannick QC (2000). He cites the following examples:
Usually judges and barristers keep a stiff upper lip, but occasionally …

Judge Andrew Rutherford cried at Bristol Crown Court as he announced ….

Judge Lance Ito’s eyes moistened as he told the court, ‘I love my wife

And Judge Quentin Campbell was moved to tears at the end of a trial. The
judge took off his wig, wiped his eyes, turned to the jury and said, ‘Isn’t it
sad?’ …

In contrast, it was said by regular customers of one ‘gouty old bully’ that
you could tell which was his glass eye because it was the one with the
compassion. Such judges sobbed only when putting on their old school tie,
attending a rugby match, or finding that roast beef was not on the menu at
their club … It is right and proper that even judges should not be afraid to
show that they have emotions. (The Times, 12 Dec, 2000, p.7)

But it is not as simple as this binary formulation might suggest. In managing the
‘impossible’ images of women, some women leaders are combining similarity with
a breaking of convention to undercut normalised stereotypes about women. For
instance, “I mix tough words with compassionate demeanour or the other way
around,” was one woman’s method of dealing with problems (Business woman,
2001). Other women suggest that presence, as woman, influences the politics of
specific types of enactments in identifiable ways: “Signs of weakness are no-go
areas for a woman” (Union leader and now senior politician, 2001); “I will not talk
about family matters” (Business woman and Director, 2002); “I’m interested in
lateral thinking for the best solutions” (Judge, 2001); “I’m more interested in good
decisions, not adversarial contests, one side winning” (Judge, 2001); or even,
“Lord/Lady Butler-Sloss is content to be a unisex judge” (The Times, Law, 2000,
p.19), a comment that slyly evokes both the politics and the impossibility of
‘balancing’ or even ‘resolving’ ‘gender trouble’ (Butler, 1989).

6.3.5 The weightiness of correct weight

In terms of presence, objects and symbolic elements, such as ‘weightiness’, as in the
masculinist “weight of the law” (Lady Justice Brenda Hale, 2000, p.13) can both
contest and legitimate propriety. “In making women more like a man, it adds the
appearance of weight, seriousness, and selflessness to what they do,” Lady Justice

Hale (2000, p.13) claims. Symbolically contrasting ‘the full-weight of the law’ with
the problematic ‘light-weight’ risks dys-appearing in terms of history and tradition,
and by default, legitimacy. Being “a proper judge properly dressed” is both
positive and negative for women, because, according to Lady Justice Brenda Hale
(2000), it may “humanise us all into men” (p.13). In a similar fashion, the absence
and/or presence of a judicial wig on a woman evokes a set of oppositions about the
law, that cannot be simply explained by measuring one idea against the other. Lady
Justice Elizabeth Butler-Sloss (2001) explains: “My father left me his full-bottomed
wig in his will. He said ‘You’ll never get to seniority…’, but he must have thought
something to leave it to me. … Now … I wear it all the time - with pride” (27 April,
2001). For Lady Justice Butler-Sloss, there were no traditional or planned pathways
for a woman to become a High Court Judge, and nor were there specific strategies
to further a woman’s career within such realms: there were only tactical moments to
be seized from a wig with a will.

Presence, as a juxtaposition of appearance and dys-appearance involves

assemblages in the process of being dis-assembled and re-assembled, from ‘a
thousand tiny elements’ that interact in multiple ways.
I’m conscious that as a politician I’m producing an image. …It’s part of me
but removed from me. …In the theatre you do a performance eight times a
week. Each time you are reinventing the part…rebuilding it …Parliament is
like that, but you have to write the script as well. It’s even more difficult for
women – we’ve only been here five minutes – comparatively speaking. (The
Hon Glenda Jackson, politician, 19 June, 2001)

Clothing, dress and behaviour are filters through which gender, class, history,
privilege, context, and sexuality are made apparent in particular ways. For example,
cartoons depicting the former Premier of Victoria, Joan Kirner, in a spotted dress
and moccasins as a harassed, overweight housewife (Kirner & Rayner, 1999, p.95),
or the appearance of a Governor in a bright yellow dress, rather than the expected
dark suit or military uniform simultaneously contest and reinforce the expectations
of male-defined leadership.

Utterances such as: “I’m not here to be a show thing” (Politician, 2001), points to
an awareness that the presence of women leaders is constantly on show and under
scrutiny because of the power of image. “In meetings I try to use manly-feminine

language,” (Politician and Government Minister, 2001) is reminiscent of the earlier
comment about how difficult it is to be suspended between being both female and
male, as does the following observation. “I try to show proficiency in the
unexpected – financial statements, market analysis data” (Business woman and
Director, 2002). What comments such as these reveal is that the multiple codes and
devices underpinning the corporeal practices of a woman leader are neither arbitrary
nor natural. Embodiment involves a complex and shifting dialectic, which, while
written nowhere, is understood in quite precise ways when it deviates from the
norms (Sapir, 1921). When women enter as leaders, conventions are both reinforced
and contested through this deliberate interplay between mimesis and artifice, which
can be productive, but it might also work unproductively, because of the risky
business inherent in performing as a hybrid leader within the norms.

The leaderly and counter-leaderly presence of a woman leader shows up “the prior
gridding” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.180) that makes possible the identification
of gaps, lack, ambiguities, and differences. Coles Myer Director and senior legal
partner, Mark Leibler (2002), states that, “[s]ome men think it is their God-given
right to sit on boards, whereas it is more unusual for a woman so they make a better
fist of it” (quoted in Gome & Ross, 2002, p.52). In saying this, he makes visible the
counter-manoeuvre of being seen to do (and be) ‘better’, as a deliberate tactical
response to the overcoding of the face and body of business leadership. As
highlighted in the following comments, women are tactically doing ‘more’ or
‘better’ to prove that they are sufficiently leaderly and legitimate. The Honourable
Glenda Jackson (2001) claims it is “[t]he self-defeating syndrome of more is better”
(19 June, 2001). “Women do more work”; “women pay more attention to the fine
details”; “women are better listeners”; “women are self-effacing, but must work to
get themselves noticed”; “women need to act a bit more like men”; “women
should promote themselves more”; “Women must blend family and work, not try
to balance the two.” “Women should maximise the breadth of knowledge and
experience” (Gome & Ross, 2002, p. 50-56). Such close scrutiny produces the
visible effect of more and less, as better and worse, to echo and subvert the
question, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” 62 it is possible though, that
when Tom Peters (1991) and David Pannick (2000) ask, “Why can’t a man be more

Prof Higgins, in My Fair Lady, Act 1, Sc2, words by Alan Jay Lerner.

like a woman?” they are pointing to the productiveness and power of an assembled
and re-assembled becoming-self.

6.3.6 Breaking the rules to be exception and the rule.

The women in this study demonstrate that they are learning how to speak, think, and
strategise different tactical moves “for spectacle to speak” (Gallop, 1997, p.6-7), but
in ‘speaking’ it is both and neither consistent with established leadership
expectations. Inescapably deploying counter-tactics in liminal spaces at the edges of
power, women are ‘outsiders’ to the norms, with no easily identifiable place, and no
fixed consistency. Deeply entrenched club-like traditions do not easily tolerate
dissent, but even if the dissenter has little room for manoeuvre, there may be some
‘room for chance’. The presence of women leaders in certain contexts, such as the
military or the police service, is another example of the possible and impossible,
logical and illogical, and familiar and de-familiarised, in terms of leadership
conventions. In the following example, the specific manoeuvres that are deployed
by a woman police officer to counter the double-bind of containment and rule-
breaker, is an attempt to be the rule exceptionally.
They had a rule in the police-service that women stayed at home and men
went away – special jobs, investigations, strikes, for example. I decided I’d
show them that women could go away too. I volunteered to go up north and
work on the miner’s strike. I was away for several months… I learnt to
ignore the taunts and curiosity-factor. Learning to cope with the fear of
physical confrontation …being on the picket-lines - it taught me other things
about what I could achieve. (Senior police woman, 2001)

The leaderly and counter-leaderly tactical manoeuvres of performing as a

proper/improper rule breaker maintain and explode expectations about the norms of
gender in the police service. They simultaneously give the lie to, and reinforce,
‘fixed ideas’ or ‘rules’ about the presence of women in specific places, engaged in
particular gendered tasks. The subtle and powerful, hard and soft, ambitious and
fearful tactical moves reveal their political thrust through the holding together of the
seemingly opposing ideas about women as hard or soft, conforming or non-
conforming, tough or compassionate, because there is an imperative in holding
together in tension the two seemingly oxymoronic terms at one and the same time.
That is, conforming-nonconformity, compassionate-toughness, hard-softness,

6.3.7 Iron in the irony
“The relation of the face to the abstract machine that produces it, and the relation of
the face to the assemblages of power that require that social production: that is, the
face as politics” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.181) is poignantly illustrated by former
US Congresswoman Pat Schroeder (1998) in her autobiography Twenty-four years of
Housework - and the place is still in a mess. Harvard graduate, pilot, politician, wife,
and mother, Schroeder served the US Congress for 24 years. She “proudly”
(Interview, The Weekend Australian, 3-4 October, 1998, Review, p.7) became the first
woman to be appointed to the armed services committee, the most powerful
Congressional committee in the US Government, which, in 1998, controlled 65 cents
in every US Government dollar.
Beside her on that first day, was another new congressman, an African-
American, the first representative of his people. Meeting them in the
committee room was F. Edward Hebert, a good old boy from Louisiana, a 72
year-old Dixiecrat-autocrat who knows the place of women and blacks: not on
his committee. Waiting for the two new members is … one chair. ‘Hebert said
neither of us was worth more than half a chair’, Schroeder recalls. ‘We sat
cheek-to-cheek, hip-to-hip, and it took great dignity on the part of the two of
us to do that. We leaned into each other, recognising what was being said and
done to us by this humiliating effort’. They were ruining the ambience of
Hebert’s fiefdom, as he later told Schroeder. ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord
taketh’, he said. ‘And, here I am the Lord.’ (Forbes, The Weekend Australian,
3-4 October, 1998, Review, p.7)

What makes this ‘image-event’ spectacular, rather than trivial, is the manner of its
rendering and the tactical manoeuvres that were deployed to manage it. As shifts on
the grid of faciality – man, but black; white, but woman; legitimate politicians, but
new and different – this image-event is spectacular. That it happened, that everyone
on the committee ‘tolerated’ the spectacle of two adults sharing one chair in a context
of wealth, privilege and power, that no-one broke ranks, that the two adults managed
it with dignity, and ironically, that it self-consciously parodied white, southern racist
discrimination in the heart of US democracy – the White House. Deliberate resistance,
in the form of sustained presence and conforming non-conformity is the tactical
manoeuvre deployed here. This enabled an ongoing presence in the meeting, but it
also constrained through the odd and visible awkwardness of the enactment.
Deploying “dignified” “leaning-into-each-other” for “toughing-out” the

“humiliating efforts” designed to demean, became a productive moment for
“spectacle to speak” (Gallop, 1997, p.6-7) in a range of volatile ways, about the power
of otherness amidst traditional homogeneity.

As a particular display of leadership power it speaks of authoritative utterance,

language as force, omnipotent religiosity, “the paranoid face and body of the despot-
God” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.116), the judging eye of white male supremacy,
the shifting politics of space and objects, but not of absolute unchanging power.
Power is also under scrutiny here, because of the counter-tactics of presence as
compliant resistance, and as attacking acquiescence, that was demonstrated by their
“dignified silence and steady gaze … for toughing it out.” As a political example, it
demonstrates how the binary oppositions of insider/outsider, powerful/powerless were
held together in tension. It also reveals “how thought takes place in a body [The
Chairman], as a body [US, southern, white, conservative politics], and towards bodies
[Schroeder and African-American colleague Hebert],” and that the body is “in some
instances, a body-image, in others it is a body-thing, and often a body-effect”
(Colebrook, 2000, p.126). This political moment indicates that in some situations it is
all three, which then must be tactically managed in whatever ways are available. As
one tactical solution, history shows that the manoeuvres deployed here cannot be held
up as liberatory, but as “the art of partial solutions” (Flieger, 2000, p.57-58). In
revealing ‘the powerful swift sword of the Lord’, the tactical shift was, nevertheless, a
productive disjunction that showed how presence as ‘other’ tactically does whatever it
can do, by seizing moments on the wing.

6.3.8 Behaving badly for the good

Within the traditional frameworks such as law, business, the academy, or politics,
woman, as an embodied hybrid leader, draws on both difference and repetition as
random acts of possibility that have definite outcomes, but not predictable ones that
can guarantee success. The noting of degrees of appearance as dys-appearance
within particular contexts and leadership practices is another example of what is
produced by way of spectacle. For instance, breastfeeding in parliament or a
boardroom -“we have one woman here who lactates and dictates at the same time”
(Jamieson, 1995, p.207), may simply fascinate, or become the subject of media
scrutiny and front-page headlines or even workplace equal opportunity legislation.

Excessive public questioning of the Chairman in a board meeting may unsettle
existing norms or evoke resentment, even as it may demonstrate strength and
attention to detail. For a woman leader, challenging the conventions of leadership is
not about transcending them, but about simultaneously working within the norms
and creating a problematic distance from them, by way of deliberate tactical artifice.
Unlike the models of progress, rationality, and liberation the challenge is that in
evoking the politics that underpin the norms, or making them visible for further
scrutiny, women risk becoming the grotesque that moves.

For a woman leader to take up an alternative position on a political issue, or refuse

to agree to vote with the power brokers she may dys-appear as a contrary presence,
at the same time as her similarly different presence enables her to more easily take
up an alternative position. Within the political context of Parliament, the actions that
were mobilised against one woman for taking a political stance show how thought
and conventions connect and respond in various ways. The situation required
careful tactical manoeuvres to manage the overt hostility and coercive disciplinary
procedures instigated against her.
Whispering campaigns against me … One day I was hissed at when I
entered the Chamber … comments were directed to me in the Chamber … I
was shunned by colleagues … colleagues refused to look at me and ignored
me in the corridors … [and] … I received visits by the Deputy Whips,
threatening that I would never amount to anything, no-one would like me,
I’d never be appointed to senior office, and my career would be finished
unless I agreed to support it [the legislation] … I couldn’t agree with it –
what would that say about me as a woman, and for human rights, supporting
legislation against poor women? … Does it say something about them? Is
that how they operate? … Isn’t it time to give up on anatomy as destiny -
directed at women if it’s negative and to themselves if it’s advantageous?
(Politician and lawyer, 2001)

The subtle, but discernible, presence of a concerted whispering campaign illustrates

the powerful institutionalised disciplining procedures against members who “do not
toe the line” or “do not measure up” in terms of calibrating party-line affiliations
that have been designed without women in mind (Politician and lawyer, 2001). The
raft of violent verbs for not toeing the line such as, “whispering, hissing, booing,
shunning, refusing, commenting, ordering, ignoring, avoiding, and threatening”
(Politician and lawyer, 2001), show how a similarly different presence is both
measurable and productive. Power, in this instance, is simultaneously being enacted

and interrupted as “an undoing of authority from within the very position of
authority” (McWilliam, 1996b, p.7) that this woman holds as a legitimate politician.
Women have never been ‘one of the boys’, or members of ‘The Club’, but
paradoxically, they are expected to understand and adhere to club norms, protocols
and behaviours. In being framed as ‘other’ women must tactically re-frame the very
terms and processes of normalcy, including the homogenisation of all female

6.3.9 “Take it like a man, give it like a woman”

The eruption of a woman’s body into the political frame becomes a point of
identifiable disruption, when the gaze is drawn to those visible points of interest or
difference – those paradoxes, ambiguities, ironies that are simultaneously similar
and different, or properly improper. As “technologies of the self” (Foucault, 1988a,
p.18) the disciplinary techniques and mechanisms mobilised by the Parliamentary
Whips are designed to control and normalise the body politic and turn party
members into a certain sort of docile subject. These actions, and the tactical
responses they evoke, turn the focus onto the power of politics, leadership, gender,
behaviour, cohesion and difference to produce spectacle. The counter-tactics
deployed by this woman politician created a sense of isolated connection as insider
and outsider to the norms of political power. Her properly-improper refusal to
capitulate, and her visible and stubborn endurance of the disciplining practices
became measurable nodes on a ‘grid of normalcy’ that were both recognisable
within, and contrary to, the normalising technologies deployed in governing.
I’m clear about what I’ll accept and what I won’t. They don’t like that in a
woman …means you can’t be controlled …but they secretly admire it,
because that’s what good leaders have always done, and a lot of them wish
they could have refused too… Men find it hard to disagree. Club thinking. …
I said to X when he visited me one day, ‘Have they all forgotten what I’ve
been doing for a living for the past twenty-five years?’ … I can take it like
the men, but I can also give it back like a woman.… They couldn’t seriously
expect that I’d toe the line – could they? … And what line would it be that I
should toe, then? …. After a while they gave up. Some of them told me
privately, that they admired what I’d done. You know, sometimes I wonder
why I’m here. (Politician and lawyer, 2001)

The paradoxical presence of women as located within and without the norms
indicates that there are no rules, procedures or models for guaranteeing safety,
security, success, and predictability. Ambiguity attaches itself to all aspects of

leadership – punishment and admiration, toughness as compassion, feminine and
masculine, for example, and it communicates ongoing differences that grow in the
midst of leadership enactments, not as separate from them. ‘Look only at the
movements,’ suggested Kierkegaard (cited in Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.281),
because, as the above example suggests, there are no movements, no behaviours, no
responses that are not infinite and continuously becoming (Deleuze & Guattari,
1988, p.280). It is these movements in-between the norms that are both complicitous
with, and contesting of the norms, that the presence of women make visible, and
that both work for and against woman-as-leader.

6.3.10 Peerless dis-arming tactics

Being outside The Club can also produce some humorous and disarming counter-
moves. The following scene illustrates the power and importance of the numerous
unwritten but powerful protocols associated with male-defined tradition, rituals,
leadership, and authority. Baroness Helena Kennedy (1998) shows how easy it is for
women to get it ‘wrong’.
After her official introduction to the House of Lords, Baroness Helena
Kennedy of the Shaws QC was immediately kissed by two fellow Labour
Peers. Thinking that it must be part of the ritual, Baroness Kennedy
proceeded to kiss every one of the astonished peers standing in line waiting
to be introduced. ‘All these guys were amazed to be pounced upon and
kissed by me. ...Even now the ones that missed out ask me for their kiss. They
find me …disarming’ (The Times, Sat 18 April, 1998).

The virtuosity of this surprise performance seductively introduces impossible

images into the thinking underpinning parliament, tradition, and political
relationships. Surprise and humour work out of appearance as dys-appearance
because of the newly-appointed woman Peer kissing the entire Peerage of the House
of Lords. It was an unintentionally transgressive move, in contrast to the propriety
of shaking hands in accordance with the proper, but unwritten, protocols handed
down from father to son, but not daughter, in this most privileged, traditional and
masculinist of contexts. It highlights the myriad inconsistencies and gendered
minutiae involved in negotiating propriety and impropriety as a woman. This
disarming counter-move reveals how power is produced and reproduced, and
authority is done and undone, because woman as Peer is both contained and
impossibly contained within proper uniformity and historical tradition.

While kissing, for some, may be a welcoming or disarming gesture, in certain
contexts it can also produce mixed messages. One senior woman refused the ritual
of kissing, as a tactical move to assert a kind of conforming non-conformity. “I
dislike the way some men think they can kiss you, just because you’re a woman… It
doesn’t have the same level of respect as men give each other when they meet. They
know I don’t like it. They don’t even try now” (Judge, 2002). The risk is that it may
symbolise a departure or a reworking of the norms for similarly different forms of
respect to be forged, but for some it may also represent the kiss of death – in this
case, the death of uniformity, the propriety of ‘The Club’, and the constraints of the
binaries underpinning gendered performances. Challenging the norms in an
historically traditional context that is committed to carefully preserving them is
risky, even as it exposes the arbitrary constructedness of such beliefs and practices.

6.3.11 Double-edged sword of working in doubles

The “lived body” (Leder, 1990, p.5), ‘corporeality’, and the ‘embodied
performances’ of a woman leader are generative principles that challenge and re-
configure the binaries underpinning the presence of woman-as-leader. As the senior
police woman indicates, below, in certain contexts and within particular
relationships, the lived body of a woman leader becomes an object of the gaze and a
subject of discourse.
When I heard the man say ‘Two women running this operation! I can see it
won’t be done very well then,’ I was determined to follow the book to the
letter, and do it twice as well. It was a horrible [murder] case. I had to make
myself appear efficient … no weaknesses. (Senior police officer, 2001,
emphasis in the original)

The dilemma exposed here, is that in being physically present as a senior detective
in charge of a murder investigation, but being refused a level of legitimacy by way
of gender, woman-as-detective challenges whether it is possible for women leaders,
at this historical moment, to be anything other than spectacle. Responses from many
senior women, including the above, are reflective of Leder’s (1990) contentions that
bodies “reach out,” and “fall back” or “dys-appear” (26-27), in ways that make it
difficult for women to determine their image according to their own particular aims
and desires, because embodiment is always context and discourse-dependent.

A desire ‘to fit in’ with stereotypical images of leadership, while functioning as a
woman leader within male-defined practices and processes, requires ongoing labour
to rework ‘otherness’ in terms of similarity and difference. The detectives in the
murder inquiry above were reminded that they are “bodies-in-connection” (with the
maternal, with traditional notions of femininity, the play of surfaces, with binaries
such as hard/soft, tough/weak, emotional/rational, mind/body, and so on), unlike
their male colleagues who are inscribed as independent, autonomous, competent
“bodies-in-isolation” (Balsamo, 1999, p. 279). The possibilities and difficulties with
the divergences of the determinate indeterminacy of gender is that it works within
and against dominant modes of thinking. For example: “Women don’t have to live
up to establishment …traditions of history,” [we]“belong more to ourselves, we can
be ourselves more.” (Professor Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, 3 May 2001), or, “The Board
already expects that I’ll be different, but I’m as effective as the men on the board”
(Business woman, 2002). Because bodies are catalogued and categorised in certain
gendered ways, the paradoxes become visible through similarly-different embodied
behaviours, voice, dress, gestures, bodily characteristics, and so on.

6.3.12 Bodies-in-connection
The lived outcomes of managing both similarity and difference become apparent
when, as mentioned above, two women police officers arrive to take control of a
murder-scene investigation (Senior police officer, 2001). The political and cultural
forces at work illustrate how subjectivities and identities are produced out of the
body’s socio-cultural, political, and gendered location. For example, in ‘proving’
their capability as police officers their difference requires them to consciously
manipulate the materiality of their bodies; bodily comportment; demonstration of
‘competence’; their assertiveness in taking control of people, space, and procedures;
displaying of knowledge and expertise in investigative methods; the forcefulness
and restraint of their gestures and utterances; the style of language used; use of
objects and spaces, and so on. If legitimacy is to be achieved and maintained, the
requisite police investigative qualities must be also made visible in the performance
of ‘proper’ police officer, but as a woman. The complexity of this reminds women
that propriety is still filtered through established, male-defined norms, but it requires
a lot more than simple mimesis of their male colleagues.

Under this sort of intense scrutiny, the women police officers cannot but be aware
that their police work is multiply discursive and complex. The performative mode of
supportive defence deployed by women to minimise risks and guard against dys/dis-
appearing is fuelled by the many narratives of difficulties and failure of women
entering masculinist domains. “A woman badly wanted to get into the dog-squad.
They’d never taken a woman before. She got in, but stuffed it in a raid - they’ve
never taken a woman there again” (Senior police woman, 2001). Repetition of
‘stereotypical’ police investigative techniques and behaviours, but transmuted
through a different assemblage involving the body of woman, shows how at the
very moment masculinist norms are being made visible and reproduced, they are
also denied autonomous power, because difference and sameness are being
problematically performed in paradoxical tandem. For example, “We would
sometimes organise our approach before we got there. Sometimes we’d split tough
and not-tough – one would do the talking, the other was free to get on with the
investigative stuff that has to be done when there’s a murder” (Senior police
woman, 2001). The presence of a uniform can signify both uniformity and
difference, because as a highly familiar and systemised image, measuring even
minute differences becomes even easier.

6.3.13 Repeating similarity differently.

The presence of women in powerful positions is being tactically deployed by some
women to support other more vulnerable women whose presence is under threat.
Astrophysicist Professor Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, in addressing acts of discrimination
in academia and the workplace, stated: “You always need at least two women who
can work in concert – the lone woman is very isolated…If no-one else will listen -
turn to the likes of me!” (2001, emphasis in the original). As powerful outsider and
legitimate insider, the use of position and status (Professor of Astro-physics, for
example) as a tactical deployment, acts as systemic scaffolding for supporting and
mentoring younger women. But this too is not without irony, because the act of
supporting may further highlight the otherness of women and mobilise debates
about ‘merit,’ ‘authenticity’ and credibility. It may suggest a seeming lack of
independence and personal power because of the need for support. At the same
time, the fact that women are tactically reproducing and recycling traditional
leadership behaviours points to the hollowness of fixed beliefs underpinning

traditional models of leadership and leaders, in terms of originality and uniqueness.
Resemblance and re-production of leadership behaviours by women, shows power
as invested everywhere – and all is ‘simulacra’. In foregrounding the
constructedness and contradictions of leadership, woman-as-leader works to subvert
the burden of authenticity and certainty by opening up different possibilities for
leaders and leadership, but for those committed to preserving tradition, accepting
such changes does not come easily.

This is not to suggest that women and men are equally or unequally placed to
perform these identity shifts, as indicated earlier by Adkins and Lurie (1999).
Instead, it is argued that for women leaders, the paradoxes, ironies and problems of
presence cannot be escaped, and must be carefully negotiated on a daily basis.
“Acting is more real than politics, which is real and demands acting, but doesn’t
admit it”. … Men don’t like irony and paradox – to be challenged about things,
about why – leave things uncertain. They get rather cross at that.” (The Hon
Glenda Jackson, Politician, 19 June, 2001). In managing such tensions, women
regularly resort to juggling “straight up and down … and thinking laterally”
(Judge, 2001).

In terms of public spectacle “the telling flesh” of women (Kirby, 1997) unsettles the
norms, and demands different enactments to stamp authority, certainty, and
legitimacy onto leadership performances, but in so doing there are still no
guarantees. While some women suggest “that women leaders are now allowed to be
all kinds of people…. Some are more legitimate than others but there’s an
acceptance of some difference” (Politician, 2001), others have a different view.
After ten years they’re the uncomfortable ones – they still don’t know how to
deal with me. They knock on my door tentatively - respectfully? It’s a total
puzzle why they come to talk to me. I don’t invite them. I’m not the head of
the court, I don’t encourage them. …What they did at the beginning –
isolation and rudeness – I could understand more readily than this. They
now want me to be part of the Club, and I don’t want to be. (Judge, 2000)

Baldly rejecting her colleagues’ overtures, it now appears they have a newfound
desire to engage in a ‘redemptive dialogue’ with her. Within a ‘politics of
vulnerability’, the subtle shift in the power relationship indicates that concerted
efforts are now being made to claim the indulgence of the ‘Other’, after years of

“isolation and rudeness”. What seems to “puzzle” her male colleagues is the
“blasphemous” (Haraway, 1991, p.149) notion that not only is equality impossible,
but their indulgence is rejected. However, the risk for women is, as Deleuze and
Guattari (1988) indicate, that “very few people are immune from a certain contempt
for nomads” … for “deserters” who refuse fixity, certainty, and locatedness (p.405).

6.3.14 Never the I of the storm

In conclusion, woman-as-leader is daily reminded that her similarly-different
presence is both enabling and constraining. As Baudrillard (1983a) contends, signs
of power can be mistaken for power itself. Through an ironic re-working of these
signs, such as the tactics deployed by the parliamentary women or the two women
detectives, what is produced are signs of its resemblance (p.45). Power itself is no
longer present, except to concede (in this instance, at least) that there is none, or that
it is another game or kind of power (pp.45-46). The simulation of power, which can
go on indefinitely, differs from impersonation because of the notion of demand,
argues Baudrillard (1983a, p.46). Women leaders are not just impersonating the
power of men, but due to specific demands, they are creating ironic spaces to make
different connections that re-produce and contest prevailing practices.
Consequently, this intermingling within an ironic space shows the boundaries
between illusion and reality to be liquid, limpid, and translucent. The tactical
deployments of women leaders included in this section illustrate that some
alternative to male power is possible through simulating male strategies of power -
to “feign to have what one hasn’t” (Baudrillard, 1983a, p.5). However, as has been
mentioned, they point more to possibilities than sustained progress (Russo, 1994,

“This lack of distinction” between an “excellent simulator” and the “real” or

“authentic” is, according to Baudrillard (1983a), “the worst form of subversion”
because it “submerge[es] the truth principle” (p.7). Perhaps this is one more
explanation for why women are seen to be risky and at risk. Irony, satire, and
parody offer the advantage of not needing to be taken seriously, even considering
the serious intent of women’s tactical defence actions that are available for various
readings. This is not to presume there is a desire to solve the problems of male
power, because irony, masquerade, and satire never promise that. It reflects, masks,

holds up for scrutiny, and perverts both reality and absence, and as such, “[i]t is its
own pure simulacrum” (p.11). The women perform the specific strategies of power
through their appearance and dys-appearance, where “the duplication is sufficient to
render both as artificial” (p.18) as modes of performance. Negotiating the demands
of presence as a woman leader continues to demand “living within the moment of
crafting” (Spivak, 1986, p.206). Engineering presence is not about liberating
women, but is a reminder that what enables also has the power to constrain.
However, it well may be that spectacle not only constrains in drawing the gaze, it
may also contain within it the vision of possibility for re-imagining leadership.

6.4.1 The material power of language
As indicated in the previous sections, image and identity involves the assembling
and reassembling of the existing forces, practices, and relations of leadership that
then influence how women leaders may appear and/or dys-appear in the public gaze.
Woman-as-leader necessarily draws on modes of repetition and difference, as
assemblages that involve “a groundless, but nevertheless political, solidarity”
(Elam, 1994, p.69). As a groundless solidarity women and/in leadership involves an
ironic double politics: it is both “molar politics” (solidarity, but groundless), and a
“molecular women’s politics” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.276), because woman-
as-leader is a becoming of multiplicities of sameness and difference. The identity
formation of woman-as-leader is not simply about binary formulations that demand
either the doubling or opposing of man; it must affirm itself as an event that draws
on either, neither or both similarity and difference in an ongoing process of
becoming (Colebrook, 2000, pp.1-2).

As a multiple self, woman-as-leader is also constrained within specific historical

contexts, which inscribe ways of assembling and dis-asssembling a proper and
legitimate leaderly self. It is within these assemblages that leadership effects are
produced; that is, the effects of being-assembled-together as a hybrid woman leader.
In practical terms, this determines how women leaders understand themselves to be,
how they speak, present, perform, and judge themselves within their specific
leadership domains. For women leaders, differences exist within this ongoing
process of assembling and re-assembling – not outside it. It is this doubleness that
must be daily negotiated in the ordinary everyday enactments of leadership, and it
points to difficulties for women in being seen “to be getting it right” (Judge, 2001).

A third tactical manoeuvre that is brought forward for scrutiny involves the
“material power of language” and utterance (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.109) in
terms of performing leadership as a woman leader. As with appearance and
presence, language has the power to further complicate leadership, because it can
elide difference, conflate categories, support generalities, and further legitimate
binaries. A simple, but moving, example comes from UK High Court Judge Lady
Justice Heather Hallett, who discusses the limitations and possibilities of the

overworked phrase, ‘I sentence you to life imprisonment’. She unpacks the layers of
meaning underpinning the discursive act of pronouncing this powerful sentence
about a sentence:
I think it is wrong to just say ‘life imprisonment’. I take into account the
impact, in a case like this [a murder] …on the community, on the family,
friends, and in particular the young woman victim….The ramifications
might have spilt out ... and it is right that the public see and hear the killer
properly brought to justice (Gibb, The Times, Law, 3 Dec, 2002).

In analysing the use of language, and how it relates to women leaders, the “tyranny
of language, communication, signs and meanings” (Rose, 1998, p.178) needs to be
interrogated in terms of language as an assemblage of techniques, authorities,
apparatuses of power, intensities, and multiplicities (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988,
pp.75-110). Likewise, to understand the role of language and utterance, and what
influence these have on the legitimacy and propriety of women leaders, it is
instructive to ask:
Who speaks, according to what criteria of truth, from what places, in what
relations, acting in what ways, supported by what habits, routines,
authorized in what ways, in what spaces and places, and under what forms of
persuasion, sanctions, lies, and cruelties? (Rose, 1998, p.178)

The asking of such questions, forces an examination of how specific leadership

descriptions and norms within specific contexts have become ‘truths’ about
leadership. Further, how certain systems empower some individuals, but not others,
with an authority to speak ‘truth’ and ‘power’, which leads not to what language and
utterances mean but what they do - what they produce. “What components of
thought language connects up to, what linkages it disavows, what it enables humans
to imagine, to hallucinate into existence, to assemble together as an abstract
machine of multiplicity” (Rose, 1998, p.178). For instance, how language and
utterance produces business or military leaders, with their particular ways of
speaking, pitch and tone of voice, their verbal and non-verbal commands, facial
expressions, gestures, dressing, walking, their comportment, stance and posture; or,
organisations with their hierarchies, boards of control, labouring subjects,
metaphors of war; or, legal machines with their judges, victims, the accused,
barristers, police, guards, adversarial models, judgements, rulings, fears,
disappointments; or, military machines with their grids of surveillance,

interventionist strategies, war-machines, fighting subjects, and so on (Deleuze &
Guattari, 1988; Rose, 1998).

Language and utterance, as assemblages, are therefore, modes of relation that are
integrally linked with understandings about the legitimacy and propriety of
performing in public as a woman leader. Negotiating the demands of language and
utterance, however, is not just about finding opportunities for women to publicly
speak out and be heard, even though this is clearly implicated. It is also about
context and recognition, gender and power. For instance, the Hon Justice Mary
Gaudron (High Court of Australia, retired 2003) introduced the term “speaking
parts” (Gaudron, 1994) to exhort young women to take up advocacy roles, because,
as she argued, recognition and rewards can only occur if women make themselves
visible and audible in superior courts and major court cases.
Let me tell you of the women who have had speaking parts in the High Court
this year. I’ll name them individually. It won’t take long. Sue Kenny,
Victoria: Chamber matter; Chrissie Wheeler, WA: her leader allowed her to
put one aspect of their argument; Frances Nelson, SA: Special Leave; Marie
Shaw, SA: Special Leave. From all over Australia, only four.

Sue Kenny and others have had non-speaking parts. I’ll name the others,
and again it won’t take long. Nicole Abadee, NSW; Genevieve Ebbeck, SA;
Pauline Shiff, Vic; Elizabeth Cohen, NSW.

So far this year, there have been many times more … male barristers of less
than fifteen years experience with junior briefs. Not twice as many as you
might expect statistically, not three times, not ten times as many – twenty
times more would be a more accurate measure. (Speech to the Victorian
Women Barristers’ Association, 9 June, 1994)

Taking a lead from Justice Mary Gaudron, fellow (pun intended) High Court Judge
Justice Michael Kirby (2001) also argues for more “speaking parts” for women,
even as he points to the weaknesses in the argument, and a need for different tactics.
Soon after my appointment I was invited to address the Women Lawyers’
Association of NSW. I recorded the fact that, in the first eighteen months of
my service to the country’s highest court, I had heard about two hundred
barristers argue their cases; but only six women. They were the six with the
‘speaking parts’…These are valuable experiences and great training for
really big speaking parts in the future, if conditions remain favourable. ... In
the intervening years since I drew the disproportion of ‘speaking parts’ for
women to notice, things have not really improved much. The proportions
remain substantially the same…The High Court of Australia is still,
overwhelmingly, a male preserve. In the past year the number of women who
had speaking parts before the Full High Court was six. This is not steady as

she goes. We have hit the doldrums. (Lesbia Harford Oration, Women
Lawyers’ Association, Melbourne, 20 August 2001).
Tactical manoeuvres allow particular shifts to occur, but cannot be read as an
indication of progress. For women leaders, there is a continuing requirement to
“speak softly while carrying a big statistic” (Jamieson, 1995, p.195), because what
may seem promising in a man, may seem threatening, or unrecognisable in a

6.4.2 ‘General ideas are the General’s ideas’63

Language and utterance are “heterogenous assemblages involving both content and
expression,” claim Deleuze and Guattari (1988, pp.85-91). The ‘content’ of a
leadership enactment, and its particular ‘expression’ through performance,
constitute “content-expression assemblages” where the “planes of organising
practices” are always in tension, but integrally linked with, the “planes of
consistency” as ongoing processes of becoming (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.270).
Further, the “plane of organisation” is constantly working away to contain, or hold,
the “plane of consistency,” in an attempt to create predictable systems and stable
organising practices. However, consistency as a creative force is continually
unravelling and extricating itself from such organisational constraints. This is
because elements and particles within the content-expression assemblages break
away and spin off, breaking down functions and predictability, and revealing the
gaps and differences in the organising processes (p.270).

It is within such contexts and processes that identity is produced, identified, and
named. Language and utterance, as identifiable elements within organising planes
and practical assemblages of things, bodies, and forces, continually influence how
leadership norms are stabilised and de-stabilised, including who is included in, or
excluded from, established norms. For instance, the presence of a General, dressed
and inscribed with the elaborate insignia of high rank, but on the body of a woman,
is an example of a ‘content-expression’ assemblage that in one situation became
both a point of recognition and a point of departure. For one Indonesian General,
located within his particular ‘plane of organisation’ for what constituted ‘proper’
military authority, the ‘cutting edges’ of inconsistency emerging from the presence

This quote has been attributed to Virginia Woolf, but I cannot locate the exact source. Scholars in the Virginia Woolf
Society cast doubt on whether it was written by her. I have included it nevertheless, for its relevance to this section.

of a woman General as a ‘voice of authority,’ destabilised his understanding of
military propriety and legitimacy.
In 1997, I was part of high-level discussions with the Indonesian military. I
was one of several Australian military personnel – and the only woman. At
one point an Indonesian General asked if the woman in the middle would
like to ask a question, so that, as he said, “I can hear you speak. We do not
have a woman at such a senior level.” As it turned out I did have a question
that I could ask. (Air Vice-Marshal Julie Hammer, Jan, 1998, former
Commandant of the Australian Defence Forces Academy).

For this Indonesian General, it was a paradoxical dys-play that de-stabilised norms
associated with military rank and proper authority; a sense of fidelity and infidelity
in terms of legitimacy and credibility. In Lyotard’s (1984) terms, “[t]he
performativity of an utterance increases proportionally to the amount of information
about its referents that one has at one’s disposal” (p.47). Uniforms, insignia,
symbols and context are symbolic markers, but within that context, for Air Vice-
Marshal Hammer to speak as a General and as a woman, required that her language
and utterances be framed in terms of the authority invested in a masculinist military
identity, while simultaneously responding as a woman military-leader. At that
moment, she was both commander and prisoner of military language as
authoritative utterance, and woman as gendered presence. She could not choose one
from the other; as a woman general she had to hold together the unresolvable
tensions and contradictions in what might have seemed to the Indonesian General to
be an oxymoronic position in military contexts.

As Lyotard (1984) indicates, the Indonesian commander’s response suggests

inadequate contextual referents available to him, to make sense of this woman’s
(dys)-appearance as a legitimate participant in a high-level military discussion. The
question was not to be lightly dismissed, however, because Air Vice-Marshal
Hammer and the Indonesian General were very serious about the proper imperative
of a military community being seen ‘to be getting it right’. The legitimate and
uneasy juxtaposition of a woman and a General, within military ‘planes of
organising’ and ‘planes of consistency’ is reminiscent of the chorus of the famous
80s Skyhooks song: “Women in uniforms; sometimes they juxtapose.”

6.4.3 “Disorderly polyphony”64
Bakhtin used the terms multivocality, dialogic and polyphonic (cited in Clark & Holquist,
1984, pp.332-335) and Haraway (1991) uses the cyborg to open up the false and imposed
unities that congeal within the idea of univocality. Using these explanations, what
resounded in that military context on that day was “a disorderly polyphony” (Haraway,
1991, p.156), constituted as it was from an assembled-together hybridity of woman-as-
General. As a “frozen moment” (Haraway, 1991, p.164) in excess of the real, a woman
military leader made visible the alliances between a man General, as the norm of military
leadership, and the intersecting conflicts of a woman General. What was being read are the
myriad elements constituting a leader that involve corporeality with its distinguishing
marks of similarity, but also of differences, such as voice, gender, corporeality, image, and
uniforms. Within the ‘plane of military organisation’ elements of ‘consistency’ broke away
to point to the inconsistencies resulting from the simultaneous presence of familiarity (the
insignia and uniform of a General) and difference (woman). In terms of image and identity,
in trying to place Air Vice-Marshal Hammer there was no recourse to “unity-of-
domination, or unity-through-incorporation” because she was inseparably both woman and
General at the one time.

6.4.4 Name games of fidelity and infidelity

According to Deleuze and Guattari (1988), “[y]ou don’t so much have a face (voice,
body, speech style, and so on) you slide into one through iterative performances”
(p.177). And so, it could be argued, do leaders, particularly considering the iconic
status of male leaders throughout history. They argue that, “[l]anguage [and
utterance] are always accompanied by faciality traits, but the facialised body
crystallises all redundancies; it emits and receives, releases and captures all
signifying signs” (p.115). The example of Air Vice-Marshal Hammer and the
Indonesian General makes visible how the mask and voice of military authority both
captures and releases similarity and difference. As masks and voices of authority,
they do not hide the face – they are the entire body, the body of the signifier, the
authoritative embodied voice and face of the military, the judiciary, the law, the
parliament, and so on.

Haraway, 1991, p.156.

It is not argued that as a woman leader, the process of becoming simply occurs “by
resemblance, or aberration, but by an order of reasons” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988,
p.170) that are both and neither supportive and constraining of them. For instance,
even though citizens come before ‘the law’, and not before an individual man or
woman, “the act of judgement climaxes in the spoken word … the written
judgement … the word becomes flesh and the law when uttered by a particular
woman or man” (Berns, 1999, p.28). As Lady Justice Butler-Sloss (below)
indicates, the inseparable inter-dependency of what is said and who speaks, makes
the differences and similarities easily identifiable. In performing leadership woman
as leader is caught up in and draws from a leadership discourse that has evolved out
of specific forms of social interchange that inherently imply an audience who will
receive, read and interpret messages in myriad ways. What makes particular
leadership exchanges possible are “the regimes of language” (Rose, 1998, p.181)
embedded within leadership norms and conventions that shape, inscribe, explain,
and organise ways of being properly and legitimately leaderly. These “dividing
practices” (Foucault, 1982b, p.208) of language and utterance are critical to ways of
identifying and measuring the fidelity or infidelity of a leadership performance.

In speaking about her elevation to the Judiciary, Lady Justice Elizabeth Butler-Sloss
(27 April, 2001) explained how, at the time (1988), there was no ‘proper’ name for
a woman judge, so she was improperly/properly addressed as Lord Justice. Whether
the title should reflect the position of Lord Justice, or the gender of a judge, was
pivotal to the debate that subsequently took place. “It has been a protracted
struggle for the High Court” (and the newspapers) to decide on a proper title,” she
Lord Justice … I was called Lord when I was first admitted – I didn’t mind, but I
talked to them about it and I persuaded them 4 or 5 years ago, but it required
Government legislation to change it. It took time. Even though the Legislation
hadn’t changed they decided to call me Lady Justice. Lots of public discussion – in
the papers and so on. I realised it would be simpler to be called Lady Justice… the
profession found it a bit curious at first. (Personal interview, 27 April, 2001).
However, for some the changes were not so easily navigated: ‘Don’t worry,’ replied
Lady Justice Butler-Sloss to an embarrassed barrister who had referred to her as
Lord Butler-Sloss in court. ‘I used to be Lord Butler-Sloss, now I’m Lady Butler-
Sloss. I’m really a unisex judge.’ (The Times, Law, 2000, p.19)

Lady Justice Butler-Sloss addressed as ‘M’Lord’ points to the exact site of
“blasphemy” (Haraway, 1991, p.149) because the naming of a woman as M’Lord
juxtaposes two opposing ideas – woman and Lord. The woman Lord Justice dys-
appears in the public gaze because she cannot avoid being located in and between
the binaries. At the precise moment when M’Lord as M’Lady was uttered the binary
formulation of Lord/Lady is made visible, and legitimacy is put under a different
scrutiny. M’Lady, as a referent in the eyes of the Law, has traditionally been the
Lord’s Lady – the consort or wife of the Lord, not the person with the power and
authority. M’Lady is derivative from what is culturally and historically invested in
‘Lord’; Lording it over M’Lady, so to speak. The particular assemblages
constituting her presence, language, utterance, and voice unsettle ‘the order of
reasons’ underpinning traditional images of ‘M’Lord’. In the context of a court, “the
accustomed utterances and rhythms of the trial, reaffirm her particularity, despite
the universal trappings of the judgements” (Berns, 1999, p.206). This places in
tension notions of fidelity as infidelity, correct as incorrect, and proper as improper
which are extremely risky notions for a judge enacting the law. In the enactment of
law, women too must ‘speak as a judge’, while navigating the sophisticated and
entrenched behaviours, conventions, practices, authorisations, and protocols that
collude in the erasure of difference. What follows, argues Berns (1999) is that
“differences are privatised … and become, instead, lifestyle choices” that
‘individuals,’ in this case women, are supposedly ‘making’ (Berns, 1999, p.226).
This supports the concerns voiced earlier by Adkins and Lury (1999) about the
difficulties for women in mobilising and performing identity in the workplace.

Principles and enactments of traditional leadership juxtaposed with the multiplicity,

and sometimes oddity, of women have demonstrable outcomes. ‘She’ is not male,
‘she’ is not the universal reasoning subject, and yet ‘she’ has also become a body of
authority, which can result in some odd juxtapositions that women must tactically
manage. For example, “Lord X has retired to her chambers. She will resume in
fifteen minutes,” or “His Honour will present her findings,” and so on, which points
to “a world-that-has-become-strange” (Russo, 1994, p.9), rather than reassuringly
familiar. “One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons! A natural perspective
that is and is not”, exclaims one man as he tries to make sense of the woman-man

dys-appearing before him.65 If woman as leader is and is not a dys-appearing double
act, the risk is that it will be the woman, and her words and pronouncements, who is
superfluous and, maybe, more easily expendable, or at least reduced in legitimacy.
However, some odd juxtapositions may also enable something other to emerge
through tactical manoeuvres seized on the wing.
I was a woman union leader working on a miners’ strike that went for six
months. They’d never had a woman union leader before. It was unusual -
women were generally admin staff – I was a union organiser. I wasn’t the
traditional male union leader either – being female and Cambridge
educated. … They didn’t know what to expect. However, I had skills they
needed. University study had taught me how to write. I could write and draft
documents in ways that they couldn’t. I could read, synthesise, précis a lot of
material quite quickly – organise it, etc. It made me useful to them. Some
never adjusted, others did. (Former union leader and currently, senior
politician, 2001)

As Russo (1994) states: “Critical practice has more to do with these ordinary ways
of doing things than is generally recognised. This is particularly true of beginnings”
(p.18). As the above example illustrates, beginnings always occur in the midst of
things that are already happening, that have a history, conventions, and traditions
that women too are tactically navigating when they take up positions of leadership.
The tactical deployments detailed here (identifying the skills that were missing and
that were needed, such as drafting and writing documents, reading and synthesising
difficult material quickly), work as organising practices for cutting across
consistency and predictability (a junior person doing sophisticated document
development, research, and writing; a woman working as union leader within a
male-defined and male-dominated mining union, etc). That a young Cambridge
educated woman could become an integral member of a union involved in a miner’s
strike is an example of the ongoing assembling and reassembling of the self as
becoming ‘other’ and more multiple.

Being different demands the necessary endeavour to tactically “prove myself”, as

similarly-different, she stated. However, these similar-differences were able to be
re-assembled to work for her in productive ways. “I could often just get away with
things” (Politician and former union leader, 2001), she said, because the paradox of
her “blasphemous” (Haraway, 1991, p.149) appointment was that she escaped
certain forms of scrutiny even as she was highly visible as the only woman in the
Duke Orsino, Act 5, Sc 1, Twelfth Night, 1600.

union hierarchy. Legitimacy and propriety are shown here to be a mixed assemblage
of ordinary and extra-ordinary ways of doing everyday things. It shows how women
leaders are both enabled and constrained within leadership contexts, because “we do
not choose languages: we are situated within them” (Colebrook, 2002, p.24). If
leadership enactments are ‘discourse-dependent,’ then women leaders are compelled
to find ways to perform through them, with them and across them, for better and for
worse, but it is a challenge that takes some daring.

6.4.5 “Get yourself a speaking part”66

The Honourable Justice Mary Gaudron (2002), speaking on the 50th Anniversary of
the Women Lawyers’ Association of NSW, stated that:
Change is inevitable. We must make it work for us, and in the interests of
justice make more of the opportunities which now present themselves. We
need only to dare to be different. We must assert our differences. (NSW
Parliament House, Sydney, 13 June, 2002)

What is being hailed here is the idea that we should live up to the differences in life,
and realise that the universals in language work to reduce differences through
generalisations, stereotypes, binaries, archetypes, and historical conventions
(Deleuze, 1990, pp.149-150). Universalising binaries, according to Deleuze (1992),
explains nothing – it is the universal which needs to be explained (p.162). Justice
Gaudron (1994) suggests that difference should be approached, not simply in
oppositional terms, but positively and daringly. “I am tempted to say that women
who want equality lack ambition,” she said (p.14). It is not the subject who differs,
or performs differently; there is “difference” from which subjects and substances are
“contracted” (Deleuze, 1994, pp.74-75). The effect of this is that universals may
conceal the elements constituting these differences. He further states that
‘difference’ existed prior to language and utterance, and it is the ways such singular
differences are juxtaposed that allows ‘difference’ to, once again, become a creative

As Justice Mary Gaudron suggests, women, too, must tactically, and

serendipitously, exploit any difference as a creative possibility. Within leadership,
binaries and stereotypes of gender serve to erase differences, even as this highlights

High Court Judge, The Honourable Justice Mary Gaudron, public lecture, 9 June 1994.

the generative power of linguistic inadequacies. Therefore, to disconnect and
explode the images and thinking underpinning leadership requires interrogating
binaries of language and utterance to reveal the micro-elements constituting
traditional leadership assemblages.
The result of the ‘gender-bias’ debate has been a call for a ‘representative
judiciary’. That in turn has excited members of the judiciary to protest that
‘merit’ must remain the criterion of judicial appointment. That is all well
and good, but it’s hard to accept that a judge who displays bias of any kind
is one who passed anything like a ‘merit test’. The expression
‘representative judiciary’ may conceal more than it reveals. (Justice Mary
Gaudron, 9 June, 1994, p.15)

The traditional image of judge, for example, is an assemblage that privileges, and
invests in, certain body parts and body-images over others. For instance, the
dispassionate voice of ‘blind’ justice, the universal voice of authority that speaks
and “writes on a field of pain and death”67, the impartial voice of judicial power, and
magisterial tones speaking the historical, serious, and elevated language of law, are
specific “intensities” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988) of vocality and utterance that have
traditionally been privileged over other ways of responding, such as everyday
colloquial language, or feminine voices.

The constitutive elements here suggest a rational mind that thinks and delivers
objective, impartial legal rulings, pronouncements and sentences. It illustrates the
deployment of reason and logic rather than emotion and experience, as the language
of the law and decision-making. Further examples include the use of passive voice,
Latin, and archaic phrases to erase a ‘point-of-view’ in written documents; elevated,
focused, and serious facial expressions; the eye that scrutinises; the body that bears
the robes and wigs in certain poses; utterances of control in orchestrating court
proceedings; masking or stripping emotion from the voice when pronouncing a
‘swingeing sentence’, and so on. All of these work as daily displays to convey and
consolidate a sense of solidarity, surety, stability, and the faithfully familiar.

Over time, “the repetition and coding of these qualities are then read as signifiers of
some individual essence that precedes and governs these intensities”, explains
Colebrook (2002, p.45). When woman as judge, general, CEO, and so on, enters

Delgardo, R. (1991). ‘Norms and normal science: Towards a critique of normativity in legal thought. University of

Pennsylvania Law Review, 933, 942, p.139.

such contexts, variations and changes to particular constitutive elements can then be
measured, catalogued, and pronounced as proper or improper, as authentically real,
scrupulously fake, faithfully unfaithful or as impostors to that real. Justice Mary
Gaudron (1997) puts it this way:
To assert that women were different, with different needs, would have been
construed as an acknowledgement of incompetence; to question the bias of
the law would have been to invite judgement as to one’s fitness to be a
member of the profession. And thus many of us tried to become honorary
men. On that account we rightfully deserve the comment of a grafftist who
wrote, ‘Women who want equality lack ambition’ (Guest speaker to launch
the Australian Women Lawyers’ Association, 19 September, 1997).

It is, as Berns (1999) argues, a question of now asking who speaks and how are they
received. A woman as leader/judge, a woman-leader, or a leader who happens to be
a woman? (Berns, 1999, p.203).

6.4.6 ‘The best of times, the worst of times’68

Even though justice is invariably symbolised as woman – blind-folded Themis with
scales and sword, for example – law remains a male-defined domain. The attendant
difficulties with changing the pure “dialect of the tribe” (Eliot, cited in Jouve, 1998,
p.186), as it is played out in the everyday enactments of leadership, is illustrated in
the following example. For a judge, to change the language of an ‘official’ legal
form, during court proceedings, requires considerable effort. As spectacle it raises
questions about the judge’s ‘legitimacy’ as ‘other’ to the conventions and norms of
the courtroom and, in a generic sense, the Law.
When they handed me a form with His Honour written on it, I felt it was
insulting so I refused to accept it. But I also disliked the way Her Honour
was present as a strike-out of His. An overwriting of His Honour. (Judge,

Reconfiguring His Honour with Her Honour places in tension how the words and
the images of a woman judge within the courtroom relate in uneven ways. To
change legal forms requires the procedure of legal witnessing. The ‘eye that judges’
whether something is lawful, or not, is now publicly exposed as difference, as
‘un/non’-authority, because as the supreme authority in the courtroom the judge
must necessarily take charge of the witnessing process, but in what capacity? His
must be crossed out and replaced with Her followed by official signatures to legally

Charles Dickens’ opening line in A Tale of Two Cities, 1859/1962, p.1,

witness the alterations. The process draws attention to the contrary, tactical
manoeuvres involved in a claim for an identity that is already denied and under
erasure (Judge, April, 2000). It evokes the questions raised by Ricoeur (1986) about
how and why it matters (or whether it matters at all), who does the writing,
speaking, reading, who listens to the utterances, and who does the reading or

As a spectacle of language, the procedure dislocates the smooth running of the court
while the ‘error’ is corrected. The collective group constituting the courtroom -
barristers, solicitors, bailiffs, plaintiffs, defendants, court reporters, the judge’s
associate, and the public - watch as the spectacle unfolds: the court pauses for
thought as the usual rhythms of the courts are disrupted, the changes are made, and
the proceedings jerk back into action. As legal minutiae, it is shown to be both and
neither an everyday occurrence in a context where precision is paramount to correct
legal processes. As spectacle, it works paradoxically. The universalising His Honour
is again reinforced as the base of proper judicial authority – Her Honour mobilises a
public detour through out-of-bounds difference, as a messy overlay, or palimpsest,
of feminine desire as tactical possibility. And finally, it is another illustration of
women leaders requiring ‘daring’ and flexibility.

For one woman judge, however, such scenes as this are not permitted in courts in
which she is the presiding judge. She deploys a different tactic.
I decided sometime back, that I would not accept any form if it included the
title His Honour in reference to me. I make them [the solicitors and/or
barristers] go back to their offices and retype the form with the proper title.
… It’s a loss of identity as woman and judge. It’s not acceptable in this day
and age. I find it insulting. They hate it though, because they have to go
away and change it, and that means they’ve lost their place in the court
queue. When they return to court they have to wait their turn again. It’s time
and money they don’t like to lose … I’m not an add-on extra. I have my own
identity as woman and judge – they need to respect that. (Judge, 2001)

There is no possibility of a simple outcome here, because, the tactical move to force
the changes, brings with it the risk of being singled out as unnecessarily “pedantic
and difficult” (Judge, April, 2000). Performing as Her Honour makes work for
others, so it is understandable that those involved could be annoyed, just as it is
understandable that the visible effects of gender - the ‘facialisation’ of legal

language – might cause Her Honour to demand a ‘proper’ form of address. While
such recourse to hierarchy reinforces masculinist organising structures, it also
reveals their limitations, and shows where consistency and inconsistency cut into
the limitations of organising systems. The daring lies in the risk that “in relation to
gender, the politics of surface can be another opportunity to scapegoat the
feminine”, argues Russo (1994, p.27), particularly if it is attempting to reconfigure
gender relations. “There was an official complaint once for my actions. … I had
certainly hit a nerve” (Judge, 2000). In allowing pause for thought it creates an
opportunity to see what emerges when the “grotesque that moves” (Russo, 1994,
p.29) re-inhabits the old and the familiar, in multiple ways.

According to a senior woman lawyer and politician (June, 2001), because men fit
more uniformly than women, it creates stronger pressure on them to agree. This
observation has been reiterated during the recent enquiries into the questionable
board-room decisions and eventual financial collapse, of OneTel, HIH, Enron,
Ansett-Airlines, WorldComm, among others. However, it also offers a tactical
opportunity for women. As mentioned earlier, one woman’s refusal, on principle, to
agree with a presiding view in Parliament, drew the comment that - “they secretly
admire that, because that’s what good leaders have always done, and a lot of them
wish they could have refused too… Men find it hard to disagree” (Lawyer and
politician, 2001). However, the harsh disciplining procedures that were brought into
play in an attempt to ‘Whip’ her into line are a reminder for women of the
difficulties of such daring. It reveals how gendered rules underpinning the dis-
assembling and re-assembling of women leaders can bring rewards, or create
difficulties, or both, without knowing which it might be. A woman judge put it this
All women have had to pay a huge price to get there … Most women,
ironically, set their own rules, goals, principles, because they can’t be
controlled by the same set of rules as men – as women. … They don’t know
how to get me to conform – don’t know how to manipulate me. … Women
aren’t listening to the same tune, running to the same set of rules as the men.
It’s hard at times. They don’t like it if you do something left of field. (Judge,

The simultaneous precariousness and possibilities of woman-as-leader who is

necessarily working within and between opposing ideas is well-illustrated here.

Judges, Generals, Chief Commissioners, academics, politicians, and so on, are as
discursively constituted as the issues/situations they are required to enact. The
women in this study reiterate that gender is one discursive element that matters,
even though it is not supposed to matter in systems based on ‘principles of merit,’
and ‘equality.’ There is still a prevailing belief in some contexts that ‘the glass
ceiling’ has been broken and it is now ‘only a matter of time’ before gender equality
is achieved. Justice Gaudron views it differently:
No matter how often it is said that it is only a matter of time, no matter how
much one would like to believe it, it is not true. (Justice Mary Gaudron, 19
September, 1994, p.11). The trouble with women of my generation is that we
thought that if we knocked the doors down, success would be inevitable; the
trouble with the men of your generation is that so many still think that, if
they hold the doors open, we will be forever grateful. … (Justice Mary
Gaudron, September, 1997).

Felicity McArdle (2001) argues that “tactics are not about choosing one option over
another, nor finding a balance that involves enacting one strategy at one time, the
other at another, or measuring one against the other” (p.217), but about holding
seemingly oppositional elements in play simultaneously. For example, cross-
examining the traditions and norms of leadership while simultaneously upholding
them; crossing out and re-writing official forms to contain similarity and difference;
the changing of language to embrace and foreground differences; accepting
appointments to boards, while rejecting the ‘all-together-boys’ norms of board-room
decision-making; repeated, or persistent, questioning; or re-deploying workplace
skills to demonstrate legitimacy and difference. They work as intimations of
possibility and risk where the binary dimensions blur, blend, or fray. The labour
required in managing such tactical shifts underlines the importance of thinking and
publicly speaking out about how they affect the performances of women, and how
concepts such as legitimacy and credibility in terms of leadership are becoming
more multiple in the process.
Working as a man and as a woman. … There was always the strain, in my
first year particularly, of the perception of others as to whether I was doing
alright… I like being different, not in the administration of justice - there I
want to be the same. (Judge, 2001)

The deployment of these tactical shifts show that the normative rules underpinning
leadership are fragile and strong, stable and unstable particularly at moments when
authority is being tactically re-iterated through repetition and difference.

6.4.7 Grotesque reflections
Women leaders are also tactically deploying aspects of speech and silence to
manage absence and presence. A recent example of the power of spectacle
emanating from the blurring of the absence/presence, speech/silence binaries comes
from distinguished astro-physicist and Nobel Prize contender, Professor Jocelyn
Bell-Burnell (3 May, 2001). In a public lecture, Bell-Burnell described how, in
becoming a physicist and a successful one, she represented something unusual in the
homogenous realm of masculinist physics. Her questioning presence as guest
speaker to the Institute of Physics pointed to what was uniform and predictable
about physics, but it also caused these to become strange and in doubt because she
made visible the absence of women as members in the Institute.
As a woman physicist I was told I could not join the inner cabal or dining
club of the Institute of Physics, because proper members were male. Instead,
I was invited to attend Ladies night, designed for wives (some traditions die
hard). I was a paradox here too, because of being a physicist. I was riled by
this – I too was a qualified physicist. (Lecture, Cambridge University, 3
May, 2001)

As a distinguished woman physicist, she represented an oxymoronic presence

within the sites/sights of the Institute of Physics whose members were calibrated
and evaluated in masculinist terms. Bell-Burnell’s im/proper hybridity represented
an illogical re-configuration for ‘normal’ membership of the scientific community.
However, being an ungrounded assemblage of woman and physicist and research
scientist created a tactical space that “left room for chance” (Russo, 1994, p.11) to
forge further multiplicity.
Some time later I was invited to be guest speaker at an Institute dinner. I
advised them that the title of my speech would be ‘Reflections’. As an astro-
physicist, they thought I was going to talk about telescopes and quasar-
stellar space research. It was and it wasn’t about reflections. (3 May, 2001)

As one of only two female professors of physics in the United Kingdom, the
opportunity to speak offered a tactical moment to highlight woman’s presence as
absence within the norms and rituals of the scientific and academic community. As
a woman scientist occupying a different space that is not equivalent, or
interchangeable, with that of her male colleagues, she sought to make public what
she saw as “the pretentiousness and exclusivity of male-dominated physics” (3
May, 2001).

Her focus traces a different mapping of institutionalised scientific research, because
the tactical shifts required by Professor Jocelyn Bell-Burnell involved “the juggling
act of being a wee man, a she-male, a virago, a dragon, and a woman physicist
trying to a job of work” (3 May, 2001). It could not be otherwise for woman-as-
other. Her speech highlighted the dis/dys-appearance of a successful woman
physicist navigating diverse subject-positions and contradictory identities: eminent
woman and scientist; highly-qualified woman physicist and mother; part of a
community but isolated within that community as sole female; “wee-man” and “she-
male”; “excluded member of the community of physicists and eminent Nobel-Prize
contender”; “honoured guest speaker, but excluded from the inner cabal”; and,
scientist, physicist, and monstrous “dragon” (3 May, 2001). Metaphorically, it is
interesting to note that the first discoveries of quasars (Bell-Burnell’s research
speciality) in the 1960s appeared featureless at first, due to their enormous distances
from our region of the universe. This posed a range of problems for cosmology and
science. However, in terms of distance, quasars, it seems, are not the only objects
that may, at first, appear featureless. To make these features visible to her male
colleagues, Bell-Burnell deployed another tactical departure:
At the end of the speech, the members called for a public discussion of the
issues I’d raised. I supported this as a good idea, but I refused to take part
in the discussion, in defiant anticipation of what I was about to receive - the
task of yet again, representing the new, and showing that I was pleased to do
so. I knew that as a woman I’d be expected to fix it. I sat down and said
nothing more. (3 May, 2001)

The opportunity to make visible the gendered “dividing practices” (Foucault, 1982b,
p.208) underpinning the physics community could not be allowed to go
unchallenged, but refusing to speak or participate, risked setting her apart, once
again, as “another difficult woman refusing to co-operate with a perfectly
reasonable request” (3 May, 2001). Silence, as one choice in “the everyday
randomness and felicitous conjunctions” open to her (Russo, 1994, p.19) became ‘a
tactic to be seized on the wing.’ At the moment of refusal, it reveals her as both
excessive to, and exceptional within, the Institute: woman as leader shown to be
endlessly perverse and adaptive. Peggy Phelan (1993) explains it this way:
“[p]erformance is the art form which most fully understands the generative
possibilities of disappearance” (p.23). Silence, utterance, and dis/dys-appearance are

both and neither artificially natural, constraining and enabling. Systems of
organising practices, and planes of consistency underpinning leadership, suffer
“death by a thousand cuts from the daily cumulative effects of difference” (Bell-
Burnell, 3 May, 2001). Docker (1994) also offers insights into the cost-benefit
relationship issues here, by claiming that the presence of “‘woman – that
inexhaustible vessel of conception dooms and condemns all that is old and
terminated” (p.179). Again, there are no guarantees of success – just multiplicities
for better and for worse.

6.4.8 Becoming legitimate is becoming multiple

When USA Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (2001) was asked how
she would like to be best remembered, she replied: ‘To be a good judge’ (Lecture,
Cambridge University Law School, 15 May, 2001). This appears to be a worthy,
uncomplicated reply, because recognition as a good and proper judge, CEO,
military commander, politician or business leader, surely goes without saying.
However, the problem it poses is crucial to an understanding of how women only
sometimes juxtapose in terms of leading and leadership in male-defined domains.
As a judge, states Berns (1999), “she is simultaneously absent as a woman to the
precise extent she is present as a judge” (and it could be added commander,
politician, and so on), “because to be present in these contexts is to be present as the
law” (p.2), the military, politics, and so on. In assembling themselves as legitimate
leaders in contexts where women have never been the ground of power, but where
the everyday intermingling of bodies takes place, the socio-cultural and political
contradictions become most apparent.
I think because I am different – a woman – but a judge too - I can implement
different ways of managing decisions - such as lateral thinking – I’m
interested in different ways to solve problems. … In one difficult case
involving a family, the Housing Act had to be protected, but the family also
had to have somewhere to live, otherwise it created another set of problems
- for family services. I told them it had to be solved not won by one side over
the other. (Judge, 2001).

As the judge indicates, in managing the dilemmas that arise out of the paradox of
being similarly different there are often unavoidable moments when the elements
clash and jangle to create a contrary presence. Tactical re-iteration, re-telling,
repeating, or known by some as nagging, is an example of utterance that can be both

provocative and useful. According to Elizabeth Proust, Managing Director Esanda,
ANZ Bank (2002), “Guys just don’t get it. You are having a conversation with
ostensibly intelligent people but they don’t get this issue. … You sometimes wonder
how many times you have to explain it” (Brown, 2002, p.1). The difficulties raised
here are further developed in the comments below, about the unspoken issues
present in performing as a woman leader. The tactics deployed to manage the
practical problems of being not a ‘body-in-isolation’, but a ‘body-in-connection’
with the maternal, with the other, shows the points of tension.
I was in a meeting in Chambers one day and the phone rang. It was my son
asking whether it was alright to put football socks in the clothes-dryer. I
switched on a professional sounding voice, gave him the information as
seriously, concisely, as I could, and concluded the call. I then switched back
to being judge in chambers. I thought at the time, I can’t imagine any of my
male colleagues having to switch between football socks and a difficult legal
ruling. ‘Mother’ and ‘judge’ - they’re not mutually supportive concepts.
(Judge, 2001)

This is symbolic of the liminal spaces occupied by women leaders which, because
they are often sharply juxtaposed and in tension with the mainstream, may also
require daring and strength in managing them. NSW Magistrate, feminist, and
aboriginal activist Pat O’Shane (1994), in a speech to launch the Australian
Feminist Law Journal, described a controversial case where she was confronted
with a group of women who had entered pleas of guilty to the malicious damage of
a billboard depicting violence against women.
I really did feel alone – often in my job one does feel all alone. Then I
thought, ‘Bugger it! Bollen didn’t think twice.’ I took my courage in my
hands and stormed down to that courtroom …

She dismissed the charges. Her actions drew considerable criticism and public
debate within the corridors of power, newspaper editorials, and in letters to the
newspapers. It is another reminder that change rarely occurs without concerted
tactical manoeuvres, and changes are never innocent or simple, but complex and

However, not all women wish to speak about their performances and experiences as
leaders. Some attempt to tactically mask all traces of difference, refuse them, or not
admit the possibility: “I’ve never had any difficulties. No differences being a
woman. I’ve always had the same opportunities as men” (Judge, 2001). “I always

believed that I could do anything the men could do” (Air Vice-Marshal Julie
Hammer, 2002). Obviously there are many and various accounts of working as a
woman leader in male-defined domains, with no one account privileged over
another. What is indicated by these contrasting accounts is that leadership is already
more multiple than is generally recognised in the mainstream literature. To
understand this multiplicity in more detail requires a different method of reading the
work of women leaders and leadership – one that forces the unmatching elements
into juxtapositions that blur the binary positions so that the competing explanations
can both be considered as impossible, necessary and true.

6.4.9 Stroppiness as spectacle

Illustrated in these examples is the idea that performing as a woman leader,
demands distinct assemblages of similar and different elements of language and
utterance. And further, it is these assemblages within specific contexts that then
constitute what leadership as a woman looks like, sounds like, and how it is read.
For example: a softer volume, higher pitch, different timbre of the voice, unusual
accents, rhythms, stressing – “My God! it’s a woman”69; the judging-eye as
feminine, made-up eyes – “Strewth – a woman”; the beardless face speaking
unsettling paradoxes – “Pull rank early and often. Show them that you know what
you’re doing” (Business woman, 2002); re-working legal language and traditions,
deliberate withdrawal or silence, sideways alliances, excessive questions – “Use
strategic questioning to show you know what you’re doing” (Business woman,
2001); “Ask questions you know a lot about – it reworks feminine submissiveness”
(Politician, 2002), and so on. As tactics for managing the ordinary, everyday aspects
of leadership, they risk dys-appearing within the norms of male-defined leadership,
even as they retain their familiarity as understandable, everyday moves.

As endless tactical re-combinations, such utterances are outward dis/dys-plays that

determine the visible style of specific leaders. Performing as woman-leader is
shown to be about “living within the moment of crafting” (Spivak, 1989, p.206). It

Nancy Bird, aviator, tells the following story. “In 1936 I was the only charter pilot in Cunnamulla, Queensland. Charles
Russell, a well-known grazier, was visiting one of his properties when he was marooned by flood waters. I walked into his
agent’s office just as Charles was being told by phone that the aircraft was being sent to rescue him. The agent told Charles to
give the pilot landing instructions, and then handed me the telephone. I took the receiver and said, ‘Hello’. There was a
stunned silence and then a horrified voice uttered, ‘My God! It’s a woman’” (Bird, 1990, p.6). Similarly, a woman judge
described the first time a woman judge visited a country centre on Circuit. She walked into court, and heard a male member of
the jury panel at the back of the courtroom say, “Strewth - a woman” (Judge, 2001).

is about serial becomings that are continuously being remade, reworked, and
reinvented as something other, as ‘tactics seized on the wing’. Tactics are being
deployed singly and in tandem, as tactical donuts, or through mentoring and
supporting less experienced women. For example, former Premier of Victoria Joan
Kirner, and lawyer and human rights activist, Moira Rayner (1999) illustrate the
tactical support and mentoring, that is reminiscent of the ‘tactical donuting’
discussed earlier. This time it was to support less experienced women at the
Constitutional Convention in 1998.
When the convention began, many women delegates were hesitant to speak
because of the way they were interrupted and even heckled by more
experienced men. But they developed strategies for dealing with this. Other
women spoke up in defence of the women who were being heckled. The
redoubtable Pat O’Shane, a magnificent Aboriginal woman magistrate and
strong feminist, did this several times and was labelled Sister Sibilance by
some of the sexists in the press gallery for her pains. But it gave other
women, and some men, the incentive they needed to take up the matter with
the Chairman of the convention and induce him to speak out about the
practice and to clamp down when it resumed. The hardest discrimination of
all to deal with was the subtle undermining acts – men with deep voices
talking over women and other people with softer or higher voices; the
cracking of in-jokes; the caucusing in all-male groups before and after
meetings. The most important thing is to name the conduct, identify its
discriminatory effect and not accept it ... (Kirner & Rayner, 1999, pp.177-

For Joan Kirner and Moira Rayner the tactical moves for breaking through Boys’
Club behaviours is to tactically speak up, speak out, or be stroppy, and get it
publicly and officially recorded.
It was in the Victorian parliament, on 10 May 1989. I was Minister for
Education, and Jeff Kennett was the Leader of the Opposition. We were
head to head on spending on government education. Jeff repeatedly
interjected saying very quickly and quietly across the table at question time,
‘You stupid woman. You are a stupid woman.’ Hansard didn’t pick it up
because he didn’t have his microphone on. It was designed to upset me;
instead, I decided to make his bullying tactics the issue. I demanded that the
Speaker make Kennett withdraw, and I put into Hansard that ‘He just used
an extraordinarily sexist remark for Parliament. I find interesting the
attitude of the Opposition to women in this place.’ (Joan Kirner, in Kirner &
Rayner, 1999, p.52-53, emphasis in original)

Performing as a woman leader through the norms of language-use underpinning

leadership creates moments where speaking-up or speaking-out creates the double
bind of being lauded and criticised simultaneously. Eva Cox, founding member of

the Women’s Electoral Lobby, academic, senior public servant, radio commentator
and business woman commented that “being called a trouble-maker was her highest
compliment” and “Bella Abzug once said that she had been called argumentative,
aggressive, and difficult, but that whatever they called her they knew she was a
serious woman” (cited in Kirner & Rayner, 1999, p.54). For others, though, there is
“the cost of the expenditure of emotional energy and then running the risk of
increased vulnerability to the next attack” (Judge, 2002). Starobinski (1970) argues
that speaking out and speaking up suggests a strength and virility that men find
difficult and even dangerous – as the example of Vida Goldstein earlier testifies. For
some women leaders, however, the results may be that they dys-appear and
disappear in the public domain, because of the degree of difficulty involved in
juggling hybrid acts of leadership.

The ongoing debates about leadership, as the organising discourse in which women
leaders work, include a plethora of activity such as public speeches and debates,
publications, affirmative action, continuing political activity, changes to existing
legislation, and academic research involving writing and speaking about women and
leadership. This work accustoms us to think of woman as leader as other, different,
outsider, but the analysis in this research indicates that that there is no outside of
discourse, but moving from theory to agency is complex and difficult because it
demands holding together in tension opposing leadership elements and
understandings at one and the same time.

6.5.1 ‘Women as spectacle and producers of spectacle’
The fourth tactical manoeuvre generated by the research data involves how objects,
space, screens, and other diversionary practices are deployed by women in the
everyday enactments of leadership. For instance, diversion, disruption, and
disorderliness, as political tactics in the public domain, are familiar narratives in
accounts of women’s suffrage activities and their struggle for the vote. The
stereotyping that results from the constant repetition of these narratives illustrates
what Rorty (1989) describes as language that “all of us recognise when we hear it”
(p.94). For example, ‘nagging’, ‘shrieking’, ‘bossing’, ‘hysterics’, ‘harpies’, and
‘grotesque hags’ require no gender designation to identify the recipients of such
descriptors. It ‘goes without saying’ as a discourse or ‘language we all recognise
when we hear it’.

To understand the significance of space and objects in the performances of women

leaders, the following example of a woman making a spectacle of herself, in a
public place by demanding changes to the status of women in the public/civil
service, generated such powerful responses that her actions were remembered by
family members “even 30 years later to Miss Jack’s discredit” (Jack, 2001, n.p.).
The narrative is not unfamiliar, because as Russo (1994) suggests, “making a
spectacle of oneself seems a specifically feminine danger. The danger is of exposure
... and loss of boundaries” (p.53). In “being caught out by fate and consequently,
found blameworthy” (Russo, 1994, p.53), the ‘logical’ consequences for a woman
creating a public spectacle by fuming into the limelight, thumping her fist, and
demanding change, is discipline.

As spectacle, the enactment shattered the protocols of meeting procedure, ruptured

the norms of femininity and public speaking, and questioned ideas about leadership
power in public spaces, even as it simultaneously works within a familiar discourse
of democratic political protest. She made her point, but in the process became a
point of discipline for making a spectacle and being publicly named in the
‘shameful’ space of a daily newspaper. It was forever “remembered to Miss Jack’s
discredit” (Jack, 2001, n.p.) by her family, but in terms of this research it highlights
‘the tensions of holding incompatible things together’. For example, the “purity and

danger” (Russo, 1994, p.53) of radical negation and feminine propriety as silent
acquiescence, alongside the bold affirmations of feminine political advocacy as
imposture, masquerade and transgression, are juxtaposed in Miss Jack’s
performance. This uneasily productive performance underscores a cultural politics
for women (Russo, 1994, p.54), and what is even more compelling is that the
elements are all both necessary and true (Haraway, 1991, p.149).

At the particular historical moment, there were few alternatives for women to
engage in political debates, because of the constraints of being outside regimes of
power, so Miss Jack as ‘other’, seized the only tactical opportunity available to her.
While it is ‘true’ that such spectacles are disruptive, distracting, and discomforting
to controlled meeting procedure, the tensions evoked in this narrative create a point
of recognition, and a point of departure for the following analysis.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph headline ‘SACK WIVES’ SET MISS JACK
FUMING’ included the caption ‘Miss Jack – down came her fist’. ‘Miss
Helen Jack MBE, dark-haired Admiralty clerk, thumped her fist angrily on
the rostrum of the civil servants’ conference at Prestatyn, North Wales,
yesterday, and cried: ‘Some of you don’t want to put a ring on a woman’s
finger. You want it through her nose’. That did it. Cheers rose from the 800
delegates, who for twenty-minutes had been listening to a two-man attack
urging that married women should be the first to be sacked in cases of
redundancy…. The effect on the family of this spectacle was a sort of disgust
… shame would be too strong a word, but my aunt’s speech was held up as
Not A Good Thing. … It was not just about a woman’s place, but because
her (and our) name was in the newspaper. This didn’t happen to decent folk.
Even thirty years later, when this incident was remembered, it was
remembered to my aunt’s discredit. (Ian Jack, ‘Granta’ magazine,
Cambridge University, 2001, n.p.).

The spectacle produced by way of “fuming, thumping, marching, and demanding”,

is an example of what Russo (1994) describes as “the pantomime of anguish and
rebellion in contrast to the ‘normal-looking’” (p.9). As an identifiable tactical
departure in the publicised glare of a public speaking forum, the tactical
‘pantomime’ highlights the difficulties, but also the potential benefits, for women in
demanding access to decision-making. In deploying such tactics to access power
and to influence decision-making, it also highlights the “sheer impossibility of
avoiding the observer’s gaze” (Clegg, 1990, p.173), as a woman publicly subverting
‘legitimate’ modes of leadership.

As ‘infidel’ visibly storming a public space, Miss Jack constituted a ‘problem,’
because the male leaders, who had for twenty minutes been issuing forth in a two-
man attack on the rights of married women in the workplace, had placed themselves
on a dais above the group, and claimed control over the space. Publicly challenging
their authority to speak on behalf of women was a tactical shift that was both
productive and counter-productive. Immediate cheers from the group alongside 30
years of discredit, is a considerable message about the risks of such spectacular
public dis/dys-plays. It puts into flux normalised assertions about women and
leadership by revealing that the binaries of silence/boldly speaking out,
visible/invisibility, exposure and containment, and authenticity and imposture bring
into focus leadership claims such as “you cannot manage others until you can
manage yourself” (Craig & Yetton, 1995, p.1211). For those who must seize power
on the wing, managing the self, let alone others, is never that simple or innocent,
because the self is never that singular, stable, or predictable.

6.5.2 Anything may go

When women enact “the pantomime of anguish and rebellion” (Russo, 1994, p.9),
the juxtaposition of norms and differences reveals the body as both a material and a
discursive node for mobilising relations of power. Tactically aberrant performances,
as assemblages of fidelity and infidelity, are not logically sequential or progressive,
but episodic and cumulative. Their eruption into the public domain makes them easy
targets because of the obvious divergence from the norms of social relations in
public places. The danger here is not simply about this specific woman’s
‘unruliness’ as bodily exposure and containment. It is that “unruliness itself is the
mark of the ultra liminal, the perilous realm of possibility that ‘anything may go’
which threatens any social order and seems the more threatening, the more that
system seems rigorous and secure …as subversive potential” (Victor Turner, cited
in Russo, 1994, p.197). The subversive possibilities – in this instance, publicly
demanding equal workplace opportunities for married women, threaten to disrupt
normalised identity politics by forcing the juxtaposition of disorderly order,
contained leakiness, excess as control, authenticity as masquerade, so that woman is
both similar and different. In speaking out of turn, or out of place, “[t]he image of
the disorderly woman does not always function to keep women in their place”

(Davis, 1987, p.131). There is obviously generative power in the doubleness and
force of these strange juxtapositions and cunning stunts.

A more recent example that troubles the socio-cultural conditions in which concepts
of identity are fashioned, comes from the rarefied, highly-circumscribed space of
the High Court of Australia. Here too, it seems, legitimacy and difference are
variously, but continuously juxtaposed, and tactical moments must still be ‘seized
on the wing’. In the following example, the Honourable Justice Mary Gaudron
poses questions about identity and subjectivity in a way that turns that act into a
‘memoir of itself’. In imagining her similarly-different judicial identity, she points
to the burden of managing the trivialised, objectified elements involved. In doing so,
she ‘de-territorialises’ expectations even further, but not without some on-the-wing
serendipitous assistance.
It was as recently as Oct 1989 - not quite 8 years ago - that I was travelling
to WA with my judicial colleagues in an Air Force plane, the more normal
method of flying not being available, as a result of what some people
describe as "The Pilot's Strike". There was a certain camaraderie in the
plane, until by way of conversation, I informed my colleagues that I would
be speaking to a gathering of women lawyers in Perth. It might have been
better if I'd started dancing the Can-Can. It was clearly inappropriate for
me to attend, much less speak at such a gathering; there was no need for
women to have separate professional organisations; there was no
discrimination in the legal profession; in any event, I was being
discriminatory by attending and, by way of final judgement on the ignominy
of what I was about to do, "not even Lionel would have done such a thing."
Their attitude was short-lived, not because of anything I did, but because
they discovered on their arrival in Perth that the judicial protocols, which
had been observed with respect to the High Court sittings in Perth since
1903, simply could not accommodate a woman Justice of the High Court.

Justice Gaudron describes transgressive moments seized for a tactical re-positioning

of judicial norms: in this instance, to make visible to her brother judges what is
invisible to them. Justice Gaudron had no recourse to any pre-meditated, carefully
planned strategies, because there are no rules of procedures governing tactical
moves. She subsequently explained, “You don’t think about it, you just do it”
(2003), because for women leaders there are no easily accessible blueprints for
ready reference or strategic planning.

The ‘protocols’ Justice Gaudron refers to are a set of unspoken understandings of

how legal procedures should occur, but it is only when difference cuts across them

in some strange way that the constructedness, rigidity, and complexity of protocols
is made apparent. This highlights another problematic opportunity for women newly
entering leadership domains.
There are no rules written anywhere, but if you do something wrong they let
you know quickly enough (Business woman and board-room director, 2002).
It’s another example of how comfortable men are - how on the edge women
are – have to be –there are so many ways we can be seen to be getting it
‘wrong’. (Judge, 2002)

It begs the question as to whether the enactments of women are parodistic of male
leadership norms or just ‘scrupulously fake’, and/or whether they work to free
women from the constraints of gender. Either way, it is clear that signifying systems
within which the specific enactments of women leaders take place are complex and
integrally linked.

6.5.3 Dancing up a storm

The ironic comment by Justice Gaudron that, “It might have been better if I'd
started dancing the Can-Can”, foregrounds the tensions between conventional
modes of thinking underpinning the law, such as reason, rationality, and logic, and
modes of being that involve humour, laughter, and play. The implication is that the
body of a judge is constrained in certain ways, but because it can never be finally
fixed, elements escape even as they are being constrained: in this case, the
possibility and impossibility of the carnivalesque image of ‘judge’ and ‘can-can.’
The humour elicited by the conjuncture of the images of High Court Judge dancing
the can-can for her brother judges, points to the governing and disciplining involved
in maintaining acceptable ways of utilising the body as a Justice of the High Court.
It calls up the idea, raised by McWilliam (1999), of “laughter within reason”

The parodic images elicited by Justice Gaudron highlight the tactically subversive
quality of irony and laughter in spaces “fraught with danger and despair”
(McWilliam, 1999, p.168), which is a description never outside the difficult work of
judges and courts. Pleasure, laughter, and humour trouble the norms of
conventional, rational, legal bodies (‘We are not, and cannot, be amused,’ so to
speak), at the same time as it cross-examines these beliefs with a wry smile at what
it can and cannot do. Stereotypically, it would seem that humour works away from

the seriousness of a court-room and legal judgements, and so, in this space, the risk
is that it may appear to trivialise or degrade judicial work and its legitimacy.

As Bakhtin (1984a, 1986), Russo (1994), and McWilliam (1999) argue, fun, comic
pleasures, and the carnivalesque have a potential “to drag us down from spirituality
and intellect into a Rabelaisian world of mockery, ribaldry, foolishness, and excess.
It substitutes fart for faith or fact” (McWilliam, 1999, p.169) – or can-can for
serious legal debate. While being outside the conventions of judicial propriety, and
as a contrary position for judge, humour is revealed as being not oppositional to, or
outside reason, but as having a potential to “playfully insinuate itself into the life of
reason itself” (Ferguson, 1990, p. 67, cited in McWilliam, 1999, p.168). It may well
be, that for Justice Mary Gaudron, as a similarly-different High Court Judge it
tactically allows a mode of critique not possible in more serious discursive
frameworks, because “while fun never escapes rationality, it can and does trouble
it” (McWilliam, 1999, p.168).

“As with all humour, irony depends on knowing how something works,” states
McWilliam (1999, p.178). As an experienced lawyer and highly-esteemed Justice of
the High Court, there are many ironic turns in Justice Mary Gaudron’s serious
public speeches that tell of her incisive insights into the gendered nature of the
law.70 One well-known example is her famous “Mates Act” reference (2002, 1997)
with its ‘blasphemous’ use of irony to critique the work of male privilege and
patronage, the slow progress of women in senior positions, concepts of merit, and
the absence of women in senior advocacy work in superior courts. Connecting the
hope for change with an ironic critique of the norms and conventions of the law is
made more acute by her knowledge, expertise, and status as both insider and
outsider to the norms. Justice Gaudron appears to take pleasure in the ironic twists
afforded by such linguistic playfulness. It underlines her skill in making visible
“suffering and discrimination [in this case, against minoritarian ‘others’ in law],
when and where it occurs” (Rorty, 1989, p.93).

The legendary witty and ironic exchanges between Justice Mary Gaudron and Justice Michael Kirby call for further analysis
which is beyond the scope of what is possible in this study.

Justice Gaudron illustrates the different reality of being similarly-different, as both
legitimate judge and female transgressor to male-defined judicial norms. She
highlights how solidarity and change must be daily constructed out of ‘a thousand
tiny elements’ both predictable and unpredictable, known and unknown. She
demonstrates that change is an interweaving of action, chance, and tactical
manoeuvres, rather than a matter of “having truth on your side, or having detected
the ‘movement of history’” (Rorty, 1989, p.91). As an ironist who insists on the
need for community, at the same time as she understands the impossibility of
resolving the contradictions underpinning a woman’s place within the law, her
“sense of human solidarity seems based on a sense of common danger and
possibility, rather than on a common possession or a shared power” (Rorty, 1989.
p.91), even at the moment of speaking as a legitimate High Court Judge (Haraway,
1991, pp.149-150).

McWilliam (1999) observes, in her own approach to her work, that, “[w]hat is so
useful about irony is its capacity to keep ideas in play, constantly moving, jumping
about, making trouble. It is a way to refuse to settle on the account, the formula, the
set of principles for good moral, political, economic, or [legal] order … and… it
stresses the importance of not being earnest” (p.178). One woman’s reworking of
normally-abnormal, properly unconstrained, along with the potential for breaking-
out in unruly ways in public, even as she meticulously strives to work within the
norms, is compellingly evoked in the ironic cross-referencing of can-can, ‘Mates’s
Act,’ ‘protocols,’ and High Court Judge.

6.5.4 Sexual union – centre-stage

As discussed earlier, Russo (1994) explores the materiality of grotesque bodies in
terms of the carnivalesque and the monstrous, as bodies away from the classical
sleek bodies of reason and rationality. She argues that “grotesque bodies leak and
protrude” in contrast to the classical body as “transcendent and monumental, closed,
static, self-contained, symmetrical and sleek” (p.8). Specifically identifiable in
relation to norms, the grotesque body “demonstrates the power of normalisation as
an instrument of modernity”, observes McWilliam (1999, p.170). In the following
account of a dis/dys-orderly pregnant body erupting into a male-defined space, and
becoming a target for censure, ribaldry, and laughter, it shows the difficulty for a

pregnant woman to escape scrutiny and maintain legitimacy. Indeed, pregnant union
leader evokes a sense of the oxymoronic. Disrupting the norm with her unruly,
pregnant materiality, at the same time as reinforcing traditional hierarchy and power
was, for one union official, an ordeal with no easy solutions.

One response to contain such spectacle is through the use of screens, as tactical
devices, or prostheses, for masking, screening, or vetting stereotypical responses
associated with an irregular, pregnant, or grotesque, body.71 The following situation
makes visible the power and work of screens and what happens when a screen is
removed. At the moment of revelation, the hidden, but clearly marked, corporeal
traces of power were folded back onto the embodied and embedded daily corporeal
enactments of women leaders that produce recognisable differences. When it
involves a further shift on the ‘grid of normalcy’ into woman-as-union-leader as
maternal-pregnant-body, the norms of leadership, the norms of the feminine as
aesthetic, “the language of the body, and the maternal, as a world women carry on
weight-bearing joints” (Grumet, 1988, p.xv) are all thrown into sharp clarity and
unbounded disarray.

As an unsettling, sexualised ab-normally normal pregnant body, it is not easily

recuperable, it is difficult to conceal, there is no camouflage available, and there are
no safe places to hide.
Not long after I’d arrived, I heard an old chap say, ‘Oh I see they’ve sent a
girl to do a man’s job.’ I worked hard to dispel this perception. The idea of
this was difficult, but the most difficult situation was when I was involved in
heavy negotiations over a pay-claim. …It was a bit disconcerting, because I
was eight and a half months pregnant and they’d never had a woman in this
position before, let alone a pregnant one. … A meeting was called to vote on
a course of action. … I was sitting down behind a table and lectern to try to
hide my body. The first vote resulted in a tie. A secret ballot was called
which required that I stand up to address the audience. I announced the
result of the vote – it was returned in the negative - members had rejected
the executive’s position…. A man at the back of the hall called out, “Looks
like you’re fucked now X…..” To which another man replied, “Looks like
someone already has.” My husband, a member of the union, took exception

The first female Prime Minster and Minster of National Defence of Canada, Kim Campbell, made the following
observations during a recent interview: “There are all sorts of examples of gender bias at work – people acting consciously or
not on the expectation that women just aren’t as competent as men. A study of how symphony orchestras hire musicians
showed that when candidates audition from behind a screen, many more women are hired. And we’re up to our eyeballs in
research reports showing that identical resumés are rated differently by reviewers depending on whether they have a man’s
name on them or a woman’s name on them. The female version, of course, fares worse. Incidentally, this isn’t just men
discriminating against women; women rank the female resumé lower too” (Gardner, M. Harvard Business Review, Sept 2002,

to this, walked up to the first chap and kicked him as hard as he could, and
said, ‘You! Outside!’ And out they went, scuffling and shouting. I was on
the platform thinking, ‘Oh God! Not a fight. My husband has never fought
anyone in his life. He’ll be hurt’. Not a good moment – excruciating –- but
you have to be able to shrug these things off. I think a lot of people thought it
was out of order. (Senior politician and former union official, 2001)

The pregnant maternal body illustrates how orderly and rational accounts of
leadership as embodied performances - in this case within a public sector union - are
made possible, and how certain bodies in certain places remain unspeakable, and/or
even monstrous. “The sexual aspect of gender has been subsumed within a
consideration of power differences, without detailed analysis of how sex, as a
component of gender is mobilised in the exercise and deflection of power,” observes
Purcell (1988, p.171). Pregnancy connects gender, sex, organisational power, and
employment inequities, through the vulnerability, isolation, and marginality of the
pregnant body amidst the solidarity of masculinist workplaces as pregnancy-free
zones. While sexual innuendo is commonplace in many workplace practices, the
discourse of pregnancy has all but been eliminated as a reality of organisational life.
The sexual objectification of this particular woman leader subordinates her authority
as a ‘body-in-isolation’ - that is, an autonomous, ‘proper leader’. The pregnant body
is a ‘body-in-connection’ to the maternal, but dys-appearing here, as a disorderly
workplace presence. When sexual union is visibly placed centre stage, and made the
butt of public humour, it shows how “men’s use of women as sexual currency
stresses the solidarity of men as well as men’s differences from women,”
(Wajcman, 1998, p.52).

In calling for “Order!” amidst such carnivalesque ribaldry, she galvanised attention
onto the disorderly comic confusion of the situation. Union leadership could no
longer ‘go without saying.’ It publicly foregrounded the possibility of new
categories of union-leader, woman, leadership, pregnancy, multiplicity, and
authority, because they were suddenly all under scrutiny and ‘up for grabs’. It also
challenged who and what constitutes order, disorder, chaos, control, appearance and
dys-appearance in terms of the material and symbolic body, through the
simultaneous presence of dis-orderly orderliness, controlled-chaos, knowing-
confusion, serious-humour, and insulting-jokes which worked to re-shape orthodox
notions underpinning leadership enactments even as they reinforced the norms. The

sexual contract, as enacted through the pregnant body, is an example of the
distribution of power that presumes and privileges the masculine body and men’s
life experiences, but this too is not immutable. “A pregnant leader was a bit of a
novelty in this union,” she claimed (2001).

The startling unexpectedness of this leadership performance illustrates a significant

aspect of women in leadership. In privileging chance over certainty, ‘the telling
flesh’ (Spivak, 1989) of the pregnant body unsettles and reconfigures the ‘common-
sense’ of union leadership by turning it into something asymmetrically-symmetrical
and orderly-disorderliness. Spontaneity continuously unfolds into further difference
– a continuous subversion so to speak – but it simultaneously sits alongside an
insistence on conformity to ‘proper’ or due procedure. As a pregnant union leader,
she is marginal by imposition, but also through choice and necessity.

6.5.5 “Irritatingly un-absorbable”72

For a woman to claim, “[l]eadership for women is about losing your illusions and
rebuilding again – quickly and better” (Politician, 21 May 2001), it highlights how
identity refuses stability and containment. The continual assembling and re-
assembling of the self as multiple fictional roles that are used and discarded
according to moment and context shows leadership to be constituted by actions of
substituting one assemblage for another, rather than as a developed and stable
identity. As an assembled identity, leaders are continuously being technologically
produced and re-produced as simulacrum - receptive to change, but resistant to it.
Just possibly, this offers a glimpse of understanding into why the smiling figure of a
woman judge, Justice Roslyn Atkinson (The Courier-Mail, 10 November, 1998, p.
11), photographed on the bench of the Supreme Court of Queensland, could create
such a flurry of consternation from “the legal boys from the big end of town” (The
Courier Mail, 10-9-1998, p.19). As Russo (1994) puts it, “[t]he question that never
occurred to Bakhtin in front of the Kerch terracotta figurines, was “Why are these
old hags laughing?” (p.73). This is not to imply that women judges are ‘old hags’,
but to ask whether ‘the legal boys at the big end of town’ have paused to ask
themselves why women in the workplace or on the Bench are deploying irony and
laughter in the face of such seriousness.

Miller, 1990, p.8.

Headlines such as “Well-qualified woman stirs up Old Boys Club” (The Courier-
Mail, 10-9-1998, p.19); “The good old boys at the big end of town … The right
schools and the right clubs” (The Courier-Mail, 6-8-1998, p.3); “Don’t pin hopes on
old ties, Bar told” (The Courier-Mail 6-8-2000, p.5); “Early warning for new
Justice”(The Courier-Mail 10-9-1998, p.2); “Lawyer’s attack woman’s appointment
to top court” (The Courier-Mail, 5-9-1998, p.1), and so on, show how the law and
the judiciary are colonised and normalised in specific gendered ways. Within such
spaces, dominant subject positions such as, male, middle-class, well-educated,
married, middle-aged, white and so on, only admit to differences in relation to
themselves, and only in terms of small, acceptable shifts on the ‘grid of normalcy’.
Overwhelmingly, for example, judges in Australia have been drawn from the Bar,
rather than the legal field generally and have, until recently in all Australian states
been uniformly white and male (See Appendix Two, p.360, for further details).73

When ‘otherness’ erupts into such spaces, the resistances, in terms of who is absent
and who is excluded, become visible and measurable. The ‘old-boys club’ as
producer and product of a world that has historically formed a ground for judicial
appointments is suddenly fractured, invaded, polluted as “a non-intentional parody
of something that is already re-produced” (Baudrillard, 1983b, p.146). “If a non-
traditional, non-member of The Club can do it (judicial work) that’s a real threat.
Because it questions what they’ve been on about for all these years” (Government
Minister and senior politician, 2001). Along with Rorty (1989) it can be argued that
there is no natural order of justification for beliefs, ideas, logic or a rhetoric of the
law, but the discourse and processes of the law are continually under scrutiny, up
for grabs, or being re-described as a groundless solidarity, with the acceptance that
in the process it often humiliates (pp.89-90). A smiling woman judge on the bench
may also work in these ways.

Canada and the UK have broader criteria for appointment. UK High Court Judge, Lady Justice Brenda Hale was a former
academic and Professor of Law; solicitors are now considered eligible - the first solicitor to be appointed to the judiciary in
Queensland was Judge John Robertson to the District Court in September, 1994.

6.5.6 Yes Sir, No Sir
When the former Prime Minster of Canada, Kim Campbell, was appointed Canada’s
Minster for National Defence she described how her different presence and tactical
moves unsettled the rarefied space of a war-room.
When it comes to the culture of a war-room, women do bring a different
orientation. I think because I’m a woman I was less susceptible to, less
seduced, by the peer pressure and the male fascination with hierarchy that
comes with military culture. When the Chief of Defence Staff and the brass
would come in and make a presentation, it was very seductive, all this ‘Yes
Sir’ and ‘No Sir’ and heel clicks and saluting – the whole comportment that
military people have. So everyone was sitting there mesmerised by this
display and it just didn’t faze me. I’d ask tough questions and persist and it
would turn out that some of the things they were saying with great certainty
weren’t nearly so certain when I pressed them about it. Here’s an example.
When our troops were in Somalia, I got an incident report which described
an altercation at a bridge. Shots were fired and the report said they
ricocheted and a Somali was killed. I read this explanation and I thought it
was total rubbish. What was described could not have happened. The
logistics made no sense. I sent the report back to them and said I found the
explanation entirely unsatisfactory. There was great consternation, because
most ministers tended to say, ‘Well, if that’s what the military says, that’s
what happened.’ The expectation was that I wouldn’t pursue it. I did…. I’d
been a professor of international politics and had taught strategic studies. I
probably knew more about the military strategy of the nuclear era than any
of my predecessors. (Gardner, 2002, p.21)

As one possible enactment for a Minster for Defence, it is tactically instructive.

Asking unexpected and tough questions, persisting with lines of questioning,
pressuring senior personnel for greater detail, challenging particular accounts,
requiring further information, while remaining under-whelmed by heel clicks,
utterances, and salutes, as legitimate Minister of Defence it requires holding these
opposing ideas in tension simultaneously. As tactics for managing similarly-
different they undermine and reinforce the long history of military hierarchy and
power and the roles and rules of gender. Interrogation, as a strategy to extract truth
and ‘get it right’, is common practice in the military, but in precise ways and
involving certain people and not others. For a woman minister to tactically deploy
such practices with senior military personnel is a clear and measurable divergence.
It puts in tension image and identity, as a professional woman leader in male-
defined spaces, as well as suggesting the potential risks and possibilities for both.

To understand the socio-political context in which women leaders operate, along
with the daily tactical negotiations required, it is argued that power be examined as
something more than just repressive, prohibitive, and hierarchical. In the analysis
included above, the generative principles of power can be seen in the way unofficial
rules and protocols sit alongside the official rules practices and procedures. For
instance, the use of un-official practices of power by male members within the law,
Congress, Parliament, a scientific Institute, a union, a war-room, and so on, to
discipline and disrupt women’s political enactments. These paradoxes must be daily
managed by women if propriety and legitimacy are to be achieved and maintained,
even though there are no established rules and processes for successfully managing
such a challenge. Nevertheless, much of the leadership literature (Goffee & Scase,
1995; Bennis, 1989; Drucker, 1998, 1999a. 1999b, 2001; Peters, 1997; Cohen,
2000; and Bennis, Spreitzer & Cummings, 2001) continues to emphasise the
characteristics, strategies, and norms of male-defined leadership, rather than
understanding the generative principles of power and its multiple effects.

Conspicuously absent, except in a few instances and mainly by women (Amanda

Sinclair, 1998; Amanda Sinclair and Valerie Wilson, 2002; Sally Garratt, 1998;
Joan Kirner & Moira Rayner, 1999; Eva Cox, 1996, Clare Burton & Carolyn Ryall,
1995 for example), is any real commitment in mainstream leadership literature to
understand the role of gender or how women are negotiating their roles within such
environments. In response to this, former Prime Minster of Canada, Kim Campbell
(Gardner, 2002) suggests that:
As a society, we have to find the equivalent of the screen the musicians
auditioned behind. We need to eliminate our preconceptions based on
gender stereotypes. Ultimately, the solution must be gender literacy;
teaching people to cast off their preconceived notions. (p.23)

The following example looks to the career of Air Vice-Marshal Hammer to question
whether the use of tactical technological screens by women may enable a different
line of flight to emerge. Further, to ask how and whether technology can be
deployed to tactically cut into and across gender stereotypes to enable a career to
take a different direction. If it is true that the multiple must be made, it is useful to
look at the ‘created-ness’ of one woman’s extra-ordinarily ordinary career, to see
how re-configuring the norms enabled similarly-different, and multiple returns.

6.5.7 ‘A second coming’74
Air Vice-Marshal Julie Hammer, former Commandant of the Australian Defence
Force Academy (ADFA), highest ranking woman in the history of the Australian
military, and the first woman to lead an operational unit, began her career in the
RAAF as a tutor.
My first posting was a predecessor of ADFA. The cadet training squadron at
Frognall in Melbourne. It was a residency for cadets who were studying
their engineering degrees at the University of Melbourne or RMIT. This
involved supervision, teaching maths, some tutoring and library work. Some
of my colleagues who have known me for a long time say I have come full
circle in coming to ADFA…I was more interested in engineering than I was
in teaching. I transferred to engineering in 1988 and have never looked
back. (11 July 2002)

Woman-as-teacher is a familiar career trajectory for women. That Air Vice-Marshal

Hammer came ‘back’ to a teaching academy, but this time, not as tutor or teacher,
but as Commandant, indicates the many trajectories in her career development that
enabled her to return similarly-differently as woman-as-leader-as-Commandant. As
former Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell made apparent, within the site and
sight of the military, the body is an inscribed socio-cultural visual ‘production’,
where subjectivity and identity are integrally linked to specific military bodies, in
specific locations, functions, and contexts. Extending this, Stone (1995) argues that
governments and organisations, such as the military, are able to guarantee a stable
citizenry by means of “warranting” (p.399). Arguing away from the binaries, she
states that the politically intelligible citizen, as a particular identity, is an
assemblage of physical attributes and “virtual attributes, that taken together,
compose a structure of meaning and intention for the culturally intelligible body”

Developing the necessary ‘warrants’, as an intelligible military body is obviously a

fundamental requirement for legitimacy within military contexts, and, in particular,

‘A Second Coming’ , a poem by W. B. Yeats.
I argue along with Stone (1995) who writes: “I want to be careful in making these distinctions that I don’t reify dichotomies
already in place. There is always a danger in distinguishing the body from some other collection of attributes linked to the
body. I want to be quite clear that the physical/virtual distinction is not a mind/body dualism. The concept of mind is not part
of virtual systems theory, and the virtual component of the socially apprehensible citizen is not a disembodied thing, but rather
a different way of conceptualising a relationship to the human (or, for that matter, the transhuman or posthuman) body”

for an Air-Commodore and Commandant. However, in examining what constitutes
an intelligible military body worthy of leadership and seniority, the following
comment by Stewart (2002) is a timely reminder of what still ‘goes without saying’
in military contexts.
The captain, Peter Scott, strides in and takes his seat in the tall swivel chair
next to the periscope. The 37 year-old Scott is the submarine captain from
central casting. He is tall and rangy, with an angular bone structure and a
calm understated manner. He never seems to lose his cool, yet wields an
unquestioned authority that schoolteachers dream of. (Stewart, 2002, p.18)

Against the grain of this archetypal ‘central-casting’ heroic, masculinist image of a

leader striding a global military stage (albeit submerged one), is ‘woman’, whose
presence challenges the stability and truths of these conventional ‘warrants’ of
legitimacy. “The first time we took a Collins Class submarine to Hawaii and some
female crew members walked off it, there were jaws dropping all over the wharf”,
recalls Captain Scott. “They couldn’t believe it” (Stewart, 2002, p.22). ‘Jaw-
dropping disbelief’ is indicative that change can be confusing and difficult, because
it requires acceptance of the contingency of ideas, beliefs, and desires. The presence
of women in a traditional male-defined space such as a submarine, clearly demands
a refusal of “a final vocabulary” of “explanation and truth” (Rorty, 1989, p.79)
about what constitutes a proper and legitimate military and their everyday
performances. The comment (below) from the national president of the RSL reflects
the “special resentment” (Rorty, 1989, p.90) that change arouses in others,
particularly those whose truths and “common-sense” are put into flux, and rendered
“futile, obsolete and powerless” (p.90). “National President of the RSL, Major-
General Peter Phillips described having women on submarines as ‘a difficulty these
fleet units could do without’” (Stewart, 2002, p.22).76 Or, in the words of a woman
lawyer and politician (2001): “If a non-traditional, quasi member of The Club can
do it, that’s a real threat. It questions what they’ve been on about all these years.”

The presence of women “redescribes” (Rorty, 1989, p.73) conventional military

understandings of empowerment, unitary authority, and truth within a powerfully
inscribed and emblematic masculinist militaristic ‘grid of normalcy’. In such
contexts, the everyday enactments of women within the military must be daily
Another example here comes from Lady Justice Brenda Hale (2002) writing about the judiciary in Afghanistan. She states
that, “A much respected Muslim cleric renowned for his liberal views, declared that a woman could never be President of his
country, nor could she be a judge: his reason was menstruation and the emotional turmoil it brings” (p.10).

negotiated, as assemblages that have no blueprint and no associated guarantees. The
presence of women is not about reclaiming, or re-constructing leadership norms to
seamlessly incorporate women into a holistic leadership framework, but to look at
the ‘moments of chance’ as interesting possibilities, to see what they render by way<