Institutional logics influence on organisational female career progression
: A study of the British and German public sector

  • Stuart McClure

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the role of conflicting institutional logics in shaping the creation, implementation, and interpretation of certain gender equality practices in the public sector spaces of the United Kingdom (UK) and Germany. It further explores the factors that influence individual and collective understandings of gender roles and gender expectations, with special consideration given to issues deemed preventative to a greater transitioning of female workers into managerial positions within certain areas of the public sector environment. This is relevant as women remain starkly underrepresented at senior levels across a wide range of industries, even when they contribute a significant portion of the overall modern labour force. This study assumes that how the individual perceives reality, which is based upon the logics that have informed their schema, affects personal as well as group decision making, social interactions, and prioritisation of ambitions, which can influence career choices as well as other key decisions in life.

Using a qualitative case study approach, this thesis explores two institutional settings: the UK and Germany – with qualitative data collected from sites within a devolved British nation (DBN) and a German Federal State (GFS). Both countries show similarities concerning gender norms and work, e.g. traditionally fostering a predominantly male breadwinner model. The analysis incorporates data from 41 semi-structured interviews in five public sector case study organisations in the UK (three organisations, 17 interviews) and Germany (two organisations, 24 interviews) with Human Resources Managers, Line Managers, woman workers and Employee Representatives. Thematic analysis findings point towards similarities and differences across countries. Country differences existed in terms of the communication between members of different hierarchical levels; openness of discussion around gender equality policy issues; and the willingness to share information and admit wrongdoing in this respect. Cross-country similarities included the perspective that HR policy was seen as an integral part of achieving gender equality. In implementing such policies findings point towards the existence of “logic zones”, where organisational needs and tasks, and the logics that governed them, were viewed and navigated differently among individuals belonging to upper and lower hierarchical levels, respectively. This resulted in an uncoupling of shared working realities and thus led to the creation of markedly inept equality practices as policy creators held an interpretation of organisational culture divergent from those in junior roles – thus leaving fundamental aspects suppressing female workers transitioning into senior roles largely unacknowledged.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsUK ESRC NINE Doctoral Training Partnership
SupervisorHeike Schroeder-Altmann (Supervisor) & Mark Palmer (Supervisor)


  • Gender Equality Policy
  • HRM Implementation
  • institutional logics
  • public sector
  • Germany
  • United Kingdom

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