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Leading ladies: discursive constructions of women leaders in the UK media
Feminist Media Studies, no. Published online: 10 July 2019
Women continue to be economically disadvantaged and under-represented in positions of power and leadership. A discursive disjunction between cultural and media representations of women and leadership has been implicated in these continuing inequalities. We address this issue through an analysis of the ways in which prominent women leaders were portrayed in a UK radio series, BBC Radio 4’s “Profile” broadcast between July 2011 and July 2013. Verbatim transcripts of 12 broadcasts featuring women were analysed within a critical feminist framework, to explore the ways in which these women leaders were discursively constructed. Our analysis explicates three constructions of “women leaders”: as “traditionally” feminine; as having to balance “masculine” and “feminine” attributes; and as exceptional women who may nevertheless fail. We conclude that the impact of equality legislation continues to be limited while androcentric norms prevail and that we therefore need more gynocentric ways of imagining women leaders.