Challenging male dominance through the substantive representation of women: the case of an online women’s mentoring platform

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A new research article that analyses ‘alta‘ an online mentoring platform for women in aviation has been published by Susan Durbin, Professor in Human Resource Management at UWE Bristol, Stella Warren, Research Associate in the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre at UWE Bristol and Ana Lopes, Lecturer in Human Resource Management at Newcastle University (UK).

Susan Durbin is also a board member of the European Sociological Association’s Research Network 14, Gender Relations in the Labour Market and the Welfare State. Her research fields are women working in male dominated professions and gendered careers.

Stella Warren has a background in applied social research. Her research topics include social marketing and the understanding of psychological pathways for behaviour change in health; gender and inequality in organisations; the gender pay gap; and women working in male-dominated industries.

This article analyses the design of an online mentoring platform—for women by women—in a high‐technology, male‐dominated UK industry: aviation and aerospace. Based on interviews with professionals and managers, they analyse the journey of the women involved and contribute to the understanding of the role of women (individually and collectively) in challenging gendered norms in a male‐dominated industry through the theoretical lenses of ‘critical actors’ and ‘critical mass’. They combine these concepts, usually seen as mutually exclusive, to explain the success of the online platform. This shows how a small number of self‐selected critical actors represented, listened and responded to the needs of the women in their industry, thus achieving the substantive representation of women. They also argue that while critical actors were key to its inception, the mentoring platform now needs a critical mass of women to ensure its success. You can read the article in full online.

Find out more about alta in their recent case study about the importance of mentoring platforms, especially relating to the corona-virus pandemic. Stella Warren also took part in our Future Impact Webinar series to talk about supporting women in male-dominated industries which you can listen back to online.

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