Informations and abstract
The paper aims to clarify the social mechanisms which prevent Italian women from reaching the highest positions inside corporations. It is argued that the causes of vertical segregation can hardly be ascribed to differences in the characteristics of labour supply of female executives, as mainly claimed by economic theory. The reasons for the low female presence at the top of organisations are to be found inside corporations, in the relational dynamics and, in particular, in the relation of power between men and women executives (as per Frank Parkin's strategies of social closure). Using data from the first two waves of the Italian Household Longitudinal Survey and from the Fendac database, the article describes the main characteristics associated with the labour supply of men and women executives. It is shown that women executives come from a higher social background, have higher educational levels and have adopted social behaviours in relation to family formation and fertility (being single and without children) which are compatible with a typical "male" career. Qualitative data concerning forty-five men and women executives are used to identify the strategies of "social exclusion" by (male) management and "social usurpation" by women executives. The analysis shows that the social actions of men at top corporate levels basically seem to have reinforced a women-unfriendly cultural environment and promoted gender-neutral working arrangements. For their part, women executives seem to have adopted and interiorised the "male model", without seriously challenging it.