Gender and Excellence in Leading Positions of the Scientific and Economic Fields


The project focuses on professional careers of women and men who have achieved (or are about to achieve) a top position in the scientific or the economic fields. We aim to better understand how people are recruited for the most distinguished positions in both science and the economy, while taking into account the specific performance requirements of each professional field.

We hypothesize that different modes of both status ascription and also position achievement exist in the two fields. The study seeks to illuminate (self-) perceptions of excellence and achievement of both scientific and economic leaders by considering cultural patterns of recognition and performance verification.  Thus, the research project challenges the assumption that “elite” status is constructed differently in the science and business fields by considering shared interdependencies of subjective orientations and objective conditions that exist beyond each field.

The analysis is mainly based on narrative interviews. A main emphasis is on interpretational patterns of “success” to which female and male leaders refer when we address them as “high achievers.” Our database includes:

  1. Interviews with high achievers in science and the economy
  2. interviews with up and coming professionals in science and the economy
  3. print media representations of female and male high achievers in science and economy

We hope to not only contribute to a better understanding of the everyday lives of leaders in the scientific and economic fields, but also extrapolate our findings onto other fields. Moreover, our results will help further knowledge of how leadership and gender are interdependently (symbolically) constructed.

Main content

Prof. Jutta Allmendinger, Dr. Hildegard Matthies, Dr. Dagmar Simon.