Management development and succession in the electricity industry 1948-1998 : executive men and non-executive women
This thesis investigates the development and succession of British Electricity Industry executives (top managers) during the half-century from 1948, and examines the reasons why few female employees became senior managers, and none became board members. In response to the continuing need for professional engineers, the industry operated a policy of internal promotion in parallel with systematic procedures for recruiting, training, developing and promoting employees and managers. The shortage of technical trainees resulted in the recruitment of apprentices with qualifications below the required standard; together with talented manual workers who were also perceived as potential engineers. Training facilities and career development opportunities were biased in favour of technical employees whose occupations were horizontally and vertically segregated. The term 'manager' was strictly limited to an elite of 1 in 100 employees, distinguished from the 1000s of supervisors (1 in 14 employees). The career trajectory to management was multifaceted until a standard was introduced in 1968. The federal nature of the industry resulted in inequalities with particular biases in training and selection to attend business schools. Managers who attended the Administrative Staff College at Henley were more successful in achieving promotion, especially to the level of chairmen, when compared with managers who attended an internal course. Using questionnaire results the thesis highlights differences between managers and top managers in relation to their personal characteristics, career development (including motivation and managing), and techniques for management selection and succession. The impact of privatisation on career development is also considered. An analysis of management succession over five decades shows that early entry to the industry was correlated with success; the long tenure of the first entrants hindered subsequent succession except for the most mobile. Like the industry's leaders, membership of decision-making committees which influenced female development was also male dominated. This belied the fact that females formed one in ten of non-executive board members. There is a substantial literature on the historical problems of women in work, their concentration in low-paid, low-status posts, employability and exclusion from higher graded posts. The electricity industry is a case in point. In electricity the focus was on boys and young men to fill the horizontally segregated technical training posts at a time when females were actively encouraged to follow a 'feminine' curriculum in schools. In addition, workshop and practical training facilities for females were non-existent in an industry which, unsurprisingly, perceived they would find its workplaces 'unattractive'. Females were concentrated in lower grade clerical work and in the bottom grades of the higher graded administrative structure. Due to the federal nature of the industry the finding that females were discriminated against remained unresolved. Privatisation did nothing to improve the gender imbalance in managerial opportunity. Some females now perform manual jobs previously confined to men, and two women became executive board members. However, by 1998, despite the more widespread use of the term 'manager' a number of electricity companies had still not appointed any senior female managers.