Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Influential DNA: A Study of Prominent Women and Their Impact on the Field of Organization Development

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Influential DNA: A Study of Prominent Women and Their Impact on the Field of Organization Development

Article excerpt

Abstract

The goal of this research is to illuminate how female scholars and practitioners have influenced the evolution of the field of O.D.. This study draws from literature threads of the Sociology of Knowledge, Social Influence Theory and Social Structure Theory. Knowledge and Social influence are enabling agents of social transformation; there is an emergent quality that is true of all generations of influential women in O.D.. A nominative process was used to help identify influential women and to support qualitative findings. Seven overarching themes were identified using grounded theory which illustrates how women influenced this evolution of O.D. as an academic discipline.

Introduction

The collective voice of generations of women who practice and study organization development is at once, scholarly, influential and practical. From early pioneers Billie Alban, Barbara Bunker, Elsie Cross, Edie Seashore, and Jane Mouton whose legacies provided the impetus for change, and heralded the emergence and acceptance of women as scholar/practitioners, to the next generation of "Foundational Thought Leaders" whose seminal contributions to theory and practice have dramatically impacted the evolution of the field of O.D..

This research is part of an under-represented, but critically needed, study of Women in O.D.. In the almost 60 year history of O.D., only one other author, Kaplan (1994) has attempted to identify the generative voice of women, whose values, practices and research have so clearly influenced the evolution of O. D.. Once a male dominated field, the O.D. Network membership reports the membership ratio to be 60 percent women and 40 percent male. With the presence of women so strong in the field, it is important that the subject be explored.

The entrance of women into Organization Development has dramatically altered the social structure of this field in a myriad of ways including; the acceptance of women as valuable practitioners and acknowledging their contributions to literature, theory, and new practice applications. The primary goal of this research is to discover the early social environment of O.D. and to illuminate the paths to prominence of the most influential women. Telling their stories by documenting their entry into the field of O.D. is important to understanding women's role in the evolution of O.D. practice, intervention approaches, research and theory. Indeed, men's contributions are extremely important, foundational and opened the doors for women to enter the field. But now it is time to celebrate the positive contributions of women.

Literature and its connection to influential women in O.D.

Introduction

The body of literature highlighting influential women in O.D. is sparse and consists of only one study (Kaplan, 1994). In framing this research, it was necessary to examine previous studies which have illuminated contributions to O.D. by scholars and practitioners. In addition to discussing previous studies of influential people in O.D., four other relevant literature threads are discussed and help trace the contributions of the most influential women in O.D. by decade, juxtaposing them to the social movement of the times. These threads include, the Sociology of Knowledge, Social Influence Theory, Social Structure Theory and Knowledge Creation. This ensuing discussion provides a definition of these threads, relating them to major ways that women have impacted the field. Although these literature threads are defined and discussed, major sections are divided into new emergent themes which were the result of examining this literature. This examination includes the following: previous studies, knowledge discourse, influential DNA and structure of O.D.; moving parts come together.

Previous studies

To provide context for this research, it is important to highlight previous studies. All but one study, (Kaplan, 1994) lack women in the process of inquiry. …

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