Emerging Profiles of Female Marketing Managers in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Winning and Losing Competitive Laps in a Relay Race against Male Counterparts

Article excerpt


In Western economies the theories and paradigms of marketing management are developed on the basis of prevailing resources and environments with little, if any, consideration of the personal characteristics of the implementers. In many non-Western cultures, however, personalities of the implementers affect the design and execution of marketing strategies and tactics. This paper views the emerging roles of the young and inspiring female executives in shaping the marketing practices of the state-owned and private enterprises in the Islamic Republic of Iran. It examines the deep-rooted constraints that the female marketing managers have been subjected to at various stages of their employment process, including preparation, employment access, retention, and promotion to the position of marketing executives in organizations which have been traditionally governed by men. As the women have recently succeeded in occupying more university seats than their counterparts, a race has begun to capture key positions in the marketing organizations and break the glass ceiling in competition with their male counterparts. Using the metaphor of a relay race, the author has studied the performance of the Iranian women at each lap under the prevailing constraints and opportunities. A longitudinal study of Iranian women entering Tehran University during the period of 1999-2012, encompassing admission data, scientific preparation, job application, organizational culture, and external communications has been made in a series of field research. A model is developed to portray success and failure of the women at each lap (stage) of their marketing management functions.

Keywords: Iranian marketing managers, women marketing managers, gender-based competition for university admission

1. Introduction

1.1 Divergent Behavior in a Global Setting

In Western economies the theories and concepts of marketing management deal with adapting to the continuously evolving environment. The emotional side of the marketer is expected to be contained and excluded from the decision-making process. In a number of non-western cultures, including Iran, the personalities of marketing managers affect the choice of strategies. This can be influenced bycultural norms of the society, the absence of adequate information, and limited access to required resources. Accordingly, marketing concepts, theories, and strategies cannot be fully developed without the consideration of the individuals who implement them.

This paper examines a host of environmental factors that shape the mindset of the Iranian women as they undertake managerial responsibilities for marketing functions. The backbone of these environments are cultural and social norms, supported by laws and politics, challenged by the new waves from social media, and entangled in a bureaucracy which stifles genuine efforts for change. Without identifying these factors and their dynamics, it would be difficult to understand the risk aversion orientation which many female marketing managers have developed. Conformity with the organizational structure and culture has been deemed to be safe conduct. Those women who have challenged the validity or fairness of organizational norms have often encountered frustration and dismay. In some instances, however, the young women who were interviewed by the present author acknowledged the helpful assistance they received from a number of officials in finding solutions to their dilemma. Pursuant to a growing public assistance by the Islamic Republic, the Iranian Parliament recently increased the legal period for maternity leave to nine months, with two weeks of required leave for the husband as well (Official Gazette, 2013).

Initial studies for this paper were conducted in the period 1999-2009 and the findings were presented in a national conference in 2009 (Safavi, 2009). New developments that emerged during the period 2010-2012 were examined in a recent presentation (Safavi, 2012). …