The Joan of Arc effect, thriving or surviving, is resilience more than the ability to endure? Understanding women leaders

Hughes, Sarah J (2022) The Joan of Arc effect, thriving or surviving, is resilience more than the ability to endure? Understanding women leaders. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

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This qualitative study was based on the experiences of three female leaders in the charity sector in the UK. The research question was developed to focus on understanding what motivated their sense of resilience, and if their experience was reflected in current literature on resilience in leadership. The topic was inspired by my own experience of being a female senior leader, and a curiosity about whether the leadership role amplified or undermined the experience of resilience for women leaders. Women leaders were invited to be considered for the study through an open call on key professional networks The study was undertaken in part during the global pandemic and as such there were some modifications including virtual interviewing. The research method included two interviews with each participant, and they submitted reflective logs. An advisory group of three additional female leaders were recruited to form a reflexive space in which we could interpret the data and think together about the meaning and relevance to the research question. By exploring the theories from a systems psychodynamic understanding of leadership, resilience and feminist theory, the research used a constructivist epistemological lens to interpret the findings from interviews, reflective notes, and advisory group discussions. The study revealed insights into the complexity of women’s experiences within their leadership role and considered how we can understand the intersectional demands of role, the ‘social’ task of a charity and the hostile environment towards women. The study revealed that women leaders are at greater risk of experiencing challenges in their role related to their gender, these included discrimination, micro and macro aggressions in the workplace. The consequences of these threats created psychological processes i.e., social defenses against anxiety, shame and envy. I have called this process for female leaders The Joan of Arc Effect. The Joan of Arc Effect described several dynamics relevant to the experiences of female leaders, it includes the idea that resilience is motivated by a need to survive, which can be a paranoid schizoid formulation of resilience. In addition, leading charities can create the conditions for leadership shame, which has associations particularly for women. These leaders do not anticipate or have additional support from other women, they cannot rely on a sense of sisterhood. In conclusion, the research identified what has been helpful for women leaders and these have been termed The Mitigations. They can support women to move from a paranoid schizoid formulation of resilience to a depressive position functioning of resilient leadership that relies on feminist principles of deep reflection and communalism. The study has recommended that Feminist Leadership could be considered as a model which is inclusive of the Mitigations and drives the conditions for equality.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Essex in collaboration with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust for the Professional Doctorate in in Consultation and the Organisation. No date when download is available.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in in Consultation and the Organisation, D10D, Embargoed
Subjects: Groups & Organisations > Groups/Institutions/Organisations
Management & Economics > Leadership - Social Behaviour
Management & Economics > Social Psychology of Work
Sex Psychology > Females/Women
Department/People: Adult and Forensic Services

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