Leadership in Hong Kong

Is gender really not an issue?


  • Stephanie Schnurr University of Warwick
  • Bernie Mak The Chinese University of Hong Kong




gender, workplace talk, leadership, hong kong


Although gender is an important issue in many Asian countries where women often face serious discriminatory practices, this topic is notoriously under-researched from a socio-linguistic perspective. We aim to address this issue by conducting an in-depth case study of leadership and gender in Hong Kong. Drawing on more than 30 hours of authentic workplace discourse and a sample of representative emails, we explore how a successful female leader does leadership and how she enacts her gender identity in ways that reflect and respond to the overall masculine culture of her workplace and the socio-cultural context of Hong Kong. Our findings illustrate that in addition to considering the socio-cultural context, workplace culture and the norms of communities of practice, the specific interactional context is also of crucial importance for an understanding of how leadership and gender are performed. We conclude that in contrast to general perceptions, gender is indeed an issue in the professional domain in Hong Kong, and is reflected not only in leadership discourse but also in the gendered and often discriminatory practices that are still prevalent in many workplaces.

Author Biographies

Stephanie Schnurr, University of Warwick

Stephanie Schnurr is Associate Professor at the University of Warwick. Her main research interests are professional discourse and medical communication. She has published widely on various aspects of gender, (im)politeness, humour, and workplace discourse with a particular focus on leadership performance. Stephanie is also the author of Leadership Discourse at Work. Interactions of Humour, Gender and Workplace Culture (Palgrave Macmillan).

Bernie Mak, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Bernie Mak Chun Nam is a PhD student at the Department of English, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He holds a BA and an MPhil in Language and Communication. Bernie has published and given talks on the topics of humour, small talk, workplace socialization, and gender in Hong Kong. His research interests also include written discourse and code-switching (between English and Chinese) in institutional and media settings.



How to Cite

Schnurr, S., & Mak, B. (2011). Leadership in Hong Kong: Is gender really not an issue?. Gender and Language, 5(2), 343–371. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v5i2.343