Gendering Work: Gendered Coaching and Clinical Supervision

Heli Aaltonen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientific


Clinical supervision landed in Finland in the 1950s from United Kingdom and USA (Ranne et

al. 2015). Since then the employees from the social and health sector and in the Evangelical

Lutheran Church have had an easy access to get clinical supervision as a support in their

work. The work force in these areas has women as majority. I wanted to study the gender

balance amongst the supervisors in Finland and amongst professional coaches in the Pan-

European association European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). I also wanted to

study whether the biological sex and social gender have any significances in a coaching and

supervising process.

My research questions were:

1. Are coaches aware about the significances of gender in their coaching


2. If they are, which kind of consequences does it have in the coaching


3. If they are not aware, which kind of consequences does it have in the

coaching process?

4. Which kind of similarities and differences might there be in the understandings

and practices between the Finnish and the EMCC coaches concerning the

significances of gender in coaching?

I utilised in my research a quantitative method through electronic surveys. I deepened my

research with thematic interviews and diaries, in other words with a qualitative method. Of the

21 interviewees in total, 14 were women and seven men. The ages of the interviewees, at the

time of the interviews, varied from 38 to 76 years.

The theoretical frame and method has been intersectional. It is a common frame and method

in gender research (Lykke 2010, Buikema et al. 2011, Crenshaw 1989). With the help of the

intersectional method, it is possible to study the relations and impact of sex and gender, race,

ethnicity, class, tradition, religion etc. in the subject in focus. My focus has been coaching/


My research combined gender theories of gender research (Lykke 2010, Buikema et al. 2011,

Butler 2006) and the psychodynamic and systemic frame of clinical supervision and coaching

(Keskiluopa 2015; Ahteenmäki-Pelkonen 2006; Bion 1952, Schein 1985). It also combined

gender research and work research. My research can be described as interdisciplinary and

intersecting several fields of sciences.

The basic data material in the survey resulted in interesting outcomes: EMCC and Church

coaches have as members almost the same percent women, EMCC 62 % and Church coaches

64 %, whereas the Finnish Supervisors’ Association (FSA) has 84 % women members. This

means that coaching and supervising are rather gendered fields in Finland and amongst the

EMCC. One answer could lie in the long supervising tradition in Finland in the social and health

sector and in the Evangelic Lutheran Church of Finland. This leads to the female employees

from these fields actively entering the training for supervision. The distribution of women and

men also in EMCC strengthens the gender segregation and gender stereotypes in the work

life (see THL 2016, Schigl 2014, 90). That means that therapy, supervision, coaching and

mentoring, as well as social and health care are seen as soft fields of work (feminine), whereas

science and technology are seen hard fields of work (masculine).

The gender distribution of the clients matches the distribution of the supervisors and coaches.

The average percentages of women clients are: EMCC 55 %, Church 76 % and FSA 85 %. The

clients of Church and FSA supervisors come in majority from the social and health sector, and

the church, whereas the clients of EMCC members come in majority from private sector (69 %)

and are managers (65 %).

Based on my research material, I conclude that gender can have many kinds of significances

in coaching. They can be connected with bodies, how we perform our gender in all its diversity.

The significances can be connected with the way of work with clients. They can be connected

with the items of discussions and feelings and with the way to process them. The significances

can be connected with the early childhood or sexuality. The awareness of the coach towards

her or his gender, and a conscious observation of its many meanings while working with women

and men, are important. This allows her or him to develop gender know-how and avoid genderblindness.

This gendered phenomenon could be taken better into account in the trainings, concentrating on

gender sensitive issues, on women’s life careers from cradle to grave, and on supporting women

in dealing with issues of combining work and other parts of life, often family, and encouraging

them also to “male” work areas. The complementary way could be encouraging both women

and men into coaching, both as clients and as professionals, training the gender know-how and

enjoying all kinds of diversity. I suggest that it is possible to combine all these ideas.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Title of host publicationWORK2017 - Work and Labour in the Digital Future 16-18 August 2017 Turku, Finland. Abstracts.
EditorsNot mentioned
PublisherUniversity of Turku
ISBN (Print)978-951-29-6882-4
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeB3 Non-refereed article in conference proceedings
EventWORK2017 - WORK2017
Duration: 16 Aug 201718 Aug 2017




  • Clinical Supervision
  • Coaching
  • Gender research
  • Work life research

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