[Excerpt] Prior to the publication of Kanter's seminal Men and Women of the Corporation in 1977, the field of organizational studies exhibited a striking degree of oblivion to the effect of gender relations on work group dynamics. This neglect may have been due, in part, to the relatively small proportion of women in the labor force in the first half of the 20th century, as well as to high levels of occupational and job segregation, which helped conceal the influence of group gender composition on individual and group behavior. In the postwar years, however, women's rate of entry into the labor force nearly doubled that of the preceding three decades, and women began to occupy many jobs and occupations that had been the near-exclusive province of men. In this context, Kanter's provocative analysis of the impact of work group gender composition on group relations served as the impetus for an outpouring of both theoretical and empirical work.
Studies following Kanter's have explored the effects of gender composition on a wide range of outcomes, based on a variety of theoretical perspectives. In this chapter, we review five major theoretical paradigms that, singly or in combination, have provided the underpinning for most empirical studies, then review the findings from empirical work, focusing on the degree to which they provide support for each perspective. In concluding, we identify several avenues that merit greater attention in future research and theorizing.