In simple terms, homosociality means that a certain social context is limited to, or is strongly dominated by, same-sex individuals. The concept was developed in the field of gender research to explain how men identify with, are drawn to and understand their social position in relation to other men. Women are excluded from these social contexts, partly to keep them from interfering with the often fairly intimate culture and partly because, based on established power structures, they do not possess the economic, social and political resources that would otherwise make it worthwhile to include them. Jokes about decisions being made in the sauna or on the golf course refer to homosocial contexts in real life, where men by tradition meet in informal environments to which women are not invited or explicitly welcome.
The concept of male homosocial desire points to how the homosocial groupings that the superordination of men rests upon often exhibit a split attitude to sexuality. At the same time as the single-sex social environments can be very intimate, it can be part of the jargon to express homophobic attitudes (see also heteronormativity). Examples of this can be found in both ice hockey locker rooms and exclusive gentlemen’s clubs.
Homosociality can have an impact in both recruitment and nomination processes, for example when boards are appointed (see also quotas and quota systems). Men benefit from approaching and mimicking other men and tend to select more men than women to their group or context. Organisational research shows how the presence of a few women in a male homosocial context becomes very noticeable, and that this leads to a strong emphasis on women’s ‘non-standard’ traits and features. For women who want to reach important positions, the logical strategy instead becomes to stress that they can make unique contributions.