This paper examines how the phenomenon of women’s numerical underrepresentation is perceived in the pharmaceutical sales industry in China. Previous studies have suggested that sex-differentiated perceptions and organisational factors may contribute to gender underrepresentation. Yet it is not well understood how these elements are connected to foster women underrepresentation in everyday workplaces in the Chinese context. Drawing on identity construction and on-going sense-making, this research attempts to shed light on the job characteristics and people's attitudes at the workplace, by answering the following questions: What are the meanings different actors ascribed to the sales occupation? To what extent are different actors able to (re)construct the male-dominated culture in the sales context? What are the implications of existing reproduction processes of the male-dominated culture for the way people experience their lives in the workplace?
The research methodology is based on a case study at a joint-venture pharmaceutical sales company and discourse analysis was conducted on 18 open-ended interviews. The research finds that the job requirements in the pharmaceutical sales occupation bring pressure on work-family balance, while male colleagues and even female salespeople themselves are (un)consciously reproducing the sales occupation’s masculine cultures through three processes: 1) through females' adoption of males' traits (androgyny), 2) by reinforcing gender homophily in informal networks, 3) through males' resistance towards building meritocracy above gender. The findings suggest that initiatives sponsored at different organisational ladders, and by both genders, contribute to the persistence of gender differences in pharmaceutical sales industry.