Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

This important text demonstrates the range of ways in which gender can be seen to be an integral part of organisational life. Through a lively and detailed exploration of the structures and processes of organisations, the authors bring to life the ways in which gender is performed, maintained and reproduced in many of the corporations and institutions in which we work. A wide range of research on gender, race and other forms of social difference is drawn upon to reveal how divisions and inequalities remain a significant aspect of work and organisations in spite of the fact that high profile is given to women who 'make it' to the top. At the same time, evidence is also presented to show how these persistent structural differences are variously contested and challenged by both women and men.

The authors discuss how these contradictory factors can be usefully interpreted by developing our understanding of the ways in which power operates in organisations. By developing a multi-dimensional approach to understanding power, the richness and diversity of gender relations within contemporary organisations is explained. Through its full discussion of key theoretical concepts and its insightful look at the ways in which these interweave with substantive areas of organisational life, this book is the perfect text both for readers who are new to the subject and who are already engaged in the field.

Table of Contents

1. Gender, Power and Organisation: Introducing Power

Abstract
As we enter the twenty-first century, those of us interested in the world of work are aware that we are faced with a complex and contradictory picture of men, women and organisations. On the one hand, many parts of the picture are optimistic, containing evidence that the divisions between women and men in the workplace are diminishing and real progress is being made towards gender equality. We see that more and more women are entering work organisations, and that many women are the primary breadwinners for the family unit. Further, once in their organisations, many appear to be shattering the glass ceilings and making it to the very top, taking over high-profile positions within organisations of all types. In business, politics, the media and public service, as well as in science, medicine and academia, we are faced with images of women who appear to be transforming the face of organisational life, suggesting that ‘the feminist revolution that began 30 years ago has continued to do its work’ (Grant 1997:2).
Susan Halford, Pauline Leonard

2. Organisational Structures

Abstract
We saw in Chapter 1 that the relationship between gender and organisation has been described in a range of rather different and often competing ways. We have argued that endorsing any one of these empirical or theoretical accounts as accurate over and above the others is to lose sight of the insights offered by the other accounts and to oversimplify both the empirical phenomena and their analysis. However, allowing this diverse range of empirical evidence and theoretical argument to remain intact leaves us with a complex and confusing picture of relations between gender and organisation. At a general level, we have already suggested that focusing attention on the issue of power — particularly the range of ways in which power is constituted inside work organisations — will be helpful in allowing us to see how it is that diverse and even contradictory relationships between gender and organisation can coexist. In this chapter, we aim to focus more closely on the nature of power in relation to one particular aspect of organisation: organisational structures. Precisely what is meant by this term may vary from one writer to another, but includes reference to the formal design of an organisation, perhaps conceptualised as a chart showing job titles, with specific responsibilities arranged into hierarchies of accountability and command.
Susan Halford, Pauline Leonard

3. Organisational Cultures

Abstract
It is not only the formal design of an organisation that determines the ways it is gendered. Organisations consist of a multitude of ‘informal’ processes through which gender relations are constructed and reproduced. In this chapter, we shift the focus from examining how power articulates through the formal aspects of bureaucracy such as rules, procedures and the ways hierarchies are structured, to look at the relationships between gender and power as they articulate through the less tangible aspects of organisational life, such as attitudes, beliefs and values, as well as organisational symbols, language and practices. Indeed, ‘how things are done around here’ (Deal and Kennedy 1982) is of crucial importance to understand an organisation fully, as
it is necessary to understand the context in which it operates, the content of its cultural knowledge, and the social processes which are in operation. For organisations, like tribes, have belief systems about the rightness of certain social arrangements which motivate their actions. (Pettigrew 1979, quoted in Pemberton 1995:109)
In this chapter, we show that it is through these belief systems that power operates to construct understandings about gender performances, identities and relationships within organisations.
Susan Halford, Pauline Leonard

4. Gender and Management in Organisations

Abstract
Our examination of organisational structures and cultures in the previous chapters has documented the very different experiences of women and men working in contemporary organisations, and begun to reveal the centrality of power — in multiple forms — to the constitution of these experiences. In particular, we have seen that organisations have been constructed in ways which favour men in terms of status and reward, such that men have continually dominated senior positions, while women have been relatively excluded from the management tier. However, in recent years women have increasingly started to ‘make it’ as managers and leaders in many organisations in most industrialised countries. The changing social, political and economic climate of the 1960s and 1970s meant that women started to enter management in more significant numbers, such that at the turn of the millennium it can no longer be seen as the exclusive male club it was for so many decades (Davidson and Cooper 1992).
Susan Halford, Pauline Leonard

5. Sexuality and Organisation

Abstract
On the face of it, sex and sexuality might appear to have little to do with most people’s working lives. After all, what goes on in the privacy of the bedroom or nightclub, in realms separate from to the daily routine of work, would not seem to affect the interactions of the organisation. Indeed, we saw in Chapter 2 how the bureaucratic organisation has been viewed predominantly as sex-less: Weber’s model of the ‘ideal type’ of bureaucratic organisation emphasises its rational and objective character. This would seem to imply that sexual displays and liaisons are deemed to be inappropriate and counterproductive to the purposes of the organisation. Since the late 1980s however, organisational researchers from a range of perspectives have been to keen to point out that, far from being removed from organisational life, sexuality in fact ‘permeates the workplace’ (Gutek and Dunwoody 1987:256), pervading it at every level. For some organisational theorists, sexuality, or more particularly, heterosexuality, is seen to be the primary means by which both people and organisations are gendered, and through which power is exercised. Further, whatever the form in which sexuality is made explicit, this gendering process hinges on power inequality: sexuality acts to differentiate and discriminate. The purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to consider the place of sexuality in the gendering of organisations, and, in particular, to consider the ways sexuality is bound up with power in gendered organisations.
Susan Halford, Pauline Leonard

6. Challenging Gendered Organisation

Abstract
This book has elaborated the complex ways in which gender is enacted, sustained and generated across the structures and practices of organisational life. We have seen a mass of apparently contradictory evidence. On the one hand there are many instances where women are subjected to forms of dominance and control which seem to sustain male authority and privilege. On the other hand, we have seen repeated evidence of women acting as agents, rather than subjects, of power. In this chapter, we concentrate on the latter. We document the range of ways women have attempted to resist male power and masculine privilege inside work organisations. Such resistance is precisely about women exerting power. Some men too have been involved in challenging existing configurations of gender in work organisations. This represents a challenge to the hegemonic construction of organisational masculinity, demonstrating nicely that constructions and practices of gender within organisational life do not conform neatly to a binary division between women, on the one hand, and men, on the other.
Susan Halford, Pauline Leonard

7. Gender, Power and Organisation

Abstract
In the preceding chapters of this book we have revealed the range of ways gender is enacted, sustained and generated across the structures, practices and discourses of organisational life. We have striven to show how the relations between gender and organisation are extremely diverse, complex and multi-dimensional, and may be viewed from different perspectives. Although we have reported many instances of persistent gender discrimination, and shown how it is, primarily, women who are made the minority in both power and material reward, we have also offered evidence to show that the traditional relations between women and men in organisations are being thoroughly challenged. In the contemporary organisational landscape, there is a coexistence of familiar structural patterns of gender with significant change in gender relations. Today it is the case that many women are located in jobs, roles or work relationships that are far from subordinate, rather than a noteworthy few. Many women are resisting the traditional gendered stereotypes by which their occupational choices, performance, achievement and relations may have previously been constrained. Similarly, many men are also challenging the definitions of workplace masculinities that have dominated organisations, prescribing which jobs they should do, and how they should be performed.
Susan Halford, Pauline Leonard
Additional information