Thursday, 22 August 2013

Working hard with gender: Gendered labour for women in male dominated occupations of manual trades and information technology (IT)

an article by Louisa Smith (University of Sydney, Australia) Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal Volume 32 Issue 6 (2013)


Manual trades and information technology (IT) are male-dominated occupations and as such cultivate unique forms of hegemonic masculinity. Women entering these occupations represent a kind of crisis to this gender order in the workplace, making the experiences of these women a useful way of studying how gender regimes are maintained and may be challenged at work. The aim of this paper is to examine how women found doing gender in the male dominated workplaces became a kind of work in itself.

A life history framework was used for this research, in which 15 women from manual trades and 15 women from IT occupations were interviewed. The in-depth qualitative method allowed the participants the time and space to communicate the contradictions they experienced doing their gender and doing their gender at work.

The effort expended because the participants were women and because they were a minority was experienced both as an intense pressure and as significant to their success in their occupations. This indicates that gendered work outside of the formal duties of a job makes the work of those in a gender minority particularly strenuous. This understanding of gender at work as work is important to understanding how efforts to address gender equity in workplaces must work beyond quotas and policy and also address embodied gendered cultures.

While women working in male dominated cultures are often studied in terms of the challenges they face, from this research these challenges are framed as a kind of gendered work in itself. This work is often invisible, usually emotion work and mostly unrecognised. Highlighting the nature of this gendered labour and the pressures it places on women in male dominated work reframes what it means to work and the importance of these invisible forms of labour to maintaining successful production relations.

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