18 November 2009

Sexuality and Organizational Cultures

Male managers with female subordinates may use sexuality, harassment, joking and abuse as a routine means of maintaining authority. This may be thoroughly embedded in the taken-for-granted culture in the organization.” (Hearn and Parkins, 1987:93)
Many feminist academics have noted the existence of cultural barriers in their analyses of specific organization. Other writers have concentrated their efforts on decoding organizational culture for its genderness and have explored different approaches of problematizing gendered cultures.
The use of gender as a metaphor and usefully show the variety of different cultures which may exist within one organization McDowell (1997) provides rich data on gender at work in the City, seeing work as an embodied performance and as the playing out of masculinities and feminities. Whereas according to Maddock (1999) gives a more materialist analysis of gender and culture in public sector organizations. She refers to gender cultures as saying that male cultures vary from organization to organization but there are common themes one of which is that, men continue to underrate and undervalue women. Sexuality is included in the list of cultural constituents, as it is viewed as a resource on which man may or may not draw a necessary in order to dominate/control/marginalize women. As one site of male domination, sexuality is controlled and defined by men (Walby, 1990; Pringle, 1989; Adkins, 1995). Thus, the concept of harassment has been kept analytically distinct from sexualised cultured, as the research shows that the former may occur in both sexualised and relatively unsexualised cultures.
The sexuality in organizations, that has been surrounded by silence for so long, has been a male-defined heterosexuality or, as Adkins (1995) says, compulsory heterosexuality. Constituents of sexuality which were deemed to be tangible enough to capture through questions include sexual homour in the workplace, swearing and the use of metaphors in organizational language. Other indicators of a sexualised culture may be the dress of the workers and the physicality of the workplace. Management of sexuality has been an important acknowledgement in the lives of women managers (Sheppard, 1989).
Exclusion and closure
Witz (1992) applies the concept of patriarchal exclusion strategies to the professions, using the Weberian concept of social closure. Weber used term “closure” to refer to the process of subordination, whereby one group monopolizes advantages by closing off opportunities to another group of outsiders beneath it, which it defines as inferior or ineligible (Murphy, 1988). Crompton says that the processes of gender exclusion, via indigenous culture production within organisations, are extremely difficult to research and quantify. They must however, be recognised as a crucial element to organizational positions. Research difficulties cannot be used as an excuse for ignoring these important social phenomena.
  1. Adkins, R. 1989. Gendered work: sexuality, family, and the labour market. Open University Press: Buckingham.
  2. Hearn, J. and W. Parkins. 1987. Sex at Work: The power and the paradox of organizational sexuality. Wheatsheaf: Brighton.
  3. Murphy, P. 1988. Social closure: the theory of monopolisation and exclusion. Oxford University: Oxford.
  4. Pringle, R. 1989. Secretaries talk: sexuality, power, and work. Verso: London and New York.
  5. Rutherford, Sarah. 2001.Organizational, cultures, women, managers and exclusion.
  6. Sheppard, D. L. 1989. Organisations, culture and sexuality: the self-image of women managers”, in Hearn, J., Sheppard, D. L., Tavered-Sheriff, P. and Borrell, G. (Eds), the sexuality of organization. Sage: London.
  7. Walby, S. 1990. Theorising patriarchy. Routledge: London.
  8. Witz, A. 1992. Professions and patriarchy. Routledge: London.

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