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Gender and Power in the Workplace

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Introduction

Gender and Power in the Workplace This paper is an analysis of contemporary issues associated with gender and power in the workplace; which will specifically include a discussion of gender relations, stereotyping, women's identity, the structuring of formal and informal power, sources of inequality, and sexual harassment. The concept of gender in relation to the division of labour in the workplace, and in relation to issues of power and control is an unfortunate, groundless stereotype. Suzanne Tallichet notes that the gendered division of workplace labour is rooted in erroneous ideology of innate sex differences in traits and abilities, and operates through various control mechanisms. (Tallichet 1995: 698) These control mechanisms are primarily exercised by men over women and serve to exaggerate differences between the sexes, especially surrounding women's presumed incapability for doing male identified work. Tallichet notes that most forms of workplace control take the form of harassment, sexual bribery, gender based jokes and comments, and profanity which passively but succinctly makes gender differences a salient aspect of work relations. (Tallichet 1995: 698-699) Jan Grant and Paige Porter (1994: 150) add the ideology of 'the gendered logic of accumulation" to the discussion of gender in the workplace, which notes that men in Western societies have traditionally acquired and maintained the bulk of wealth in society. These traditional roles and consequently women's identities have been formed and maintained by the workplace, therefore understanding any gendered differences in labour requires an examination in this light. ...read more.

Middle

Boyd is able to back her claims by noting that Canadian women are employed in positions with fewer decision making powers; women are more likely to supervise other women only; and although women have increased their presence in the workforce, this presence is mostly in the service industry only, and that this increase in presence has not converted into a presence of power. (Boyd 1997: 67) Grant and Porter (1994: 155) also support this view by stating that most female workers find themselves in female dominated industries, and corralled at the lower levels of power. These findings are particularly disturbing as they seem to be supported by anti matriarchal ideology of women being subordinate to men, and that men are seldom, if ever subordinate to women. Meika Loe (1996: 402) adds to the discussion of gender based power differences in the workplace by noting the presence of formal and informal power. Informal power acts a passive aggressive force employed through 'interactional techniques', often used by men to sustain dominance and maintain the inferior status of women. Loe notes that common methods of exercising informal power include derogatory terms of address, disciplinary actions, direct orders, threats, general avoidance of concerns, cynicism, and even humiliation. Formal power refers to the traditional concepts of the ability to legitimately exercise control over a subordinate worker. ...read more.

Conclusion

Boyd argues that part-time work is more than a strategy used by women; it also becomes a mechanism for continued gender inequality in that it leaves intact the organization of domestic labour, existing power structures and relations of male control and dominance. From a feminist perspective, the concentration of women in part-time employment highlights concerns that the constraints of domestic labour are left intact, and that the marginalization of women and their subordination to men continues. (Boyd 1997: 55) Even the part-time work in it of itself is humbling due to its diminished access to wages, benefits and other economic resources and rewards. Boyd also points out gendered inequalities in part-time work in that employers may have devised gender specific ways of attaining flexibility in their employees. For example, in establishments where full-time employees are primarily women, employers may use part-time work as a way of attaining flexibility. When men constitute the majority of the full-time employees, flexibility is more often attained by overtime work and temporary workers. (Boyd 1997: 56) So as can be seen from this analysis, the movement of women into the workplace has been accompanied by the continued feminization of domestic work, part-time work, and by sex typing occupations through power differentials and workplace harassment. This paper examined contemporary issues associated with gender and power in the workplace; and discussed in detail the topics of gender relations, stereotyping, women's identity, the structuring of formal and informal power, sources of inequality, and sexual harassment. ...read more.

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