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Subtle masculinities at work

Positioning Women in Science

Valerie Bevan and Caroline Gatrell

We suggest that the world of science favours ‘hegemonic’ forms of masculinity (Collinson and Hearn 1996; Connell, 2005), which take the form of subtle masculinities in the workplace that are taken for granted and unacknowledged. Subtle masculinities are enacted in three main ways: men support other men rather than women, praising women for their roles in operational or gendered supporting and ‘serving’ roles rather than for their roles as leading scientists; men exclude women from networks and decision making; and women take on roles which are ‘hidden’ such as activities needed to keep the laboratory functioning including preparing for accreditation, checking that equipment is being properly monitored or even that the laboratory is kept tidy.

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Secret careers

Positioning Women in Science

Valerie Bevan and Caroline Gatrell

Chapter 4 shows that women are subject not only to subtle masculinities at work but that these may also extend into the home spheres. Although women showed a strong commitment to their work, they bore the burden of the ‘second shift’ of domestic and care arrangements (Hochschild, 2003). Some women in heterosexual relationships perceived the need to remain invisible at home as a career woman in an effort to avoid conflict with their husbands/partners. While some of our respondents seemed to have developed such strategies unconsciously, others reported proactively balancing a strong career focus with the requirement to appear less work oriented than they actually felt.

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Positioning women in their place

Positioning Women in Science

Valerie Bevan and Caroline Gatrell

Chapter 2 explains the book's use of the metaphor of ‘place’ to illustrate how women in science are excluded from the ‘place’ of scientific ‘action’ (Miller, 1986, p. 75). We argue that women ‘knowing their place’ and the manner in which they ‘internalize such notions psychologically’ contributes to the consistent positioning of women at the margins, and lower levels within science (Harvey, 1993, p. 4).

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M[o]therhood

Positioning Women in Science

Valerie Bevan and Caroline Gatrell

Predominant hegemonic masculinities within science serve to marginalize not only mothers, but also those women with potential to become mothers. This is due to unfair and unsubstantiated assumptions that childbearing reduces women’s commitment to their career, and dulls their ability to undertake creative or groundbreaking research over a lifetime’s work. Women become identified as ‘other’ or more appropriately ‘m[o]ther’ and are subtly marginalized from opportunities to pursue research careers in science. How women balance the multidimensional aspects of motherhood with their career is explored, including commenting on the situation of lone mothers and the experiences of a father who is primary carer for his children.

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Knowing Her Place

Positioning Women in Science

Valerie Bevan and Caroline Gatrell

More women are studying science at university and they consistently outperform men. Yet, still, significantly fewer women than men hold prestigious jobs in science. Why should this occur? What prevents women from achieving as highly as men in science? And why are so few women positioned as ‘creative genius’ research scientists? Drawing upon the views of 47 (female and male) scientists, Bevan and Gatrell explore why women are less likely than men to become eminent in their profession. They observe three mechanisms which perpetuate women’s lowered ‘place’ in science: subtle masculinities (whereby certain forms of masculinity are valued over womanhood); (m)otherhood (in which women’s potential for maternity positions them as ‘other’), and the image of creative genius which is associated with male bodies, excluding women from research roles.
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Introduction: Setting the scene

Positioning Women in Science

Valerie Bevan and Caroline Gatrell

Chapter 1 asks the questions: why should men dominate the senior roles in the science workplace; why do women not achieve as highly as men, despite women being in the majority at the lower grades? The introduction presents a new framework whereby four mechanisms act together to keep women in their subordinate ‘place’: subtle masculinities, whereby masculine cultures in science tend to privilege men and marginalize women; secret careers, whereby subtle masculinities invade heterosexual households so that women conduct their careers in secret, hiding their career aspirations from their partners; the concept of creative genius that is associated with male bodies, meaning that women find it hard to envision themselves (or be envisioned by others) in such a role; and m[o]therhood, in which women’s potential for maternity positions them as different and ‘other’. The introduction also provides information on the research design, ethical consideration and a concise review of global literature on women in science.

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Creative genius in science

Positioning Women in Science

Valerie Bevan and Caroline Gatrell

The most prestigious positions within science globally are held by individuals to whom the description ‘creative genius’ may be applied, and this title is invariably applied to men. Historically, women were not regarded as being capable of being a genius. For a woman to be seen as such, was against the laws of nature. Women scientists are embodied as ‘other’ and situated in a ‘place’ that effectively ensures that they may be excluded from social definitions of creative genius.

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Concluding remarks and recommendations

Positioning Women in Science

Valerie Bevan and Caroline Gatrell

Despite many years of equal opportunities legislation and proactive initiatives, our conclusions show how career trajectories for women in healthcare science remain limited: fewer opportunities are available for women in science compared with those for men; women continue to be allocated a subordinate place within the hierarchical healthcare science structure; young women in science continue to experience disadvantageous treatment and receive inappropriate advice about becoming research scientists. The hierarchical nature of the professional and other structures in healthcare science mean that there are many barriers at which women’s career advancement may stall. We suggest that four mechanisms influence women’s ‘place’ in science, as illustrated in our framework Knowing her place – positioning women in science: subtle masculinities, secret careers, the notion of creative genius, and m[o]therhood. These factors act frequently together to preserve and strengthen what may seem subtle, but are in practice very powerful social structures that keep women firmly in their place in the lower echelons of science. We propose that these mechanisms subtly enforce women’s lower ‘place’ compared with male colleagues and we suggest that reinforcement of such a ‘place’ by these four mechanisms perpetuates the status quo in science. Future research should involve Athena SWAN in exploring ways of encouraging a feminist discourse in science education (which would include input from men). It is noticeable that gender is not part of the science curriculum in universities, and innovative ways of improving this should be investigated. The success noted in the study by Miller et al. (2002) with regard to MBA courses should be studied. We suggest that the range of Athena SWAN’s remit could be extended to include public sector institutes (other than academic institutes) where R & D is conducted but where it may only be part of a wider remit for such establishments. To effect any change in the status quo, organizational culture itself needs to change, and importantly this has to involve men at the top of organizations. Establishing an environment where potential in women to develop can be identified should be a priority, and providing a culture where women scientists can speak openly is vital. Other recommendations include improving recruitment practices, unconscious bias training, mentoring and modifying ways that academic records (publication rates) are assessed and to include the importance of relational skills. Following the proposed exit from the EU following the UK referendum in June 2016, Britain should not retract from the equality and diversity improvements made in the last few years and we recommend that, as a minimum, the government introduces procedures to ensure that shared parental leave nationwide becomes accepted policy.

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Regina Wentzel Wolfe and Patricia H. Werhane

Ms. Kurose began her career at a department store. Passed over for promotions she resigned. Today she is the General Manager for corporate social responsibility (CSR) planning at Teijin Ltd., a publicly traded Japanese firm with businesses in advanced fibers and composites, electric materials and performance polymer products as well as health care products and IT services. She is a respected advocate for women’s rights in the workplace in Japan.

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Regina Wentzel Wolfe and Patricia H. Werhane

In April 2015 Ms. Alafat joined the Chartered Institute of Housing, an independent non-profit British organization, which is the professional body for housing in the UK and works in a number of other countries across the world. It plays a key role influencing policy to improve housing and communities for all UK citizens. Prior to that she served as Director of Housing in the Department for Communities and Local Government. She has worked in the British Civil Service since 2003, covering various housing policies including homelessness, affordable housing and housing supply. Before moving to the UK, she was involved in educational research and evaluation in Chicago schools. She started her career in the UK in social services policy development in a London local authority and was director of housing and corporate strategy for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea until moving to the Government Office for London where she was responsible for housing and local government. In 2013, she was recognized by the Queen with the honor of Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for her services to homelessness. Ms. Alafat was educated at Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire, and the University of Chicago.