The Construction of Management
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The Construction of Management

Competence and Gender Issues at Work

Brownen Ann Rees

Despite continuing equal opportunity approaches, women are still significantly under-represented at senior management levels and earn less than male colleagues. The author questions whether competence systems – developed and implemented in the workplace to provide objective measurement of management performance – contribute to, rather than improve, women’s disadvantaged position in the workplace.
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Chapter 1: Ways of Thinking About Women at Work: Building a Theoretical Perspective

Brownen Ann Rees


Theories are developed and are accepted in human communities based on their ability to provide interesting and useful ways of conceptualizing, thinking and talking about life events. (Alvesson and Deetz 2000, p.39) The theoretical understandings for this research are unorthodox, and represent the unfolding of a process, rather than the adoption of a theoretical framework as a ‘rational’ choice from the outset. Theories are drawn from a variety of disciplines, in order to elucidate processes of change, rather than to establish the universality at any point of the given theory. In that sense, it is a theory of praxis – a story of the iteration between research and theory building, including a process of self-transformation. Life is in constant flux, and our actions as human beings have an effect on the patterns within that flux. Theory is only useful where it can describe or illuminate phenomenon in an attempt to shape those changing phenomena in a positive direction. Along with Alvesson and Deetz (2000) we can consider theory to be a way of ‘directing attention’, ‘organizing experience’ and ‘enabling useful responses’. This chapter represents an attempt at directing attention to certain theoretical views of the world, a way in which these can be organised to reflect upon the experience of competences, and finally to open up possibilities of providing some useful responses to that experience. 1.1 A THEORETICAL JOURNEY: UNTYING THE KNOT OF ‘DIFFERENCE’ This research began with the observation that women appeared to be ‘choosing’ to work in positions that...

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