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 6: Competence as Discipline

Brownen Ann Rees


In the last chapter, most respondents saw good reasons for introducing competences, felt that they were helpful in changing culture and in developing enterprising managers, and further, they were generally enthusiastic about the ‘objectivity’ of the frameworks. Were there however some different readings other than those ‘instrumental’ reasons for competence frameworks? Using a more critical lens, were there other interpretations that suggested that constraint was operating? To what extent did the competence frameworks shut down consensus? Was there any discussion about the values of competence frameworks? Whose voices were being privileged by these frameworks? These questions, in the spirit of critical theory, pay attention to the relation between the exercise of power and the linguistic representations of reality. Are the frameworks in fact ‘fixing’ relations of dependence? How much room for manoeuvre and discussion was there in the frameworks, and what was the role of language in ‘creating’ a particular type of meaning? Do the constructions of ‘how we do things around here’ privilege certain workers over others? This chapter is concerned with analysing the discourse of competence as both discursive practice and text. To recall, discourse means a way of speaking, operating, conceptualising, communicating, and describing. Discourse involves a community of action and talk: ‘speaking and writing subjects and … readers or listeners’ (Eagleton 1983, p.115). Meaning, of both language and practice, is not stable, and is constantly negotiated and renegotiated through space and time (Saussure 1968; Derrida 1973). And so, far from reflecting a ‘given’ social reality, discourse constitutes...

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