9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Gender, Work and Organisations Building II, C4.01

Managerial Gender Discourse, Human Resource Management and Organisational Change

The approaches of Gender Mainstreaming and Managing Diversity changed gender discourses within the field of gender politics. Both approaches contribute to gender becoming part of human resource management, Managing Diversity more than Gender Mainstreaming. The semantics of gender, formerly determined by a discourse of social inequality, is extended or - as some critics argue - replaced by an economic or managerial discourse.

The paper first reconstructs the semantics of the new economic or managerial gender discourse. Two interconnected features will be explained: (1) the revival of the figure of a gender-specific working capacity which was prominent in (German) gender studies in the eighties, but later on criticised for its essentialist undertones, and (2) the implicit understanding of gender as a human resource of females only.

Second, the paper asks how organisations will probably change if the new meaning of gender as a human resource is implemented. It is to be expected that the organisation's self observation will change. Gender would become a routine criterion in it. This opens interesting questions for the sociology of organisations. The mainstream of organisational theory sees organisations as gender-indifferent formations. If gender becomes a regular resource in organisational development the empirical reality organisational theory is related to changes. Organisations will observe themselves through the lenses of the managerial gender concept, but it is questionable that thereby the gendered substructure will be detected. Gender theory and organisational theory are challenged to explore how the hidden gendered substructure and the new explicit focus on gender are related.

Finally, the efforts of organisations to make use of (female) gender as a human resource are discussed in gender-political terms. Does "capitalising" the gender difference mean more than radicalising the logic of a market related individualism? Is the new gender discourse part of a politics of inequality and by this only a rhetorical modernisation? Or does the economically motivated "utilisation" of gender - paradoxically - result in more gender equality than older approaches in gender politics were able to realise?