For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"HIERARCHIES, JOBS, BODIES:: A Theory of Gendered Organizations"

by Acker, Joan (1990)


In spite of feminist recognition that hierarchical organizations are an important location of male dominance, most feminists writing about organizations assume that organizational structure is gender neutral. This article argues that organizational structure is not gender neutral; on the contrary, assumptions about gender underlie the documents and contracts used to construct organizations and to provide the commonsense ground for theorizing about them. Their gendered nature is partly masked through obscuring the embodied nature of work. Abstract jobs and hierarchies, common concepts in organizational thinking, assume a disembodies and universal worker. This worker is actually a man; men's bodies, sexuality, and relationships to procreation and paid work are subsumed in the image of the worker. Images of men's bodies and masculinity pervade organizational processes, marginalizing women and contributing to the maintenance of gender segregation in organizations. The positing of gender-neutral and disembodied organizational structures and work relations is part of the larger strategy of control in industrial capitalist societies, which, at least partly, are built upon a deeply embedded substructure of gender difference.

Key Passage



Feminism, Gender, Work Structure, Sociology, Organisations


Organisation and Management Studies

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