Major milestones have been achieved in regard to gender and diversity issues at the workplace. There has been attempts to bridge the gaps especially in creating equal opportunities so that neither gender nor ethnicity locks out individuals or sections of the society from holding positions or being treated discriminatively at the workplace. Nevertheless, gender and diversity matters remain pertinent in the modern workplace. Similarly, the issue of diversity also continues to attract attention from policymakers as well as academicians. The two are inherently intertwined and their relevance remains unequivocal considering that women and various ethnic minorities continue to be underrepresented in business organizations especially in senior and managerial positions (Gatrell & Swan 2008 pp.13). In regard to this, this essay seeks to delve into the concept of gender neutrality of organizations and other associated theories that explain the prevailing state of affairs concerning gender and diversity in the workplace.
Integral to understanding the place of gender and roles held in the workplace is the gendered organizations theory. The concept of gender neutrality of organizations addresses the notion that organizations are gender-wise neutral. It has however been observed that corporations and other business organizations produce gender codes in various areas of practice. The theory seeks to explain that the organization and its primary structure are not as autonomous but nevertheless complementary. As such, the foundational management set-up is responsible for establishment of gender inequalities and subsequent communicating of various gender related notions on expectations of holders of certain positions (Payne 2003 pp.8). Notably, the theory borrows from the society’s conceptualization of gen...
der roles as defined by masculinity and femininity. In this regard, organizations have the tendency to put up structures that promote qualities seen as traditionally masculine like aggressiveness (Payne 8). As such, inequalities in the workplace can be viewed and understood from the perspective of lack of gender neutrality in organizations. Gender has, however, been conceptualized, possibly in the most progressive view, as a dynamic socially constructed role that individuals play rather than being biologically defined (Gatrell & Swan 2008 pp. 21).
Consistent to this approach of understanding gender is the evidence of propagation of structures, hierarchy and cultures within public and private organizations that promote these socially imposed notions of roles and responsibilities that supposedly constitute gender. A precise representation of gender should be indicative of neutrality as explained by the concept of distancing gender from biological orientation. This reinforces the concept that gender perceptions are derived from the community’s practices and notions that leads to individuals behaving in accordance to the notions. It is these connotations that are extended by organizations’ management to form part of the organization’s culture and practices. Diversity, on the other hand, can be viewed in several ways. While creating an environment that allows equality in the sense of opportunities may increase the possibility of achieving diversity, conceptualizing diversity, in regard to organizational management, as purposefully creating inclusion of various social and demographic sections of the community or society offers the most relevant definition. In this regard, various groups based on race, disability, gender, sexuality and age should both be encouraged and provided with the platfor
to participate meaningfully in organizational management. Either way, the women have had to work much harder than men to attain executive status or management positions. The notion of masculinity seeks to portray what is supposedly a socially acceptable conception and behavior of what a man should be; aggressive, heterosexual and independent among other qualities. Masculinity as a notion is also socially constructed and organizational culture allows for such communication that allows its perpetuation. Masculinity emanates from the perception that a man earns respect by being a breadwinner and protector of the home maker woman and children. According to Acker (1990 pp.145), masculinity is so embedded in the society and culture such that, it seeks to portray men in powerful positions as worthy of respect while inculcating a perception of self-respect for males at the bottom. In essence, the corporate culture and structures are seen to assert and perpetuate power relations so that even the subordinates play a role in perpetuating their position as such (Mumby 2013 pp.225)
Feminism, on the other hand, especially critical feminism is significant due to its view of gender as integral to organizational operations and its life. This means an organization’s culture that has purposefully been established by the organization’s leadership can adopt a notion of gender that either advantages or disadvantages a section of the workforce that identify with a particular gender. In essence, critical feminism also reinforces the perspective that organizations are not gender neutral. As such attempts to tackle both real and perceived gender based inequalities and discriminative practices that fail to approach the problem by acknowledging lack of gender neutrality of organizations can only be therapeutic (Acker 1990 pp.139). In this case, it is necessary for such efforts to work from an approach that understands organizations have been built along inherently pro-masculinity tendencies. If an organization is operating in an environment where responsibilities are gendered, the prevailing relationships and communication channels will give cues that indicate that certain positions or responsibilities are masculine while others are feminine (Mumby 2013 pp.227). As such, holders of certain positions will try to behave according to the expectations that their roles ‘call’ for in what is termed as gender accountability (Mumby 2013 pp. 218).
Once gender is encoded in an organization, it is communicated in various ways in an organizations routine life. These can be metaphors, symbolism and even language (Gatrell & Swan 2008 pp.21). As a consequence, even unknowingly to the staff and the management, keep communicating the gendered signals. As such the roles and expectations for various positions become engrained in both the management and the staff. Gender communication is seen in the organizational culture as well as its hierarchy. Designation of certain positions as more effectively performing when occupied by certain gender is indicative of an organization perpetuating gender inequality. For instance, symbolism that portrays men as in charge of success in organizations while women are subordinates, spreads stereotypes that create a sense of cultural justification for power to rest upon certain gender. Notably, organizational culture and power distribution within an organization is purposefully maintained in order to create an environment that enhances productivity and therefore