Gender, Power, and Organisation: A Psychological Perspective

By Paula Nicolson | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

Gender, knowledge and career

INTRODUCTION

A career for a man is like motherhood for a woman. Anyone who admits not being completely enamoured with the role appropriate for his sex is committing blasphemy.

(Prather, 1971:20)

A professional career is still seen by many as unsuitable and unnatural for a woman, although women are now accepted in professional roles. Thus while a female barrister may be commonplace, her aspirations to become a judge may be perceived as socially undesirable.

This chapter sets out the theoretical background to understanding gendered subjectivity and the part it plays in the professional psychological development of ambitious and successful women. It examines the ways in which gender and the experience of being a woman or man is socially constructed, and the ways in which people interact within the patriarchal context of the work organisation. Further, it explores what women do in their lives and careers, to show how their sense of biography and achievement develops from accumulated experience.


CAREER AND PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT

The study of adulthood…takes us beyond the focus on the self: it requires us to examine the life course in its complexity, to take account of the external world as well as the self, to study the engagement of the self in the world, and to move beyond an encapsulated view of the self.

(Levinson, 1986:11)

Traditional psychological theories of adult development are limited in their scope and contribution to understanding career and achievement. The sub-discipline of developmental psychology tends to focus on infant, child and adolescent development, probably because cognitive and

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