Gender and the Public Sector: Professionals and Managerial Change

By Jim Barry; Mike Dent et al. | Go to book overview
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only in practice, having no existence outside the arena in which it is continuously made and remade. Brenda's adoption of more 'formal' dress belies her experience of care giving as stereotypically associated with women and denies caring for the elderly as physical and often very dirty work. In sum, the notion of 'being a professional' can be regarded as mutually interconstitutive of certain constructions of masculinity and of being a manager. The two women here are transgressors of professional identity in that they are, to varying degrees, subjected to, and subjects of, organisationally generated pressures to comply with the dictates of public sector management practice in order to appear successful and competent as professionals. This exemplifies what Gherardi (1995) has referred to as the 'schizogenia' of many women's existence in organisational locales in which organisational affirmations of selfhood commensurate with the professional ideal are overlain by gender 'as both an organisational principle and an organisational outcome' (ibid.: 185). Karen's professional identity is explicitly overlaid but in tension with ideas about her role as mother/manager/woman/family breadwinner. This underscores the concept of identity as gendered, always in process, made and remade in differing contexts. The idea of the precariousness of identity, of identity as in a permanent state of 'work in progress', sits in opposition to a conception of the solidity of identity found in much mainstream management thinking. Such thinking imposes a seamless rationality on the part of selfconscious, 'knowing' managers. By contrast, flowing from a poststructuralist feminist perspective, we can see professional identity as gendered but also as open to resistance, to moments of contestation, transformation and change. For as transgressors of professional identity, the public sector managers interviewed here are both marginalised, as women, by professional practices of organisations and equally capable of subverting prevailing power relations.

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Clarke, J. and Newman, J. (1997) The Managerial State, London: Sage.
Clawson, D. (1980) Bureaucracy and the Labour Process, New York: Monthly Review Press.
Collinson, D. and Hearn, J. (eds) (1996) Men as Managers: Managers as Men, London: Sage.
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Foucault, M. (1982) 'The subject and power', in Dreyfus, H. and Rainbow, P. (eds), Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, Brighton: Harvester Press, pp. 67-81.


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