Insiders and Outsiders: Women's Movements and Organizational Effectiveness

By Tyyska, Vappu | The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, August 1998 | Go to article overview

Insiders and Outsiders: Women's Movements and Organizational Effectiveness


Tyyska, Vappu, The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology


Feminist critiques of mainstream organizational analyses have flourished since the 1980s.(1) Flowing from an understanding of a patriarchal power structure, these studies have offered wide-ranging criticism of the gender-blindness of traditional organizational research, in its focus on a specific type of rationality which presumes a male model of organizational practices and relations.

Recently, Rotschild and Davies (1994: 585) outlined three contemporary trends in scholarship in the area of gender and organizations. One trend deals with gendered practices in organizations, including everyday interactions. Another theme addresses the non-rational components of sexuality, eroticism and emotion. The third one involves direct empirical studies of women's organizations. It is this last category that includes my study.

Specifically, my attention will be on "organizational effectiveness," as it is mediated by the formation of interorganizational alliances in the political (public policy) process. My discussion will shed light on circumstances that either interfere with or foster the achievement of organizational goals. There are two types of alliances or connections under consideration: those that women's organizations develop with other organizations, and those that emerge within the women's movement out of negotiations between different women's organizations. Both types of interorganizational relations can contribute to conditions which create solidarity or conflict within the women's movement, and thus have an impact on effectiveness.

Below, the concept of organizational effectiveness is discussed in light of feminist critiques. I will further explore the issue in my study of the impact of women's organizations on child-care policy development in Canada and Finland between 1960 and 1990. A brief description of my research methods is followed by an outline of the structural constraints specific to each country. I will then discuss the notion of the "women's movement" and relate it to the ideological and structural features of Finnish and Canadian women's movements. This will be followed by a discussion of the different types of effectiveness outcomes, i.e., the interorganizational alliances and conflicts, and the resulting policies and shifts in public perception of the child-care issue.

The analysis necessitates a look at the diverse interests and ideologies that affect the unity of the women's movement. The focus on process outcomes also includes a look at the dynamics of congruence between ends and means, and consideration of co-optation and conflict. Some reference will also be made to "input measures" of effectiveness (i.e., human and monetary resources), but they are not fully explored in this study.

Theory and Methods

Organizational Effectiveness

Organizational effectiveness is one of the core constructs of classical sociology. Following Etzioni (1964: 8, quoted in Hall, 1996: 261), this term is generally defined as the "degree to which (an organization) realizes its goals." The issue is ridden with complexities, related to considerations of matters like goal diversity and conflict, and goal changes over time (Hall, 1996: 261; Jones, 1996).

Most recently, the concept has been subjected to feminist interpretations, exemplified by the collection of articles edited by Ferree and Martin (1995). Among others, Staggenborg (1995: 340, following Gamson, 1990; first published in 1975), points out that the concept of "organizational effectiveness" is particularly problematic when applied to social movements, such as the women's movement. She argues that goal attainment, or "success," should be understood to include both programmatic successes, i.e., "political and policy outcomes," and outcomes related to challenging "existing ideas, cultural practices, and means of socialization." Included in the latter are "mobilization outcomes," relating to the movement's "ability to carry out collective action" or its engagement in the political process. …

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