Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Gender Neutrality and the Pakistani Bureaucracy

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Gender Neutrality and the Pakistani Bureaucracy

Article excerpt


The Weberian framework is considered to be the basis of the professional code of the Pakistani bureaucracy, having inherited the colonial British Weberian model at its birth in 1947 (Braibanti, 1966). Weber (1968) stressed the importance of gender neutrality towards ensuring impartiality, promotion of merit and efficiency in organizations. In their influential work on bureaucracies, Evans and Rauch (1999) characterized the Pakistani bureaucracy to be Weberian. By this logic, the Pakistani bureaucracy should be gender neutral.

This paper is premised on the hypothesis that Pakistan inherited the Weberian bureaucracy, (2) its bureaucracy recently rated as highly Weberian by Rauch and Evans (1999). The article examines the prevalence of gender neutrality in the bureaucracy in Pakistan and is organized into the following sections: The first Section sets out the concept of gender neutrality in organizations and the next examines Weberian notions of gender neutrality in bureaucracies. In particular, it sets out Weber's ideal type of bureaucracy characterized by a 'gender blindness', free from patriarchal social and cultural norms and biases. It also reiterates Evans and Rauch's (1999) findings for the Pakistani bureaucracy and thus, sets up the central hypothesis of this essay viz. that the Pakistani bureaucracy is Weberian and gender neutral.

The following Section discusses the role and behaviour of women in organizations drawing from the vast literature in feminist studies, sociology, economics and organizational theory. This is followed by an examination of gender norms in the context of the macro-socio cultural environment in Pakistan, finding that its norms are reflected in women's positions in the bureaucracy. The subsequent section introduces qualitative field data collected by the author and examines the empirical evidence on the gender neutrality of the Pakistani bureaucracy.

The next section using the perceptions of the bureaucrats as symptomatic evidence deliberates on how socially determined status hierarchies interact with organizational rules and regulations to perpetuate gender bias and lack of gender neutrality within the bureaucracy. It then situates these findings within the larger feminist literature on organizational theory. It then debates on how socially determined status hierarchies interact with organizational rules and regulations. An analysis is constructed on how organizations adapt to social prejudice and deal with women, and the corresponding behaviour of women adapting to political organization is examined. The proceeding section informs on the consequences of the gender bias.

In the conclusion, the Pakistani bureaucracy is found to be lacking in the concept and practice of gender neutrality and is instead determined to be a patriarchal organization. The essay concludes by reinforcing that the bureaucracy operates in a larger social and cultural environment, which is unable to be a socially transformative agent in the case of Pakistan, and hence, is not gender neutral and by consequence, not Weberian, thereby contradicting the central hypothesis of those who argue that the Weberian model is indeed the model of the Pakistani bureaucracy.

Gender neutrality

For the purpose of this article, gender neutrality implies that there is no distinction among bureaucrats on the basis of gender. This suggests that government officers of different sexes are to be viewed with a gender neutral lens. Thus to imply that an organization is in fact gendered, means that advantages and disadvantage, exploitation and control, actions and emotions, meaning and identity all are seen through a lens that distinguishes between male and female (Ely et. al, 2003).

Weber and gender neutrality

Weber (1968) theorized that a rational, efficient and achievement-oriented bureaucracy must emphasize objective standards and impersonal rules which would ensure organizational reliability and predictability. …

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