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Concepts of Visibility and Invisibility in an Organization Essay



The issue of gender inequality in organizations has never been addressed satisfactorily (Alvesson & Billing 2009, p. 3). Daily activities carried out within an organization dictate the level of gender inequality. Realization of gender equality is important for the success of any organization. As such, organization’s internal practices play a great role in the determination of gender equality. An organization can have women and men doing same responsibilities.

However, when it comes to the process of decision-making only men are engaged. Managers and leaders play a great role in promoting the gender equality within an organization. The underlying aspect in the fight against inequality is awareness.

Therefore, managers should note that the lack of awareness could be either intentional or unintentional. Visibility of inequality varies from one organization to another. In this article, the concepts of visibility and invisibility are analyzed with the aim of increasing the understanding of gender advantage and disadvantage in organizations.


The topic of visibility and invisibility is now the subject of research in most organizations (Bilimoria 2007, p. 39). The researches aim at understanding the advantages and disadvantages of gender. It involves the analysis of how attitudes, cultures, race, and gender influence the working environment and the outcome results of an organization. The research on visibility and invisibility is focused on revealing the concealed gender issues within an organization.

Normally, gender is hidden within norms, values, practices, and activities of an organization. Notably, early researches on organizations criticized the theorizing of work while dealing with gender. The studies portrayed males as universal subject and made females visible in terms of experiences in the workplace. The most recent researches and studies seek to make visible all the aspects, which have been suppressed within an organization (Cleveland & Stockdale 2000 p. 67).

The above is evidenced by the increase in management of several discourses such as sexuality and violence related cases in the workplaces. In most organizations, there are cases of sexual harassment, especially of the senior male workers upon the junior female workers.

The most common being favours in exchange for sexual related acts. Other cases include the discrimination of women during the decision making of organization’s major strategies. Women are few in all the possible committees or board members. Thus, when it comes to decision-making through voting women have no impact.

Generally, statistics show that most organizations are male dominated as management structures and hierarchy places men in the top management as compared to their women counterparts (Simpson & Lewis 2007, p. 90). Policies, values, and objectives of an organization usually hide the gender disadvantage. Most of the policies lack well stated strategies of addressing the gender inequality.

Often, male workers are usually insensible to issues related to gender and this is depicted in their daily behaviours and activities at the workplace. Male workers enjoy many privileges in the workplace as compared to women. It is important to note that the implications related to the visibility and invisibility processes are complex and rely on the gender and organization’s context.

Visibility in the organization is perceived as a limiting factor to women and advantageous to men. Women usually face masculinity and marginalization, while their male counterparts enjoy development opportunities and exposure to various challenges.

Invisibility can be recognised and understood in diverse ways. Similarly, invisibility has different implications in the management of gender within an organization. In the case of management, men are always the invisible in terms of gender and they are privileged since they face little or no scrutiny. Thus, men carry out the management role with ease as compared to the female workers.

Women have difficult times in dealing with both the gender and work identity.Notably, the invisibility that implies the normative position gives men power. Obviously, it is the major causes of powerlessness among the marginalized portion of the workers and it is always concealed. The marginalized group works harder to be seen and recognized. The only way out for women is to manipulate the visibility and utilize the eroticism implication since men are hierarchically positioned in the management structure.

To master the relationship between visibility and invisibility in the current organization, empirical as well as conceptual analysis is required. Researchers are involved in revision and reflection of concepts in order to understand the concepts of gender in an organization (Ryan 2011, p. 89).

To deal with invisibility, surface and deep conceptual analysis of theoretical complexities and contradictions is vital. At the surface level are the feminist perspective and the exclusion and parity in numbers of women and men. On the other hand, the deep concept involves the maintenance of power within struggles relating to norms of the invisibility.

This calls for dynamic analysis of the visibility and the relationship between the groups. Women can embrace high performance because they can avoid mistakes. However, this can create a higher chance of marginalization and exclusion among women. In some instances, men may opt for men friends and teamwork limiting the behavioural concept and leaving women with constrained roles.

Visibility can cause negative consequences for female workers in terms of performance, high career qualifications, and unfriendly working environment. Other factors include the social barriers and behaviours observed in social interaction. To the contrary, token male workers are perceived as superior in terms of career, expertise, command, and authority and this is the reason for their success.

Visibility is concerned mainly with the disadvantage of exclusion and difference among the different groups. In reality, the negative consequences facing women can be addressed by ensuring that the number of women working in an organization is increased. The balanced working group ensures that women enjoy gender equality as their male counterparts.

Invisibility shades light on the normative position as well as the power related to norms. Men enjoy invisible privileges through their dominant nature in an organization since they encounter little scrutiny. However, studies show that women are currently threatening the powers and privileges enjoyed by male workers. It is possible due to the fact that the marginalized groups and women are trying to get the social and cultural recognition.

The illustration indicates the hidden privileges and resources that men are currently enjoying. In reality, men have been noted and marked as the privileged gender group. It is perceived as the oppressor group and it benefits from the cultural and material advantages as compared to the women.

Norm is invisible, it is hard to analyze, and usually escapes the scrutiny. As such, the individual groups who occupy normative position always go unmarked since they do not represent any gender. The interesting thing is that men do not see themselves as the gendered and privileged and this makes them invisible as the gendered group. Invisibility indicates that according to the normative position both material and cultural benefits usually go unrealized.

The major reason is that they are concealed and are termed as inevitable prizes, which the dominant centre should enjoy. In essence, there is a failure when focus is limited to disadvantages that face the feminine group forgetting to look at the advantages of the masculinity.

In fact, the issue of gender is only discussed when it causes harm, and this leaves room for the escape of gender from the view as a source of power. It remains concealed, protected, and perpetuated according to invisibility. In contemporary organization, women have secured key positions, but the drawback is that they have not been accepted as leaders, board members, and managers.

Whit respect to election of members, women lack the needed numbers as compared to their male colleagues (Jeanes & Knights 2011, p. 123). Women still seek cultural privileges attached to invisibility. Both male and female seek to attain the dominant centre and this is the reason why some women entrepreneurs are involved in businesses known to be dominated by men (Bruni & Gherardi 2005, p. 56).

However, most women choose to engage in businesses that are women oriented and by doing so they propagate the normative positioning. Male nurses who try to align themselves with their medical doctors experience the same struggle. Usually, male nurses position themselves equally as their male doctors irrespective of their different levels of professions.

However, the entry to the dominant centre is causing difficulties, as they have to argue out for the areas in which they had been excluded and marginalized by the male doctors. Actually, the privileges attached to the dominant centre might not remain hidden forever from the view.

The norm can be seen as the invisible side of power and it conceals gender related practices and the attached privileges. With respect to occupations and duties, women are highly visible and represent experience and materials. Therefore, they get marked as gendered.

Another good example is the role and experience of women in the engineering career, they are visible physically but invisible when it comes to authority. Outside the norm, individuals lack power. Therefore, they are vulnerable to marginalization, neglect, and concealment. It is true that preservation and concealment need power in order to control activities and practices in an organization to suppress any alternative means. Power is actually both fragile and insecure.

Vortex explains how the visibility and invisibility behave in the margins and the dynamics outside the dominant centre (Gutierrez 2003, p. 186). The processes to conceptualize include exposure, revelation, and disappearance. The process of revelation is against the normative practices that are enjoyed by the masculinity group.

Revelations occur due to female workers securing both leadership and management positions in the organization. The action of these women changes the traditional ways of doing things. Therefore, if women want to be visible, they must challenge their male counterparts.

Women are put at the point of dismissal since they are over-exposed and are vulnerable to exploitation. To address visibility, organizations must accept invisibility. This calls for adoption of means of responding to demands of work and home. In an organization, there exists space in which women can disappear into the norm (Gutierrez 2003, p. 189). They do this by maintaining their profile low as a response to the visibility.

Entering into a state of invisible norm is a strategic alternative to perceived disadvantage. In addition, women can strategically change between visibility and invisibility in an attempt to initiate change. They only become noticeable when challenging the normalcy. However, they are at risk of losing their leadership value in case their gender is exposed. Actually, being visible is a female advantage and it requires exposure of the lack of real leaders by women and concealment of the norm.

Visibility leaves women with either positive or negative consequences from the experience of the female engineers who are highly physically visible but are ignored in terms of authority. For the minority group, female engineers, it requires extra efforts for them to be accepted as their male engineers.

Women have adopted both visibility and invisibility as a response to the dense masculinity at the workplace. By doing so, women are able to subvert the men’s authority in an organization. The ability of women to change between the visibility and invisibility has earned them the opportunity to participate in projects. Some arguments are against gender categorization of male and female since it is a violation of ethics. Actually, the gendering of human beings masks them against their status.

Paradoxically, the visibility of women excludes them from the perspective of competence in comparison to their male counterparts. Women therefore ought to abandon the fact that they are female and should be treated equally as men. Instead, they should pursue careers that are friendly and put more effort without focusing on the gender equality discourse.

According to the tacit rules, men are perceived as positive and best for the job while women are seen as less suitable not because of merit but because of the notion that they are women. In an organization, the tacit rules help women organize themselves in the workplace. However, in some fields such as science women are discriminated since the male expertise is dominant and competent. Therefore, the masculinity discourse should be taken lightly.


Generally, the issue of gender equality at the workplace is expressed in different ways at different levels (Lind 2010, p. 45). The attitude of an organization reveals whether there is equality or not. It is clear that when there is equality, then there is little difference between men and women in terms of powers and privileges. Both men and women are involved equally in the division of work and the process of decision-making is democratic.

All genders contribute equally during decision-making processes. The gender equality creates a positive attitude in combination of work and the family issues to both men and women. The basic step is to appreciate the differences between the two genders. Through this, a basis of cooperation and development within an organization is established.

For this reason, the research of visibility and invisibility are embraced and encouraged. The studies about visibility and invisibility helps organization in shading light on the advantages and disadvantages, which are attached to the two approaches (Werhane 2011, p. 32). The invisibility is being perceived as advantageous to women while the invisibility believes in a normative position where men enjoy the powers and privileges in an organization.


Alvesson, M., & Billing, Y. D 2009, Understanding gender and organizations, SAGE, Los Angeles.

Bilimoria, D 2007, Handbook on women in business and management, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, U.K.

Bruni, A., & Gherardi, S 2005. Gender and entrepreneurship: an ethnographic approach. Routledge. London.

Cleveland, J., & Stockdale, M. S 2000. Women and men in organizations sex and gender issues at work. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates ,Mahwah, N.J.

Gutierrez, M 2003, Macro-economics: making gender matter : concepts, policies and institutional change in developing countries, Zed Books, London.

Jeanes, E., & Knights, D 2011, Handbook of gender, work and organization. Wiley. Chichester, West Sussex.

Lind, A 2010. Development, sexual rights and global governance, Routledge,. London.

Ryan, M 2011, An introduction to criticism: theory, culture, society,Wiley-Blackwell. Oxford.

Simpson, R., & Lewis, P 2007, Voice, visibility and the gendering of organizations. Houndmills, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hampshire

Werhane, P. H 2011, Leadership, gender, and organization. Springer. Dordrecht.

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