This paper will discuss whether organizations are gender neutral. First, it will begin by giving simple definitions of gender and gender processes in organizations. A discussion of why organizations are not gender neutral will then follow. This discussion will be supported by an argument that organizations are largely dominated by masculine ideals. Finally, it will discuss whether organizations should be gender neutral.
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Gender is a notion separating male and female characteristics and ideals. It is founded on the premise that men and women think and behave differently. On its extreme end, it produces stereotypes. Roles and duties are assigned based on gender. According to Acker (2011) distinction of masculine and feminine roles usually disadvantages women as they are relegated to second position. On the other hand, gender processes are practices and activities that reflect the distinction between men and women.
Gender neutrality in organizations is difficult to achieve due to a number of reasons. Acker (2011) contends that gender divisions are often masked by processes that were intended to be neutral. This implies that organizations may have the will to become gender neutral but due to forces beyond their control they continue to be gendered. For example, an organization may design a job with a neutral job description and still end up with an employee who fits a certain stereotyped expectation.
Managers and those charged with the responsibility of filling the position may be influenced by their prejudice to pick certain applicants because of gender. In addition, gender neutral jobs and roles are often far removed from reality. Employees may perceive certain jobs from a gendered perspective thus compounding the problem. Employees who accept certain jobs that are expected to be taken by the opposite gender may be treated differently by colleagues.
Management positions are- dominated by men. Majority of the information we have on leadership was obtained from researches that included predominantly male study populations. This has led to a situation in which certain qualities sought by management are masculine in nature. This has resulted in inadvertent subordination of women who must learn to function like men if they are to succeed. Gender neutrality may not be achieved if such qualities are retained as they reflect the ideas and feelings of a single gender.
In contrast, Wilson (1996) thinks that organizations should be gendered. She argues that organizational theory has consistently ignored the importance of gender in organizations. The perception that men and women work differently should be investigated further as there is no sufficient research data to support this argument. The differences should be put in the right context. Wilson points out that emphasis should be put on similarities rather than on differences.
She argues that men and women should be studied and treated equally. This may lead to a better understanding of how organizations can be structured so that women and minority groups are not subordinated. Her observations are largely accurate. Men and women may perceive things differently but this does not mean that productivity can be predicted by gender. Gendering in her view will eventually lead to gender neutrality in areas where it is desirable.
In conclusion, organizations as presently constituted are not gender neutral. Attempts to make organizations gender neutral have often resulted in reorganization of gender processes. This may be largely due to lack of sufficient data on women leadership and stereotyping. That is, organizations are largely controlled by masculine ideals.
Acker, J 2011, Gendering Organizational Theory, Wadswork, Boston.
Wilson, F 1996, ‘Research Note: Organizational Theory: Blind and Deaf to Gender?’, Organization Studies, vol.17, pp. 825-842, DOI: 10.1177/017084069601700506.