Recent critical representations of the workplace seem to leave little doubt about its gendered norms and conventions. Glass ceilings, the gender pay gap, leaky pipelines, old boys’ networks, calls for women to lean in (not to mention recurring reports of gendered harassment) all point to an assumption of male homosociability as an enduring norm in 21st century ‘work’.
Based on an ‘industrial’ separation of spheres relegating women to the hearth while leaving men the freedom to move between the domestic and public (Tosh, 1999) and gendered narratives of entrepreneurship and social climbing mired in aggression (Kelly, 2003; Tjeder, 2002), understandings of the workplace as culturally, discursively and indeed legally coded masculine as well as an implicit masculine embodiment of ‘work’ (McGinley, 2016; Acker 1990) are now questioned and criticized by media-discourse, critical research, and by daily practice.
Noting that the workplace remains largely implicitly masculine, though politically pertinent, does little to elucidate how masculinity and careers are connected, how workers do masculinity and how masculinity does cultural work for the reproduction and/or contestation of (post)industrialism, capitalism and neo-liberalism. It also fails to take into account the range of masculinities ‘at work’ and the diversity of social, cultural and professional contexts in which they take shape.
In this conference, we aim to focus on the multiple and diverse masculinities ‘at work’ in the processes of professionalization and career management that typify modern working life. Spanning both historical approaches to the rise of ‘profession’ as a marker of masculinity, and critical approaches to the current structures of management, employment and workplace hierarchy, we set out to question what role masculinity plays in cultural understandings, affective experiences and mediatized representations of a professional ‘career’.
The programme can be found on the conference website here.