Women on the line : an ethnographic study of gender and sexuality in the advertising and computing industries
This thesis reports on an empirical study of the positioning of highly skilled women and men in the UK advertising and computing industries of the late 1980s. Within each industry there was a both a 'dominant culture' and a 'support culture', with some jobs more prestigious, better paid and male dominated and others peripheral and often female dominated. Moreover, there was also differentiation inside the dominant and the support culture in each industry, with women and men constructed as different sorts of workers and hence seen as better suited to particular jobs/locations. Although employers may present these as 'essential' characteristics, they are, in fact, socially constructed and part of the constant reconstruction of gender divisions. Analysis of the processes of construction of gender and sexuality and work in both industries showed a number of constantly referenced themes. These could be grouped under three broad headings: homogeneity, homosociability and heterosexuality. Homogeneity concerns individuals' perceived leadership, aggression, involvement in office politics and availability and is fundamental to employers' judgement of the suitability of individuals for work, especially for executive positions in the dominant culture. Homosociability covers involvement in male networks, the locker room, humour and banter and is also vital to employers' selection of employees for key positions in service economies where one of the most important skills is the ability to socialise in the ways of the dominant culture(s). Heterosexuality involves men's use of women's sexuality at work, women using their sexuality on the job and the relationship between heterosexuality and the production process. Although previous literature has cited the importance of some of these elements in explaining men's dominance as senior level employees, writers have not shown clearly their basis in employers' use of power, nor how they benefit men throughout the production process. By examining two growing service industries and identifying the three distinct elements, this thesis provides significant insights into the often overlooked area of gender and management and contributes particularly to the ongoing debate on the extent of sexual coercion at work.