Rethinking gendered organization perspective in male-dominated work : the case of Hong Kong

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Gender, Work and Organization 2014 : 8th Biennial International Interdisciplinary Conference

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Gender, Work and Organization


The Gendered Organisation Perspective has been widely used to examine men and women's differential career paths and achievements in organisations (Acker, 1990). This perspective questions the assumption that organisations are gender-neutral, that employees bring into the organisation their embodied gender characteristics which interact with organisational features to produce differential work and career outcomes. Acker criticised this as an inaccurate way of viewing organisations, because in reality most organizations do not operate in a gender-neutral fashion. Instead, gender is seen to be embedded in everyday organizational processes which reproduce gendered inequalities. In any given organization decisions need to be made and tasks need to be carried out in order for outcomes to be possible, These decisions and processes result in organizational gender divisions, which are often justified in terms of individual characteristics rather than organizational structure and subcultures, Recent applications of the Gendered Organization Perspective tend to broaden the focus from policy formulation and implementation processes to the construction and reproduction of gendered discourses (e.g. Andersen, 1996; Britton, 2000; Dick and Janowiez, 2001), paying greater attention to the role of individual agents in organizations, as well as wider societal contexts in the production of gendered outcomes. This paper discusses policy changes pertaining to the roles and career development of women officers in the Hong Kong Police, from the 1950s to the present, and assesses the adequacy of the Gendered Organization Perspective in helping us understand these changes. I discuss the extent to which organizational policies (e.g. equal pay, female officers carrying firearms, women in the Police Tactial Unit, the replacement of the pension system with the Mandatory Provident Fund system and changes in public order policing tactics) have benefited women's work conditions and career advancement options in the male-dominated occupation of policing. Findings suggest that the extent to which the Hong Kong Police can be desired as a gendered organization has undoubtedly changed over the years, particularly in the minds of most of the officers interviewed in this study. However, gender remains a key structuring factor in shaping the work and career of male and female officers when actual organizational practices and policies are considered. In addition, organizational culture specific to particular periods also play an important role in how police officers understand and experience gendered organisational processes. In addition, I use the case of a transgender officer as example to illustrate the interactions between individual agency, the Hong Kong Police Force as a gendered organization, and the wider socio-legal context. The paper concludes by reflecting on the contributions of Gendered Organization Theory and its application to the case of the Hong Kong Police.



Recommended Citation

Chan, A. H.-n. (2014, June). Rethinking gendered organization perspective in male-dominated work: The case of Hong Kong. Paper presented at the Gender, Work and Organization 2014 : 8th Biennial International Interdisciplinary Conference, Staffordshire, UK.

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