CfP Special Issue Gender, Work & Organization: Old norms in the new normal: Exploring and resisting the rise of the ideal pandemic worker
Frederike Scholz, Hasselt University, Belgium Liz Oliver, University of Leeds, UK
Jennifer Tomlinson, University of Leeds, UK Robert MacKenzie, Karlstad University, Sweden Jo Ingold, Deakin Business School, Australia
Acker’s (1990; 1998) ideal worker concept has captured the intellectual imagination of contributors to Gender Work and Organisation (GWO) for decades (Adkins, 2019; Pocock, 2005; Pullen et al. 2019). The concept has been used to understand how gendered workplaces prioritise and reward certain abilities over others. Under capitalism, this disembodied, ideal worker is an unencumbered male worker, who is able to undertake full-time work, whereas women are assumed to have ‘non-job’ work responsibilities, such as housework and childcare, beyond those associated with the abstract job. The ideal worker concept was later extended to an intersectional analysis though ‘inequality regimes’ to understand gender, race and class as processes of difference and inequality within organisations (Acker, 2006). The concept of inequality regimes has been widely used to understand the creation and recreation of inequalities in organisations and occupations across national contexts (Healy et al. 2011; Wright, 2016).
Similarly the concept of a disembodied worker which rejects certain bodies as ideal workers has also been used to explain the experiences of workers with impairments and the devaluing of their skills and abilities in relation to ableist expectations of working (Foster and Wass, 2013; Scholz and Ingold, 2020). The ideal worker concept informs understanding of the processes of individual divergence from established organisational practices and processes (Acker, 2006). Women and men’s negotiation of flexible working options has been described as an affront to the ideal worker norm (Williams, 2000) since it challenges many of the gendered work expectations that underpin it, similarly disabled peoples’ negotiation of reasonable adjustments has been found to clash with organisational logic.
However what is less well understood is how ideal worker norms interact with larger-scale changes in organisational practices and processes of the sort demanded by Covid-19 crisis management. Could societal events like pandemics open up possibilities for organisational imaginations to evolve? We think that the ideal worker concept, used within wider analytical frames such as inequality regimes, has the potential to expose and challenge the assumptions that inform organisational expectations of workers in response to Covid-19 and other crises, the management of which demand rapid organisation-wide changes.
We think that engagement with the ideal worker within an intersectional frame can generate important knowledge of how sudden large-scale changes to ways of doing work, interact with existing processes of difference and inequality within organisations, across different national contexts, to alter or maintain perceptions, meaning and expectations (the fabric of the ideal worker). Acker (2006:442) argued that such an analysis should be attentive to the intersections of “at least” race/ethnicity, gender, and class; we posit that, particularly in the context of a pandemic, other dimensions of inequality such as disability, age and sexuality should also form part of the analysis. In some workplaces, once hard-fought access to remote access and working, seemingly fell from the sky as organisational logic gave way to the conditions of a pandemic; potentially paving the way to “new normal” remote working in certain sectors. But changed practices do not translate into equality outcomes; remote working is underpinned by an assumption that home spaces are already set up for
individual’s needs and can be converted to a workplace unproblematically. Likewise, for many women, the ‘boundaries’ between the work sphere and private sphere have been suddenly and brutally redrawn. This creates a rise of an ‘ideal pandemic worker’ who is a man, able-bodied, able to do full- time work in the private sphere by delegating their family and other responsibilities to women. This call for multidisciplinary papers encourages scholars to consider the role of feminist concepts of ideal worker and inequality regimes within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and other ongoing global social and economic challenges. We encourage submissions that reflect cultural diversity and experiences across a full range of countries and contexts.
resume? How might this vary across occupations and sectors?
Submissions should be made electronically through the Scholar One submission system: https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/gwo. Please refer to the Author Guidelines at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/page/journal/14680432/homepage/forauthors.html prior to submission.
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Acker, J. (2006). Inequality regimes: gender, class, and race in organizations. Gender and Society, 20(4), 441-464.
Adkins, L. (2019). Work in the shadow of finance: Rethinking Joan Acker's materialist feminist sociology. Gender, Work & Organization, 26(12), 1776-1785.
Foster, D., & Wass, V. (2013). Disability in the Labour Market: An Exploration of Concepts of the Ideal Worker and Organisational Fit that Disadvantage Employees with Impairments. Sociology, 47(7), 705-721.
Healy, G., Bradley, H., & Forson, C. (2011). Intersectional Sensibilities in Analysing Inequality Regimes in Public Sector Organizations. Gender, Work and Organization, 18(5), 467-487.
Pocock, B. (2005). Work/Care Regimes: Institutions, Culture and Behaviour and the Australian Case.
Gender, Work & Organization, 12(1), 32-49.
Pullen, A, Kerfoot, D, Rodriguez, J, Lewis, P. (2019). Remembering Joan Acker through friendship, sociological thought and activism. Gender, Work & Organization, 26: 1669– 1675.
Scholz, F. & Ingold, J. (2020). Activating the ‘ideal jobseeker’: Experiences of individuals with mental
health conditions on the UK Work Programme. Human Relations.
Williams, J. (2000). Unbending gender: Why family and work conflict and what to do about it. New York: Oxford University Press.
Wright, T. (2016). Women's Experience of Workplace Interactions in Male-Dominated Work: The Intersections of Gender, Sexuality and Occupational Group. Gender, Work & Organization, 23(3), 348-362.17th December 2020