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In the Way of Women: Men's Resistance to Sex Equality in Organizations Paperback – 23 Sep 1991

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Paperback, 23 Sep 1991
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' important and valuable contribution to the study of organisations, to an analysis of gendered social processes, and to those who actively remain committed to creating a better world for women.' - Jalna Hanmer, Times Higher Education Supplement

' engrossing study of resistance to the implementation of equality policies in different kinds of organizations.' - Elizabeth Meehan, Queen's University, Belfast

'...the book has the triple virtues of increasing specialized knowledge, compelling the attention of readers generally interested in politics and society and being moving for all who are concerned about human dignity.'- Elizabeth Meehan, Queen's University, Belfast

'...essential reading for anyone interested in organisational development in general and Equal Opportunities in particular. Highly recommended...' - Management Education and Development

About the Author

CYNTHIA COCKBURN is a researcher and writer based in the Department of Social Sciences, the City University, London. Her main interest is in the patterns of equality and domination at work and in trade unions. During the 1980s she carried out a succession of research projects on technological change, skill, training and related gender issues.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Resistance is multi-dimensional 1 Feb. 2002
By Marcia Braundy - Published on
Format: Paperback
The complexity of both sex and gender issues in the workplace are illuminated by Cockburn in this extensive case study research project. Her ability is admirable, to, in clear and concise language, communicate the class relations at the roots of patriarchal practices as she highlights the interacting and intersecting systems of race, class and sex. In analyzing "men's responses to positive action for sex equality," Cockburn explains and uses a range of feminist approaches, including those know as liberal, socialist and radical feminism. Presenting the material not case by case, but by theme, the author is able to establish the ways in which certain types of behaviours are produced and constructed systemically; a notion which can lead to the opportunity for men and women to make more informed choices about the behaviours they wish to reproduce, or reconstruct, and could lead to transformative change in organizations, industries and institutions.
In exploring male resistance to change through an examination of their own voices and practices, Cockburn provides a window for reflection. Including the voices of both supportive and obstructive women in the same organizations, she clarifies that feminism is a problematic concept for both women and men. Her vibrant analysis goes a long way towards expanding our understanding of the intricacies and inter-relations of practices of discrimination at work. By drawing these fine lines, and so transparently demonstrating the mechanics of such practices, the reader is given the opportunity to engage in their own analysis of a comparison with their own workplaces.
This book was written in 1991, at the pinnacle of affirmative action implementation in the US, Great Britain, Australia, and in Canada. It was disappointing that no mention was made of the Employment Equity initiatives in Canada, but quite clearly, as someone most familiar with the latter situation, I can say that she hits the nail directly on the head!
"We inherit from history complex structures - the power of the state, the legal system, the pattern of ownership, the mode of production, the operation of labour markets - all of which sustain class, sex and race inequalities. Feminists. however, make a critique of these structures, analyse their adverse effect on women, speak out against them and organize in opposition. the test of men is whether they do the same: they rarely do so. Equality activists are not so naïve as to suppose a capitalist firm can operate for long at a net loss. They may, however, suggest that some additional costs, either above or below the famous 'bottom line" - extra costs of production or a diversion of net profits - may be justified in the name of social responsibility. Few men do...Male power is not occasional, incidental or accidental. It is systemic." (p. 220)
Interspersed throughout the book, are examples of men in the cases studied who chose to engage in more transformative practices, their reasons and their challenges, and she ends an acknowledgement of the need to form alliances in the production of social change in organizations: alliances between committed women and committed men, with white women and men and those of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, between heterosexual and gay and lesbian workers and, I would add, people with disabilities. She assures us that this is not easy, and experience has taught us that coalitions can be quickly undermined by comments and actions that show a lack of respect for differences, but she does close by reminding us that "[w]omen and other subordinated groups are potentially able to recognize and use power not as domination but as capacity" (p. 241).
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