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1 « Comparing professional and bureaucratic careers from a gender perspective in France and Britain » Nicky Le Feuvre Pôle SAGESSE du laboratoire CERTOP-CNRS.

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Presentation on theme: "1 « Comparing professional and bureaucratic careers from a gender perspective in France and Britain » Nicky Le Feuvre Pôle SAGESSE du laboratoire CERTOP-CNRS."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 « Comparing professional and bureaucratic careers from a gender perspective in France and Britain » Nicky Le Feuvre Pôle SAGESSE du laboratoire CERTOP-CNRS Savoirs, Genre et rapports Sociaux de Sexe Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail, France

2 2 Objectives: 1. Identify the mechanisms underlying the increasing feminization of higher level occupations in 2 countries historically characterized by relatively different gender contracts and social welfare regimes; 2. Analyse the degree to which the feminization process represents a challenge to the dominant gender regimes in these occupations; 3. Compare the consequences of womens entry into these professions via bureaucratic (salaried) or professional (self-employment) forms of employment in terms of the reproduction / reconfiguration of gender relations in each national context.

3 3 Research questions : To what extent does the feminization of previous male bastions in the occupational hierarchy contribute to a radical transformation of the material and symobolic foundations of the existing « sex/gender » system? In other words, is the increase in womens access to the upper levels of the occupational hierarchy necessarily a reliable empirical indicator of an increase in gender equlity in contemporary European societies?

4 4 The sex/gender system: Used here as a short-hand expression of the total social organisation of labour (Glucksmann, 1995) or total social phenomenon (Kergoat, 2000), based on two, interrelated social processes: A division / differentiation of gendered categories (« taboo of similarity between the sexes ») (Mathieu, 1992); A hierarchy between the gendered categories thus created (« differential value of the sexes ») (Héritier, 1996).

5 5 Analysing the feminization of male bastions requires paying attention to different levels of social reality: 1. Macro social: « gender contract » A comparaison of the historical construction of womens (and mens) relationship to the labour market and the family in different societal contexts (France / Britain); 2. Meso social: « gender regime » Comparaison of the dominant modes of practice within different occupational groups, including the organisation around « bureaucratic» vs « professional » careers; 3. Micro social: « gendered experiences » Comparaison of the individuel level management of the normes associated with the gender contract and gender regime dimensions of the context (may be characterised by conformity, contestation, transgression, of existing norms.)

6 6 Working hypotheses: Several distinct social mecanismes may enable women to enter existing male bastions; the feminization process is never based on a single social process. Several distinct social mecanismes may enable women to enter existing male bastions; the feminization process is never based on a single social process. The precise meaning of the increasing entry of women into the existing « male bastions » (in terms of the reproduction / transformation of the existing sex/gender system) depends to a large extent on the precise mecanismes by which this feminization is acheived, in a given societal and/or occupation context. The precise meaning of the increasing entry of women into the existing « male bastions » (in terms of the reproduction / transformation of the existing sex/gender system) depends to a large extent on the precise mecanismes by which this feminization is acheived, in a given societal and/or occupation context.

7 7 3. France : Relatively high full-time activity rates and continuous career patterns (particularly for qualified women); fairly extensive state support for the externalisation of domestic activities (child-care, domestic services), but taxation system generally unfavorable to dual-earner households, mens share of domestic labour limited and low levels of implementation of equal opportunity measures in the workplace; GB : Relatively high female activity rates, but historically on a part-time and discontinuous basis, low levels of state support for dual earner households (until recently), but, less unfavorable tax system, relatively higher levels of participation in family life by partners of the small number of (highly qualified) full-time working women and more extensive equal opportunity measures in the workplace. 1. The French and British « gender contrats »:

8 8 Bureaucratic / Organisational careers (salaried) 1. Relatively easy access to employment citizenship benefits (eg. Paid maternity leave) 2. « Subjective » recruitment and promotion criteria (individual performance-related evaluations) 3. Hierarchical organisational structures 4. « Time commitment » and « spacial mobility » as promotion criteria 5. « Up or out » management techniques, except in the case of specific equal opportunity measures. Professional careers (self-employed) 1. Almost no employment citizenship benefits 2. « Objective » recruitment criteria (qualifications + mandate) 3. Multiple forms of practice (individuel self-employment, group practice, professional associations) 4. Ability to mobilise personal contacts and construct networks = main criteria of professional success 5. Relative « time sovereinty » in the work-life interface, despite long hours 2. The « gender regimes » in professional / managerial occupations

9 9 France 1. Universalistic conception of gender equality ( = equal treatment) 2. Predominance of small-scale employment units and of self-employment 3. Individual-level management and time sovereinty possible via self- employment, but limited access to family-friendly measures in salaried employment 4. Extensive state support for womens employment, but little investment by partners or employers. Great-Britain 1. Differentialiste conception of gender equality (positive action) 2. Predominance of large-scale bureaucratic units and of salaried employment 3. Family-friendly working arrangements available in (some) salaried positions (« mummy tracks »), but usually long working hours in self-employment 4. Support from partner and employer required to stay on career track, but relatively limited state support (until recently). Caracteristices of the feminizing professions :

10 10 Consequences of the different contexts and mecanisms of the feminization process? Possible to identify (at least) two underlying logics: 1. A feminisation process based on the continuing allocation of domestic responsibilities to women and the elaboration of specific female career patterns, even in highly qualified occupations (cf. the « féminitude » equality model, Le Feuvre, 1999) 2. A feminization process based on the alignment of women along the previously existing male career model norms and their distancing from domestic responsabilities (cf. the « virilitude » equality model, Le Feuvre, 1999, close to Frasers (1997) universal breadwinner model)

11 11 France / GB comparison (1) Both models of occupational feminisation can be identified in each of the national contexts under comparison. However, they are not distributed in exactly the same way accross the different occupations and have not evolved in the same way over time in each of the national contexts.

12 12 France Historical entry of women into the professions earlier than in GB, thanks to the « qualifications lever » and the societal « gender contrat » Higher levels of feminisation of professional / management occupations throughout the second half of the 20th Century than in GB Currently, massive increase in the feminization of those higher level occupations where professional career patterns are predominant (eg. medicine) Stagnation of feminization rates of those occupations where bureaucratic career patterns predominate (ex. banking, engineering) Britain Later start to the feminization process of professional / mangerial occupations than in France Lower levels of feminisation of professional / management occupations throughout the second half of the 20th Century than in France Currently, relatively large increase in the feminization of those higher level occupations where bureacratic career patterns are predominant (eg. banking) Stagnation of feminization rates of those occupations where family- friendly or positive action programmes are least developped, with the exception of part-time professional jobs (eg. medicine) France / GB comparison (2)

13 13 France Female careers in the liberal (self- employed) professions more frequent, most often characterised by the « féminitude » model of feminization, where family obligations serve as the template for the organisation of professional life, even when hours or work are long Female careers in the bureaucratic (salaried) professions, less frequent, but most often characterised by the « virilitude » model of feminization, since equal opportunity or family friendly policies are scarce and the domestic division of labour is more traditional Britain Female careers in the the bureaucratic (salaried) professions more frequent, most often characterised by the « féminitude » model of feminization (except for women from the pioneer generations) Female careers in the liberal (self- employed) professions, less frequent, but most often characterised by the « virilitude » model of feminization, with the exception of part-time professional careers in some occupations. France / GB comparison (3)

14 14 Conclusions (1) A similar (quantitative) level of occupational feminization does not necessarily have the same sociological significance in all societal contexts and/or in all occupational groups; Macro social levels of analysis (« gender contrats ») are unable to provide sufficient understanding of the issues at stake in the occupational feminization process; Analysis at the meso level (« gender regimes ») is particularly enlightening when it comes to understanding the mecanismes that underpin the feminization process in relation to the reproduction / transformation of the material and symbolic foundations of the sex/gender systems of contemporary societies; Individual experiences of gender also provide a useful template for understanding the issues at stake > Reflect a combination of structural and contingent circumstances (Perrons at alii, 2007).

15 15 Conclusions (2) The two modes of occupational feminization identifed through the cross-national comparison dont have exactly the same consequences in terms of the reproduction / reconfiguration / transformation of the existing sex/gender system. However, neither of these models (both underpinned by the existing so-called equal opportunity policies adopted in each country) serve to question the underlying dominant ethos of professional occupations, in line with the dual-earner/dual carer (Crompton, 1999) or the universal caregiver (Fraser, 1997) models, which have been identified as a precondition for the emergence of true gender equality within contemporary European societies.

16 16 The degree of change to the foundations of the sex/gender system expected from the feminization of previous male bastions according to the analytical paradigm: Degree of reproduction « Patriarchy »« Féminitude »« Virilitude »« Gender dynamics » Gender differentiation mechanism Gender hierarchy mechanism Source : Based on Le Feuvre, Nicky (1999) « Gender, Occupational Feminisation and Reflexivity : A Cross-National Perspective », In R. Crompton (dir.) The Restructuring of Gender Relations and Employment, Oxford, Oxford University Press :

17 17 Some bibliographical references: Lapeyre, N., & Le Feuvre, N. (2007) « La féminisation de la profession médicale : une condition suffisante de transformation du 'pouvoir médical' ? » In S. Stoffel (ed.) Femmes et Pouvoirs, Bruxelles: Université des femmes: Le Feuvre, N. & Lapeyre, N. (2005) « Féminisation du corps médical et dynamiques professionnelles dans le champ de la santé », Revue française des affaires sociales 59 (1): Le Feuvre, N. & Lapeyre, N. (2005) « Les scripts sexués de carrière dans les professions juridiques en France », Work, Knowledge & Society 3: Lapeyre, N. & Le Feuvre, N. (2004) Concilier linconciliable? Le rapport des femmes à la notion de conciliation travail-famille dans les professions libérales en France, Nouvelles questions féministes 23 (3): Crompton, R. & Le Feuvre, N., (2003) 'Continuity and Change in the Gender Segregation of the Medical Profession in Britain and France', International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 23(4-5): Crompton, R. & Le Feuvre, N. (2000) The Realities and Representations of Equal Opportunities in Britain and France, European Journal of Social Policy, 10 (4): Crompton, R. & Le Feuvre, N. (1997) « Choisir une carrière, faire carrière: les femmes médecins en France et en Grande-Bretagne », Les Cahiers du Gedisst, n° 19:


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