Thursday, 19 September 2013

Call for abstracts (24-26 June 2014) Stream: Gender and Disability in Work and Organisation

8th Biennial International Interdisciplinary conference, 24th – 26th June, 2014

Keele University, UK


Call for abstracts

Gender and Disability in Work and Organisation


Jannine Williams, Northumbria University, ENGLAND

Deborah Foster, Cardiff University, WALES

Alan Roulstone, Leeds University, ENGLAND

Stefan Hardonk, Hasselt University, BELGIUM


This stream aims to promote the exploration and development of research on gender, disability, ableism and impairment in work and organizations.  In doing so, we encourage a concern with the construction of disability within a category of social relations; in relation to and with non-disability, and how this set of relations is shaped through and interacts with gender relations, the organization of gender and the gendering of organizations. This focus emerges from a long standing concern to highlight the importance of developing richer understandings of inequality and privilege in studies of work and organizations, where gender is well established, yet disability remains marginal  (Williams and Mavin, 2012; Foster and Vass, 2013). Acker's (1990:146) work on gender reflects a broad concern to critique gender processes which explore how 'advantage and disadvantage, exploitation and control, action and emotion, meaning and identity, are patterned through and, in terms of a distinction between male and female, masculine and feminine', however, the patterning of organizing along distinctions between disability and non-disability and the differences this makes for women and men remain under-researched.


Feminist disability studies research also highlights the neglect of disability in feminist and gender debates (Thomas, 2006). In turning to disability studies we find a rich literature which suggests that the conceptualization and theorization of disability makes a difference to how organizing processes and practices are understood to reflect (and privilege) distinctions between disabled and non-disabled people.  From this literature a distinction between impairment (bodily variations designated impairments (Thomas, 2007)) and disability (the contextual factors which mediate the experience of impairment, marginalizing experiences of impairment and the social spaces available to disabled people (Williams and Mavin, 2012)) emerges, which suggests further research is required to understand how processes and practices in organizing reflect, sustain or challenge such understandings. For example, recent research on ableism, the privileging and maintenance of non-disability as an organizing normative principle (Campbell, 2009; Chouinard, 1997; Hughes, 2007) may contribute to understanding how experiences of impairment become marginalized. Ableism can be understood as the 'ideas, practices, institutions and social relations that presume ablebodiedness, and by so doing, construct…[disabled people]…as marginalised…"others"' (Chouinard, 1997:380).  Understanding how ableism contributes to gendered experiences of organizing can bring disability research into line with epistemological critiques in organization studies which have highlighted the importance of asking for how and for whom knowledge is produced (Calás and Smircich, 1999; Ferguson, 1994), and studies of difference more broadly.


Recent work in organisation studies has highlighted how disabled, female and older workers are discursively constructed as 'different' and problematic, unable to perform as expected, with material effects (Zanoni, 2011). Being perceived as unable to perform as anticipated is suggested to be tied to standardised work processes, and expectations of flexibility for maximum productivity, yet such 'difference' categorizations were simultaneously re-appropriated by disabled organizational members, using their discursively constructed 'difference' to resist management control (Zanoni, 2011).


In the sociology of work & employment, moreover, Foster (2007), Foster and Fosh (2010) and Foster and Wass (2013) have highlighted the need for further  research on the workplace experiences of disabled employees, the negotiation of adjustments and the need to challenge conceptions of standardized work for people living with impairment, because ableist norms, like gendered norms, shape work contexts.  They argue that work is designed around normative assumptions of non-disability, and that disabled employees cannot achieve organisational 'fit' until managers reconceptualise jobs.  This requires a radical culture change around our understanding of what is a standard job, intersecting with debates about gender and flexible/ non-standard work. Roulstone and Williams (2012) suggest that whilst management may hold the prerogative for workplace adjustments, the experiences of disabled managers and leaders suggests they similarly experience some complexity in negotiating work organization contexts. Openness about impairment, negotiating changes to work remits, or gaining reasonable adjustments (to draw upon a legislative discourse) are agued to produce practical and ontological risks for disabled senior managers and leaders which suggests an unstable boundary between what is understood as acceptable or an exception (Boyd, 2012) in work organizing contexts. It is suggested this is particularly the case for disabled people with fluctuating or less stable impairments, or impairments which remain more socially stigmatized such as mental health. Risks may produce 'glass partitions', limiting horizontal or vertical moves for disabled managers and leaders to minimise opening impairment related requirements to scrutiny, and possible rejection. 


Finally, the focus in this stream upon impairment and impairment effects (Williams and Mavin, 2012) reflects and suggests a reconnection with the body through embodiment studies of social action (Dale, 2001; Hassard et al., 2000).  The body is understood not as a 'normal, finished and fixed entity' (Williams and Mavin, 2013:7), but as socially and materially produced, yet whose construction is masked by the everydayness of the production of social relations (Dale, 2001). For example Burrell and Hearn (1989) have argued that sexuality is an ordinary public process, intimately tied up with gender power imbalances, and as Hearn and Parkin (1987) argue, is subsumed under and a part of a gender identity. Disability research has highlighted the extent to which disabled bodies are desexualized (Shakespeare et al., 1996), or hypersexual/deviant or objects of fetishism (Liddiard, 2011; Shakespeare et al., 1996). Liddiard (2011) suggests disabled women's impaired bodies may be different to feminine norms, and disabled women then have to work to (re)claim sexual identities in the public sphere, and manage non-disabled voyeurism and curiosity in social interactions, issues which point to the complexity of disability, gender and sexuality (Liddiard, 2011; Shakespeare et al., 1996).  We invite empirical, theoretical and reflective contributions which explore gender and disability. Possible topics include but are not limited to, the following:

·         Research concerned with how organizing can challenge the assumed norm of a male, white, non-disabled body to surface the ways in which impaired bodies are socially mediated and the implications for disabled organizational members

·         the difference disability, as a constructed difference, makes for disabled men or women in gender relations, the organization of gender or the gendering of organizations

·         Discourses of disability drawn upon by managers in response to disabled workers, and the material effects of different constructions of disability for disabled organizational members. How do these differ by country context?

·         How disabled organizational members resist management control/negative constructions of disability

·         The relationships between gender, disability, impairment type, and role/sector, country context and how these shape work experiences

·         How disabled senior organizational members' negotiate organizing contexts and the career implications of such negotiations

·         How impairment effects feature in disabled organizational members' experiences of work 

·         Embodied experiences of disabled organizational members

·         The impact of gender in negotiating reasonable adjustments

·         Gender, disability and the legal employment context


Abstracts of approximately 500 words (ONE page, Word document NOT PDF, single spaced, excluding references, no header, footers or track changes) are invited by 1st November 2013 with decisions on acceptance to be made by stream leaders within one month. All abstracts will be peer reviewed. New and young scholars with 'work in progress' papers are welcomed. Papers can be theoretical or theoretically informed empirical work. In the case of co-authored papers, ONE person should be identified as the corresponding author. Note that due to restrictions of space, multiple submissions by the same author will not be timetabled. Abstracts should be emailed to: Abstracts should include FULL contact details, including your name, department, institutional affiliation, mailing address, and e-mail address. State the title of the stream to which you are submitting your abstract. Note that no funding, fee waiver, travel or other bursaries are offered for attendance at GWO2014.






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