Gender change? Locked into industrial relations and Bourdieu

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to seek greater academic discussion of gender and gender change within industrial relations. It attempts to move the theoretical discussion of gender away from universal systems theories of analysis to a more micro multi-layered approach that can accommodate what is a complex and subtle situation, gendered industrial relations. It commences to theorise why women in certain institutional frameworks progress whilst women in others do not.

Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative empirical case study approach has been taken to uncover the nuances of women's daily experiences of work relationships including industrial relations in Keylockco, a lock manufacturer.

Findings – The findings indicate that Bourdieu's theory can be successfully used to analysis gender change within industrial relation and to explore how women's differing access to capital can facilitate their positional progress within hierarchical gender-stratified industrial relations. While the paper does not offer solutions for improving the position of women within industrial relations it does seek to stimulate discussion around the positional requirements of industrial relations actors where greater social, economic, cultural and symbolic capital has accrued to men.

Originality/value – The analysis of empirical data with Bourdieu's theory of habitus and capital has the potential to be extended to other sites of industrial relations than the Keylockco case study. It offers us the possibility to evaluate empirically the progression of women, for example, in female-friendly unions such as Unison. It is also possible to apply the theory to both national and international experiences of gendered industrial relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-482
Number of pages15
JournalEmployee Relations
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


  • Case studies
  • Gender
  • Industrial relations
  • Trade unions

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