The construction of equal opportunity and gender equality in the workplace

Pao Yue-kong Library Electronic Theses Database

The construction of equal opportunity and gender equality in the workplace

 

Author: Suen, Sui-wan Teresa
Title: The construction of equal opportunity and gender equality in the workplace
Degree: M.Phil.
Year: 2005
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Equality
Sex discrimination in employment
Sex role in the work environment
Department: Dept. of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: i, 191 leaves ; 30 cm
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b1809925
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/4127
Abstract: This study is an attempt to understand the construction of equal opportunity and gender equality in the workplace. Throughout the study, I have tried to link up the discussion on gender difference with the discussion on gender equality. In general, I have identified three discourses surrounding the discussion on gender difference based on the perspective of poststructural feminism. They are "women and men are the same,""women and men are different," as well as “women and men are at the same time different and the same." These three important discourses form the structure of this study. I hope to find out how the various meanings of equal opportunity and gender equality are constructed, negotiated and sometimes manipulated under the notions of these three discourses. This research is based on in-depth interviews with twelve women coming from different backgrounds. First, I show how they understand gender difference. Three different positions, which echoed the above mentioned three discourses surrounding gender difference, can be found. Second, I demonstrate how they understand gender equality and equal opportunity and what their attitudes are. Once again, different understandings are developed. Among these understandings, "equality = same treatment = equal opportunity” is the most common one. Some point out that gender equality should be something more than equal opportunity between the two sexes. Besides, both positive and negative attitudes are found. Finally, I also illustrate how the various meanings of gender equality and equal opportunity are constructed from their understandings of gender difference through the sharing of their working experiences. The empirical findings have several implications. There is obviously confusion and ambivalence about the concepts of gender equality, equal opportunity, sameness and difference. To a certain extent, these confusions help maintain the status quo and disempower women. The findings also imply that women are active agents in the construction of gender equality and suggest the discussion on gender equality should go beyond the structural level. Finally, I conclude that the definition of gender equality should be broadened so that people's particular circumstances are acknowledged.

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