Feminist psychology gone missing

Gender and the Organization: Women at Work in the 21st Century by Marianna Fotaki & Nancy Harding (Routledge; Pb £34.99). Reviewed by Paula Nicolson.

Fotaki and Harding have tasked their academic and feminist imaginations to play with ideas about women, management and organisations moving their disciplinary agenda into the 21st century. Despite the ubiquitous feminist thinking from literary criticism, film and theatre studies, generic social and political sciences, the authors reproach their own discipline for assigning the existing feminist critiques to female thinkers and researchers alone. This book then has enabled Fotaki and Harding explicitly to depart from content that would normally be submitted to academic journals in management and organisation studies, so as to re-examine much of their earlier work within a framework shared by well-known feminist writers including the exemplary Judith Butler, Denise Riley, Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva.

Chapters address organisational matters such as the contemporary relevance of feminism, gender-differentiated language, the construction of women’s working identities, feminist ethics, the othering of women and the psychoanalytic understanding of power, and finally advocating that feminism should be of concern to men as well as women. This work is as important as the authors are convincing in their chosen undertaking.

But should potential feminist academic contributions to management and organisation studies hinge exclusively upon interdisciplinary concepts underpinned by post-Freudian psychoanalysis from a core of poststructuralism? While the mission is smartly accomplished by the authors, who provide much interesting and informative, albeit heavy reading, there is a major, unforgivable flaw. Psychology appears to have been consigned to the interdisciplinary melting pot of ‘psychosocial’, while feminist psychology is rendered invisible.

The Psychology of Women Section (POWS), whose members have studied, challenged and written about gender (and other) inequalities across the social, political and organisational spectrum, is celebrating its 30th year within the BPS. This volume should have been timely given the evidence of shameful sexual harassment and bullying, compounded by criminal sexual assault and rape across entertainment, academic and political organisations. Most perpetrators have been identified as men while victims have come forward from each sex, so that the psychological and emotional impact of such behaviours on gender and work is now firmly under the spotlight.

As a regular enthusiast of POWS events I have witnessed excellent scholarship and practice concerned with the sexualisation of women at work, the reproductive cycle, sexual harassment, bullying, rape, motherhood and fatherhood all in the context of organization life. Sadly, the contributions of feminist psychologists to this otherwise admirable project have fallen well below the radar of this book.

- Reviewed by Paula Nicolson, Emeritus Professor, Royal Holloway, University of London

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