Applying a gender lens to employment relations: Revitalisation, resistance and risks

Rubery, J. and Hebson, G. (2018). Journal of Industrial Relations, 60(3): 414-446

Employment relations is on the defensive. A gender lens provides opportunities for revitalisation through bringing in social reproduction alongside production, introducing intersectional identities alongside class, developing gendered critiques of ‘neutral’ markets and recognising the ‘doing of gender’ within the workplace. However, resistance within research and practice is evident in gender blindness, marginalisation of gender issues or preference for male interests. Three risks associated with a gender lens are identified: first, feminist critiques may be used by employers or neoliberal policymakers to deregulate employment; second, by making gender visible, gender differences may be used to legitimise gender inequalities; and third, in representing workers’ interests many pitfalls need to be navigated in steering a path between excessive fragmentation and reproducing hierarchy, whether by class, gender or race. Nevertheless, the costs of not embracing a gender perspective go beyond missed opportunities for renewal and leave employment relations at risk of further decline.

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