Gender Workshops

CREATING GENDER AWARENESS WITHIN THE WORKING ENVIRONMENT AS EXPRESSED BY DOMINANT DISCOURSES

By  NICKI SPIES

ABSTRACT

South Africa is emerging from a patriarchal system according to which the South African society has been organised and managed for many decades. This is a system in which specific ideas were held about what constitutes appropriate roles and work for men and women. For instance 20 years ago, the majority of married women stayed at home with the primary role being that of home-maker and child caretaker – irrespective of her qualifications. However, today, many women no longer accept such prescriptions and base their career choices on personal convictions and ambitions.

Culture, religion and socio-economic conditions are all factors that influence and constitute society’s beliefs regarding the roles and responsibilities for men and women. These factors are often expressed in the dominant discourses, which in turn will constitute people’s expectations of fellow colleagues as well as influence their beliefs as to appropriate positions for men and women. Many men and women in the corporate environment experience been marginalised if they do not conform to the traditionally held beliefs associated with their sex, e.g. male nurses or female managers.

We also see that many parents who work in the corporate environment (from home or outside the home) find it difficult to juggle their responsibilities as fathers and mothers with that of their careers. Traditional dominant discourses seem to undermine equality for both mothers and fathers in areas such as flexi-time, maternity leave, paternity leave and family responsibility leave.

This workshop has at heart to create greater awareness and sensitivity with regards to gender issues within the workplace as well as to invite participants to voice their experiences of dominant gender practices in their working environments.

KEY TERMS

Gender awareness; corporate environment; social construction of gender roles; patriarchal discourses; narrative therapeutic approaches; South African society; parental responsibilities; career pressures

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