Conference Agenda

RN14_01: Policy Discourses
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Ana Maria Lopez-Narbona, University of Malaga
Location: UP.4.211
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Fourth Floor Oxford Road

Session Abstract

The discourses that constitute current policies and debates over gender equality.


Bringing Women on Board? ‘Women-Friendly' Welfare States and Gender Balance in Top Jobs

Helen Kowalewska

University of Southampton, United Kingdom

Welfare states enable women's employment through the family policies they provide and the jobs they create. Hence, researchers, the press, and politicians hail Scandinavian societies as a gender equality 'paradise' and a role model for the UK due to their generous public sectors. Yet, Mandel and Semyonov (2006) identify a welfare state 'paradox': 'women-friendly' social policies also make it harder for women to progress to managerial roles. However, missing from existing research is a consideration of how welfare states shape women’s access to the very top board and executive positions specifically. This distinction matters because women in top management are best placed to effect organisational changes (e.g. occupational childcare, sexual harassment training) that can help lower-earning women to reconcile employment and care and secure their financial wellbeing as well as their body rights (Kowalewska, submitted).

To contribute to filling this gap, this paper analyses the relationship between women-friendly state interventions and gender balance in top-management positions across 17 OECD countries via a Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). The latest data reveal that women’s access to board positions is accelerating in the Nordics but stalling in liberal economies like the UK; hence, other factors (e.g. gender boardroom legislation) potentially ‘offset’ the negative effects of women-friendly policies on women’s occupational advancement. QCA can illuminate if this is the case, as it treats cases as ‘wholes’, focusing on how conditions combine with each other in producing an outcome. Data will come from the International Social Survey Programme, the OECD, the World Bank, and Deloitte. In turn, the analysis can illuminate whether women-friendly state interventions always come at the price of women’s access to the most powerful jobs.

Fluidity And Consistency In Policy Discourses On Gender Equality

Oana-Elena Negrea

University of Bucharest, Romania

Gender equality is more than a buzzword in feminist scholar circles, as it has become a public policy pillar, a development due partially to the increasing presence of gender mainstreaming in both academic (Behning and Pascual 2001, Walby 2001) and official discourses (European Commission, United Nations). Thus, it might be that doing one’s gender is not only a personal matter, but also a true policy issue.

Drawing on the specificity of policy documents, the present paper uses content analysis to identify, classify and connect different narratives on how men and women are scoring on various equality scales throughout time. Discussing both incidence and evolution of gender equality, such social documents could be depicted as methods of doing (in-)equality, depending on where the focus is placed. Although personal narratives of human kinds are fascinating to uncover, official discourses also bring forth a worthwhile perspective when dealing with inequalities, differences and feelings of belonging. Given the wide variety of domains being assessed through such official sources (e.g. labour market, politics, health, education and so on), the configuration of (gendered) categories is depicted in a rather detailed manner. Moreover, when it comes to gendered relations, official documents show a factual, yet policy-driven outlook on interactions between men and women, on opportunities and barriers connected to gender equality.

Our contemporary liquid society's main feature appears to be a constant reconfiguration of structures and social systems, which means personal accounts are inherently linked with policy discourses. In this context, understanding the official narratives on gender equality might be key in the bigger scheme of shaping and reformulating one’s own gender narrative.

Gender Equality Standards In Debate In Time Of Economic And Political Restructuring

Sandra Valerie Constantin, Carola Togni

University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES.SO), Switzerland

In the 1970s increased female participation in most European labor markets and the rise of new feminist mobilizations gave birth to debates about gender equality in social protection instruments and to the adoption of new global standards. Following Boltanki and Chiapello analysis, we will question this shift towards the integration of some of feminist claims - and their reinterpretation - regarding gender equality in social security and in which extend it could be apprehend as a means used by capitalist States to find a new legitimacy (2011). To access the point of view of employers, workers and governments – and its evolution over time - the findings rely on the analysis of archives of tripartite deliberations that have taken place inside the ILO since the 1970s, as well as on interviews conducted with some major actors who have participated in these debates.

We will first highlight the difficult path followed by networks of actors (governments, employers, trade unions and feminist organisations) to eventually incorporate the question of gender equality in social security systems in the 2001 International labor conference (ILC) agenda. We will then point out that different understandings of equality have emerged at the ILO over time and among actors. Sometimes theses conceptions overlap or even collide. We will see that the predominant understanding of equality in recent debates does not fundamentally call into question the gendered division of labor and the assignment of women to domestic work. It rather reflects changes of women’s and men’s position within the job market in a context of economic and political restructuring.

Light and shadow in gender inequality policies. The case of the Italian Affirmative Action

Fatima Farina3, Domenico Carbone1, Joselle Dagnes2

1University of Eastern Piedmont Italy; 2University of Turin Italy; 3University of Urbino Carlo Bo Italy

Among the changes that have affected the European societies in recent years, some focused on reducing the gender gap, specifically through affirmative action for the under-represented gender in the economic sphere as well as in politics. However, within the theoretical debate on gender quotas somebody considers them as a necessary instrument to promote the substantive representation of women. On the other part, it is the opinion of whom consider as not automatic this relation, both upstream – because of the selection mechanisms that favour women who already belong to élite groups – and downstream, because the mere physical presence of women does not exhaust the problem of gender representation.

Moving from this scenario, the paper aims to contribute to the debate analysing the impact and the consequences of the introduction of affirmative actions for gender quotas in Italy both in the political and in the economic sphere. Nowadays, the law provision requires 40% of women in municipal councils and 40% of women candidates in political elections (but with no guaranteed representation among the elected), while 30% of women must sit on the board of directors in listed companies.

Through two surveys that involved a total of over 600 women beneficiaries of the quotas, the paper investigates how the distance between formal and substantial gender representation is perceived and evaluated both in the political and in the economic sphere.