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Gender and social issues

Laura Claus in Africa
Laura Claus doing field research in Tanzania

A promising research stream on social issues facing women globally is being developed by researchers at Cambridge Judge Business School. This research centers at the intersection of gender equality and social issues including topics such as child marriage, gender equality in sports and feminism and ethical practices.

Presentation of academic papers

Academic papers based on this project have been presented at conferences.

Claus, L. and Tracey, P. (2016) "Configuring fields as outsiders: the case of child marriage in Indonesia." In: COSI (Community of Social Innovation) Scholars Group Annual Workshop, 8-9 April 2016, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.

Claus, L. and Kroezen, J. (2016) "How do institutional paradoxes evolve? The gender equality paradox in professional tennis." In: International Process Symposium (8th), Theme-focused Track: "Dualities, Dialectics, and Paradoxes in Organizational Life", 16-18 June 2016, Corfu, Greece.

Abstract

How do institutional paradoxes evolve? Although a growing body of research has described the organisational implications of a wide range of paradoxical pressures that are prevalent in organisational society, there are two important shortcomings. First, although it is recognised that paradoxes are multilevel phenomena, previous research has predominantly focused on strategic paradoxes at the organisational level. Second, most studies assume paradoxes to be stable entities, neglecting the importance of time and the potential for change. To examine how institutional paradoxes unfold over time, we conducted a longitudinal study of the gender equality paradox in professional tennis. We found the paradox to repeatedly (re-) surface and (re-) silence through a variety of triggers. Over time, this cycle led to an exhaustion of discourse over the paradox and an increasingly normalised experience of living amidst paradoxical tensions. We use our insights to contribute to paradox theory by forwarding a temporal model of institutional paradox evolution and develop how this theoretical integration can advance our understanding of deeply rooted issues such as gender equality.

Claus, L. and Kroezen, J. (2016) "The gender equality paradox in professional sports." In: EGOS Colloquium: Sub-Theme 35: Paradox Theory and Research: Constituting Tensions, Power, and Discourse, 7-9 July 2016, Naples, Italy.

Claus, L. and Kroezen, J. (2016) "How do institutional paradoxes evolve? the gender equality paradox in professional tennis." In: AOM Annual Meeting: ODC Division, 5-9 August 2016, Anaheim, CA, USA.

Abstract

How do institutional paradoxes evolve? Although a growing body of research has described the organisational implications of a wide range of paradoxical pressures that are prevalent in organisational society, there are two important shortcomings. First, although it is recognised that paradoxes are multilevel phenomena, previous research has predominantly focused on strategic paradoxes at the organisational level. Second, most studies assume paradoxes to be stable entities, neglecting the importance of time and the potential for change. To examine how institutional paradoxes unfold over time, we conducted a longitudinal study of the gender equality paradox in professional tennis. We found the paradox to repeatedly (re-) surface and (re-) silence through a variety of triggers. Over time, this cycle led to an exhaustion of discourse over the paradox and an increasingly normalised experience of living amidst paradoxical tensions. We use our insights to contribute to paradox theory by forwarding a temporal model of institutional paradox evolution and develop how this theoretical integration can advance our understanding of deeply rooted issues such as gender equality.

Reinecke, J. and Ansari, S. "Be fair or care? Fairtrade and the standardization of ethical practices."

This paper won the Best Environmental and Social Practices Paper, Organization & Management Theory (OMT) Division, Academy of Management, Orlando, USA, 2013

Abstract

There has been an impressive rise in multi-stakeholder initiatives to address social and environmental crises in which firms and other stakeholders promote ethical governance through standards. Habermasian deliberative democracy that provides a normative model for ethical governance, emphasising dialogue and impartiality, has been particularly influential in developing social standards. However, feminist scholars take issue with some of its philosophical assumptions, and question its suitability particularly in contexts characterised by extreme inequalities. We use the feminist critique to understand some of the challenges involved in developing social standards based on deliberative democracy. Through an organisational ethnography of Fairtrade International, we examine multi-stakeholder processes in the development of a standardised “fair” minimum price for Rooibos farmers in post-apartheid South Africa. While fair trading was previously based on direct negotiations, the introduction of a standardized “fair” price black-boxed ethical and political complexities in post-apartheid South Africa to the disadvantage of marginalised smallholder farmers. We identify three mechanisms through which complex ethical issues were “collapsed” into a social standard by 1) detaching deliberation on ethical issues from embedded relationships, 2) averaging out differences among stakeholders, and 3) making ethical issues measurable. An implication of our findings is that standardising ethics allows adopters to outsource the governance of ethical issues to specialists such as Fairtrade. We contribute by showing how “care taking” through ‘fair’ and impartial standards may displace “care giving” to marginalised stakeholders. Insights from feminist ethics can inform the design of social standards to make them more responsive towards the marginalised.

Ayaz, M., Levy, D.L., Munir K. and Willmott, H. (2017) "The role of intermediaries in governance of global production networks: Restructuring work relations in Pakistan’s apparel industry" in Human Relations.

Abstract

This paper locates the reorganisation of work relations in the apparel sector in Pakistan, after the end of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement quota regime, within the context of a global production network (GPN). We examine the role of a network of corporate, state, multilateral and civil society actors who serve as intermediaries in GPN governance. These intermediaries transmit and translate competitive pressures and invoke varied, sometimes contradictory, imaginaries in their efforts to realign and stabilise the GPN. We analyse the post-MFA restructuring of Pakistan's apparel sector, which dramatically increased price competition and precipitated a contested adjustment process among Pakistani and global actors with divergent priorities and resources. These intermediaries converged on a 'solution' that combined and enacted imaginaries of modernisation, competitiveness, professional management and female empowerment, while also emphasising low-costs and female docility. We highlight the intersection of economic, political, and cultural dynamics of GPNs, and illuminate the gendered dimensions of GPN restructuring. We theorise the role of these actors as a transnational managerial elite in GPN governance, who led a restructuring process that preserved the hegemonic stability of the GPN and protected the interests of Western branded apparel companies and consumers, but did not necessarily serve the interests of workers.


 

Editorials and special issues

Faculty members have written through-provoking editorials and led special issues on the theme of gender equality. 

Special issues

Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research. Academy of Management Journal, 59(6), (2016)

This special issue, co-edited by Dr Jennifer Howard-Grenville, Diageo Reader in Management Studies, highlighted research tackling the issues of gender equality and poverty reduction in the context of microfinance lending in 115 developing countries (Zhao and Wry). 

View the issue on the Academy of Management Journal website

Inequality, institutions and organizations Organization Studies, (forthcoming)

This special issue, co-edited by Dr Kamal Munir, Reader in Strategy & Policy, will showcase research examining ways in which organisations and institutions contribute to or mitigate different forms of equality, including gender equality, in societies.

Tackling inequality

The institutional and organisational arrangements that reinforce and perpetuate economic inequality over time need to be better understood in order to tackle this growing problem, argues Kamal Munir of Cambridge Judge Business School.

Read the article

Research in the media