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Spatial Gendered Practices in a Swedish Supermarket
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Human Work Science.
2012 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Empirically drawn on an ongoing ethnographic fieldwork investigating a Swedish supermarket, this paper discusses the different ways in which spatiality is intertwined with the practicing of gender and the working conditions of men and women in the supermarket. Inspiring the study was the theoretical framework proposed by Martin (2003), differentiating between gendered practices (the set of activities culturally and socially available to be done) and the practicing of gender (the literal act of gender). More specifically, the aim of this paper is to explore the ways in which specific organizational spaces shape the making available/ unavailable of gendered practices in the supermarket. Although feminist scholars (eg Massey, 1994) for decades have argued that spatiality is a product of intersecting social relation, workplaces spaces have remained understudied within the field of gender and organization. Given the vast interest in the doing-of-gender on micro-political levels of organizations, it is somewhat surprising that not more attention has been directed to the effect of specific times and places in - through - which gender are practiced. However, this paper is a contribution to the small but recently growing body of research investigating the relationship between gender practices and organizational spaces (see eg Tyler and Cohen 2010). The Swedish food retail trade industry has traditionally been marked with gender segregation in so forth that women employees predominantly have been working part-time as cashiers while men have replenished stocks or served as managers. However, what initially attracted our interest to the investigated supermarket was that they had implemented job-rotation. Job-rotation stipulated that the employees should rotate between replenishing stocks and working in the checkouts and thus had the potential to change the gendered allocation of work and workers. The preliminary result indicate that despite the use of job-rotation, the informal distribution of work-tasks and working-hours meant that the check-outs remained a space in which predominantly women spend their time: Women were more often scheduled to work afternoons and evenings than the male employees. During these times, the customer flow was high meaning that the employees had to spend more time in the check-outs than the employees working the morning shift. Furthermore, the kiosk, including customer service, game-service and postal service, was excluded from the job-rotation and in that space, only women were working. Both the check-outs and the kiosk constitute narrow, customer-oriented spaces in which the predominantly women employees faced constant monitoring and which they were not able to leave without being replaced. In contrast, the male and some women employees which informally more often were assigned to the replenishing of stocks could move more freely throughout the store and further away from the customers. Thus, the study indicates that the informal distribution of work and workers in the supermarket results in women predominantly working in more narrow and customer orientated spaces, which shapes the set of gendered practices available for them and leaves them with poorer working-conditions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Research subject
Human Work Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-37715Local ID: bd2d5b9e-216b-44bd-a19c-3b9973f674a4OAI: diva2:1011213
Gender Work and Organization : 7th Biennial International Interdisciplinary Conference 27-29th June 2012 27/06/2012 - 29/06/2012
Godkänd; 2012; 20141203 (krijoh)Available from: 2016-10-03 Created: 2016-10-03Bibliographically approved

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Johansson, Kristina
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