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Publication Announcement

Workplace power is still ruled by straight white men

31 January 2018 The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Despite the long battle for gender equality, straight white men still hold much of the power and authority both symbolically and in the everyday world of organizations. Images, narratives, symbols and bodies are all part of how power and gender are constructed in organizations.

“Female employees are responsible for the (sexual) morals on board a ship. If they do not handle this responsibility in a way that is defined as proper, they are looked upon as not suited to work on a ship”, says Agnes Bolsø, professor at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and one of the editors of the book Bodies, symbols and Organizational Practice – The Gendered Dynamics of Power. The book was published on 23 January.

Bolsø and her fellow researchers interviewed 15 employees who work on ships, both men and women. Men dominate a ship’s work environment, and the few women workers on board tend to get a lot of sexual attention from their male colleagues.

“Men are allowed to be men, and they are not held responsible for controlling their sexual attention towards their few women coworkers. When women are treated as sex objects by men, it’s very hard for women to establish their position of authority at work. The #metoo campaign has shown that this is something that occurs not only on ships, but also in a lot of other work environments”, Bolsø says.

Researchers included perspectives from the humanities and the field of organization and power structures. The researchers asked their subjects about sexuality, lust, authority and aesthetics.

“This book shows that gender plays a significant role in the dynamic of power in all organizations”, says Associate Professor Siri Øyslebø Sørensen, who is co-editor of the book.

“It’s important that we have research-based knowledge about these matters in the context of the worldwide discussion of sexual harassment and equality associated with the #metoo movement”,  says the third editor of the book, Stine H. Bang Svendsen, an associate professor at NTNU’s Department of Teacher Education.

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