Empirical Study: Doing Difference & organizational structures

I visited a primary school in Lucerne from the 20th of March to the 5th of April 2017. In the primary school “Moosmattschule”, the subjects, in this case the children, were in the schoolyard at the time of the observation, which took place during break time. The maximum observation period per class was 10 minutes.  In order to receive as objective observation protocols as possible, I referred to the observation objects listed in them using numbers because I wanted to avoid the expression “children” and their respective gender and ethnicity. These were only made public in the following interpretation protocol. Against this background, I dared to link to the “Doing Difference” concept of Sarah Fenstermaker and Candace West.

The class that I was observing consisted of 4 boys and 9 girls. During break time, however, other classes were mixed together. In search of groups of children, I found a group of three boys in the schoolyard that was playing soccer. Another group, consisting of girls, was playing social role games like mother, father and child. It was difficult to observe the children because the teacher was asking me about my theme and my study. However, I used this opportunity to interview her about the organizational structures and processes because it was not allowed to observe the teachers in a meeting. Trying to connect to Joan Acker’s hypothesis, that organizations are gendered, I asked the teacher if she had observed any such gender differences in the organization of the school and the task that are assigned to the teachers and the pupils. She had the impression that, during meetings, female teachers were being soothed compared to male teachers. She also added that men have more chances to get this job. As for the pupils, she said that in general there is no division of tasks, however, there were some male children with migration background who refuse to sit down because she is a woman. In addition, she told me that there were 43 women and 7 men working at this school.  At this point I explained to her about the hypothesis and that organizational structures, processes and decisions were not gender-neutral. From this non-neutrality, women suffer considerable disadvantages. Interestingly a Kindergarden teacher who works at the same school confirmed the previous findings. He said, that, during his studies, he felt privileged in the organization and that he had “male bonus”. Note, however, he was one of three male students.

Results of the Study

It was only in one case that members of different sexes interacted with each other over a longer period of time, that is, as a rule, the groups remained the same sex. I could not observe ethnic differences. I was also unable to make statements on class differences based on the observation without interpreting them. According to the social and organizational structures could be determined that the social roles of children in school were based on the ideas of normalizations. These representations of normality are reproduced through the actions and interactions of gendered subjects.


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