Examining women’s agency : gender performativity in early-career Scottish museum employment
Glasgow, Steven Alan
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The thesis examines women’s agency in early-career museum employment through a post-structural lens using gender performativity. Gender performativity has been central to debates concerning the (re)production of gender inequality in the workplace, particularly on the subversion of power that arises through the relation between constraint and agency. However, little is understood about agency within the theory, including its frequency, impact, or space/capacity for people to exercise agency. To develop this gap, the thesis uses data from 25 in-depth interviews with 20 women occupying early-career roles in Scottish Museums: A context with pervasive vertical gender segregation but has been relatively unexamined. Interviews were unstructured, lasting on average 75 minutes each, and analysed using Feminist Post-structural Discourse Analysis (Baxter, 2003). The findings indicate discourses such as ‘maternal young women’, ‘accepted precarity’ and ‘managerialism and entrepreneurialism’ are (re)constituted in museum employment which serve to disempower ‘young’ women and hinder their progression. As a result, success in museums is favoured towards men. In terms of agency, there are individualised efforts to subvert, and at times challenge these discourses, with relative success found with women who sustain their efforts over time. However, there were few instances of changes to the (re)constituting effects of these discourses. Theoretically, the thesis develops performativity by identifying how often women’s agency is found, the impact agency has on workplace and gender discourses, and how agency is allowed/constrained in time. Workplace discourses are also suggested to be more malleable than those found in wider society. Through this, there is a deeper understanding of agency within gender performativity theory. Empirically, the research provides an insight in to the lived experiences of women in early-career museum employment, an area which has not been fully researched until now.