Institute for Gender Studies,Ochanomizu University

Heidi Gottfried

Visiting Professor at the Institute for Gender Studies, Ochanomizu University
Associate Professor, Wayne State University

The 22nd IGS Evening Seminar Series

Gender, Work and Politics


2007/1/25, 2/2, 2/8, 2/15


Heidi Gottfried
Visiting Professor at the Institute for Gender Studies, Ochanomizu University
Associate Professor, Wayne State University


Heidi Gottfried

Feminism encompasses diverse political projects and varied theoretical claims about pervasive, ubiquitous, and persistent gender-based hierarchies in and at work. The first lecture presents an overview of feminist scholarship on work, ranging from analyses of macro-structures of patriarchy and capitalism, intermediate labor market institutions, organizational processes and practices, to micro-social interactions. How gender matters and the methods for studying gender vary from approach to approach. Feminists adapting labor market theories explain enduring occupational segregation and pay inequities as a function of either individual or structural characteristics, and relate these to decisions made by either women or employers. Shifting the level and object of analysis, other feminists asked why some attributes became socially/culturally salient and typed in terms of gender differences within organizations and through organizational practices.  The second seminar more specifically turns to feminist theories of gender, work and politics. Public policies shape women’s choices and opportunities in the labor market. This lecture reviews comparative feminist approaches to analyze policies and the state. Comparative and transnational approaches not only sort clusters of countries and regions in terms of policies and politics, but also offer insight into why women’s work experience varies cross-nationally.  The third and fourth seminars apply an institutional feminist theory, as presented in the first and the second seminar. In the third seminar, I identify different “modes” of gendering as a method for revealing gender biases in labor and employment policies and their impact on male and female workers. The fourth seminar focuses on the growing proportion of nonstandard employment (part-time and temporary) among women and the implications of this trend for gender (in)equality. A comparison between the United State and Japan reveals both striking differences but also some similarities in the policy arena. I ask the question: What lessons can we draw from this comparison? I conclude the series with a discussion of feminist principles for framing policies/regulations to advance gender equity at/in work.


Seminar 1: January 25, Thursday 18:30-20:30
Introduction: Feminist Theories of Work

From the earliest writings by Mary Wollstonecraft’s vindication of the rights of woman written in the late 18th Century, feminists condemned separate and unequal treatment of women. What united an otherwise divided feminism was the shared recognition of the inter-relationship between reproduction and production.  While agreeing that gender matters, contemporary feminists still debate the causes and the mechanisms perpetuating male privilege and female disadvantage in the worlds of work.  This first lecture explores several questions raised by feminist theories of work: What are the sources of male power? Does power derive from control over women’s reproductive labor in the family?  What are the location and the nature of gendered power relationships affecting work? How is work gendered?  What are the processes gendering work organizations?  The lecture discusses how different feminist theorists answer these questions.

Gottfried, Heidi. (2006). “Feminist Theories of Work,” in Marek Korczynski, Randy Hodson, Paul Edwards (eds.), Social Theory at Work. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Acker, Joan. (2006). “Introduction-The Feminist Problem with Class,” and “Feminists Theorizing Class-Issues and Arguments,” in Class Questions, Feminist Answers. Lanham: Rowan and Littlefield.

Seminar 2: February 1, Thursday 18:30-20:30
Gender, Policy, Politics and Work: Feminist Comparative and Transnational Research

The last two decades of the 20th century saw the rise of new policies, ranging from equal opportunities and parental and family leave to regulation of working time and sexual relations, that have made the workplace more hospitable to women workers.  Yet, women still experience disadvantages in the labor market, and the gender patterns of employment differ cross-nationally.  In this lecture, I review feminist comparative and transnational research on workplace policy, politics and the state.  Reviewing the current literature not only allows me to assess the strengths and weaknesses of different feminist approaches, but also enables me to explore the dynamics and determinants of policy formation and its impact on male and female workers.  This lecture sets up the analysis used in the examination of changing labor policies and work addressed in the third and the fourth seminars.


Woodward, Alison. (2004). “ European Gender Mainstreaming: Promises and Pitfalls of Transformative Policy,” in Heidi Gottfried and Laura Reese (eds.), Equity in the Workplace: Gendering Workplace Policy Analysis. Lanham: Lexington Books.

Haas, Linda (2004). “Parental Leave and Gender Equality: What Can the United States Learn from the European Union?” in Heidi Gottfried and Laura Reese (eds.), Equity in the Workplace: Gendering Workplace Policy Analysis. Lanham: Lexington Books.

Seminar 3: February 8, Thursday 18:30-20:30
Labor Policies and Gender (In)equality at Work

Feminist scholarship has made important strides to improve our understanding of the forces behind gender (in)equality by either advancing gender-sensitive perspectives on policy-making processes and comparative welfare state developments or offering rich case studies and theoretical contributions to analyses of work organizational transformations. Both sides recognize the need for an intellectual exchange that can integrate work and welfare. Yet extant research has not successfully bridged this disciplinary divide. One reason for the impasse is that feminist policy research has neglected the subject of labor regulations. Labor regulation is one of the least touched areas of study by feminists on both sides. This lecture offers a way beyond the divide through its study of regulation of work. To argue for the careful study of regulations is not a plea for restoring a pristine original intent of the framers, but rather an injunction to discern different modes of gendering regulations and their intended and unintended consequences. I consider how the framing of policies, both explicitly and implicitly addressing women’s work and work biographies, either enable or restrict the intensity of women’s labor force participation. By explicating the gender subjects explicit and implicit in grammars of regulation, I argue that feminist policy research can critique current work arrangements and denaturalize gendered norms implicit in the language of labor regulations. In the final lecture I explore in more detail working time policies and working time arrangements (part-time and temporary work), and I recommend policies that have the potential of balancing the gender division of labor and achieving gender equity at work. 


Gottfried, Heidi. (forthcoming). “Changing the Subject: Labor Regulations and Gender (In)Equality,” in Ilse Lenz, Charlotte Ullrich, Barbara Fersch (eds.), Gender Orders Unbound: Globalization, Restructuring, Reciprocity. Leske + Budrich.

Walby, Sylvia. (forthcoming). “Theorizing the Gendering of the Knowledge Economy: Comparative Approaches,” in Sylvia Walby, Heidi Gottfried, Karin Gottschall, Mari Osawa (eds.) Gendering the Knowledge Economy: Comparative Perspectives. Palgrave.

Seminar 4: February 15, Thursday 18:30-20:30
Pathways to Economic Security: Gender and Nonstandard Employment in the United States and Japan

Nonstandard employment (part-time, temporary and casual work) represents a quantitatively larger share of total employment, especially among women workers, and reflects a qualitative shift in expectations about the rules governing contractual rights, risks and responsibilities.  Discussing empirical trends and then contextualizing a specific country’s development reveals a complex picture of the quality and the gendered character of nonstandard employment. Indeed, the gendered character of standard work provides a clue to understanding the emergence of nonstandard work and the extent to which this type of employment is gendered. I attribute these patterns to the design of the institutional architecture supporting pillars of the Japanese employment system. More specifically, the high incidence of nonstandard employment among women is in part explained by the embedded gender biases in the Japanese employment system and its labor regulations. The rise of nonstandard employment contributes to growing insecurity.  The last part of the lecture charts new pathways to economic security.  I argue that new pathways require a paradigmatic shift in the framing of labor and gender regulations.

Gottfried, Heidi, Steve Rose, Heidi Hartmann and David Fasenfest. (2004). “Autonomy and Insecurity: The Status of Women Workers in the United States,” Josei Roundou Kenkyu, Bulletin of the Society for the Study of Working Women, 46:17-39.

Osawa, Mari. (forthcoming). “Comparative Livelihood Security Systems from a Gender Perspective, with a Focus on Japan,” in Sylvia Walby, Heidi Gottfried, Karin Gottschall, Mari Osawa (eds.) Gendering the Knowledge Economy: Comparative Perspectives. Palgrave.

Recommended websites for women and work: (on gender and precarious employment in Canada) (on women and policy)

※This event is finished.


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Institute for Gender Studies,Ochanomizu University
2-1-1 Ohtsuka, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-8610, Japan
Phone: 81-3-5978-5846 Fax: 81-3-5978-5845