AERC: Tracing HRD’s Rational Masculine Roots: Feminist Alternatives for a More Mindful HRD

Bierema & Stornberg-Walker AERC / CASAE Conference[Delayed Live Blog Post due to lack of WiFi connection]

Presenters: Laura Bierema & Julia Storberg-Walker
Title: Tracing HRD’s Rational Masculine Roots: Feminist Alternatives for a More Mindful HRD.

As the authors were theory builders and focus on how is knowledge created, a text analysis and deconstruction method was used. The Theoretical Framework employed are: Situational or partial ethnography (Alvesson & Deetz ), Deconstruction (Bradshaw) [categories, dichotomies, false oppositions], and Genealogy (power relations in accepted knowledge).

Description of the Study:
1. Identify highly influential works
Web of science (# of citations)
OD/HRD textbooks (educational influence)
Literature review
2.Identify relevant post-modern analytical tools and frameworks
3.Begin iterative process of analysis and writing

Analysis using Bradshaw’s Post-Structural Analysis
Compare: Roethlisberger’s The Foreman (1949) Swanson & Holton’s Foundation of HRD (2001)
Text Deconstruction: Creation of dichotomies, “other” categories, and silences
Maintenance of harmony, rationality, and unity
Question: How is False Reality being created?
Using hyperbole and mochery as an insider’s joke for those who disagree with the dominant voice

Having an “Other” category indicates marginalization
Examples: People of color, women, non-management people

Marginalization shows through the use of:
– Footnotes
– “Quotations”
– Metaphors
– (Parenthesis)
– Privileged words or phrases

Side Note on Use of “Quotations” and what it means (not direct quote but use of quotation marks or in popular culture this would be seen as the “air quote signal”)
– focuses you to pause and look at it
– “othering” from the rest
– Not a quote
– Set off
– priviledging
– highlighting

Maintenance of harmony, rationality, and unity is how HRD is focused
– Projects one truth
– Denies or diminishes alterantive or competing views

Texts used for this research:
1949 book indicated Roethlisberger considered as “father” of HR movement
Influenced at least 2 generations of management

Swanson’s Foundations of HRD
Highly popular text book
Authors are indicated as authorities on performance
– Consensus on performance is good

Assumption that HRD is primarily supported by three domains:
– Economics
– Psychology
– Systems theory

Presenters’ analysis:
– We make no claims to “truth”
– This work is an event of interpretation
– Other interpretations exist
– This analysis helps us understand exclusions
– We seek to unsettle the settled
– We offer a re-presentation of the HR phase as a continuation of scientific management

“The Foreman” is a pathology needing fixing: Pathology, Disease, Diagnosis, Threatment, Symptom. Roethlisberger assumes an “objective” perspective. No space to topics such as diversity, managerialism, gendered practices, racism, sexuality, social responsibility. Indexing shows performance topics – 49x, women, race, class, sexuality – 0, labor, unions, workers – 0 critique of performnace – 2, politics- 1

False Oppositions or binaries:
– individual v organisation based HRD
– learner v performance
– critical v performance oriented paradigms
– oppresive v humanistic HRD

Flagrant expressions of masculine rationality – no opportunity for discourse or rationality.

HRD is now focused on management – lack of analytical tools, concepts, research methods. ignore voices that are important.

Bierema indicated a problem with this Swanson statement: “Unisex Research is proposed to be an overarching value on top of mature resarch methods to ensure that those methods are not distinguished or distinguisable on the basis of sex.Generation of signifant new knowledge without a sexual bias will advance our scholarly understanding of phenomena being investigated.”

Research Recommendations:
1. Develop new HRD theory using gender as a category or strategy which has not been done
2. Develop explicit HRD theory-buildling research methods. We suggest that as more HRD researches study issues of power and gender, new and alternative research methods will be introduced to the HRD literature.
3. Explore and develop HRD’s theoretical foundations. Economic foundations of HRD does not include feminist economics to understand wider options for HRD.
4. Publish more articles in HRD journals that illustrate the theory-building process and the theory itself

Q&A: Are there alternative books that you use? Bierema: I use the John Watson’s book instead

Presenter Quotes:
You are not practical and rational if you are challenging performance because you are critical theorists
HRD is mainly feminist but dominated by a male voice.

My takeaway questions for organisational strategy purposes from this session:
1. Where is the locus of control?
2. Whose voice is it?
3. Do you have the tools to recognize when sexism exists in the workplace?
4. Do you have a feminist organisational strategy to counter perceived or real masculine corporate culture?

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