Privilege in the workplace

In my current workplace, I experience a number of integrated forms of privilege that function between co-workers and management specifically. We recently hired two new female managers. Our gift merchandiser, who I’ll refer to as Ola, is an immigrant with a thick accent. The combination of both marginal identities, being female and foreign, are two aspects of her identity that transform her relationship with the other male managers as a lesser authority figure with staff. I make these observations in the way conversation and jokes are made between the two parties.

I wonder, as an immigrant, what kind of struggles in moving up the corporate ladder Ola has experienced. What kind of struggles has she faced in her career choices, in relations to the 4 white-middle-class men, born and raised in the GTA have encountered? I may be making my own assumptions, contributing to a stereotype of who is privileged and who is not, but if we are to say these assumptions are in fact true, how does this reflect how forms of overarching patriarchy laden in the capitalist framework reflect through the frequent undermining of our female managers positions?

Very recently our store hired a manager I’ll call April, this is her first management position and is very young in relation to the rest of the managers. She is from a white middle-class family, raised in the GTA and shortly graduating from a prestigious university with an undergraduate degree. I’ve experienced a different reactions to her position as a manager, where a much more paternal approach is taken by the management team in her relationship with them. This paternalism reinforces a power divide, where the privileged person can decide the dynamics of the relationship. A certain kind of invisible authority is enforced. This paternal relationship between April and the male managers reinforces this power divide.

I find both reactions to female management, whether it is oppressive or paternalistic in language, reflective of an invisible masculine privilege. A hegemonic idea existing within – specifically – the corporate framework that subverts women’s rights, even when in a position of power, in a condescending and demeaning way. These invisible systems of privilege, set in the corporate model, reflect two different masculine reactions to women being in positions of power. The banter and seemingly innocent jokes, encouraging supervisions and subjecting the female managers to gendered roles are oppressive despite whether they are intentional or not. This is a form of patriarchal oppressiveness being unconscious.

Adding women into the development model, whether in “developed” or “developing” countries, reveals the underlying grids of privilege and oppression that exist and continue within the neoliberal capitalist framework. These interactions are rooted in a misogynistic paradigm, where a cultural memory of development and gender has created roles for women in the workforce and men in the workforce.


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