|dc.description.abstract||Intersectionality is a much-debated concept within gender and race studies, but there are
few empirical studies that operationalise the concept in examining work organisations
and occupational careers. This thesis applies an intersectional analysis to a study of the
UK construction and transport sectors exploring how gender, sexuality and occupational
class shape women’s work experiences. Sexuality is one of the least explored
intersections, in particular its interaction with class; additionally the thesis addresses
gaps in research evidence concerning the experience of women in non-professional
occupations in construction and transport.
In seeking to avoid prioritising either structure or agency, the research employs a multilevel
framework (Layder, 1993) that addresses several dimensions of women’s
experience of male-dominated work: the current policy context; women’s choices and
identifications in relation to traditionally male occupations; gendered, sexualised and
classed workplace interactions; participation in separate support networks and trade
union structures; and the interaction of domestic circumstances with work participation.
The multi-strategy qualitative methodology includes 50 interviews with key experts and
heterosexual and lesbian women working in professional/managerial and nonprofessional
occupations in the construction and transport sectors, plus two focus
groups with women workers in construction and observation of events to raise
awareness of non-traditional work.
This intersectional approach permits consideration of both advantage and disadvantage
and questions cumulative conceptions that presume, for example, that gender and
sexuality compound to disadvantage lesbians at work. The contribution of this thesis is
to reveal the circumstances in which sexuality, occupational class or gender is most
salient in shaping work identity or experience, together with the ways they interact.
Thus sexualised workplace interactions could at times be avoided by open lesbians, but
all women were at risk of sexual or homophobic harassment, although it was more
prevalent in the workplaces of non-professional women. Interviewees also highlighted
benefits of male-dominated occupations, including increased gendered self-confidence
from doing ‘men’s work’, and material pay advantages, particularly for nonprofessionals,
which in some cases produced a shift in the domestic division of labour