FRAL - Programme franco-allemand en SHS

The dynamics of inequality II. Making sense of gender in the labour domain. Classifications, collective bargaining and equality policies in France and Germany 1945 -2010 – Marianne 2

Marianne: The Metamorphoses of Equality

Representations of gender in the workplace. The case of occupational classifications, collective bargaining and policies of equality in France and Germany (1945-2010)

Gender and work in a comparative perspective: the metamorphoses of equality

This project concerns the metamorphoses of gender equality in Germany and France between 1945 and 2010. Its objective is the study of gender representations and their transformation in both countries in the field of work and employment. Our hypothesis is that between 1945 and 2010, deep changes have affected our ways of seeing, in relation to late 19th-century representations which imposed themselves with the “woman question”. To empirically grasp the transformation of representations of gender equality, we propose to focus our research on three areas:<br />1) professional classifications, 2) collective bargaining, 3) public action applied to gender-equality policy. Using singular objects and cases, we investigate the discursive and normative frameworks that have been produced and negotiated in both countries from a gender-equality perspective. Our method is that of in-context comparison, which integrates historical variables and which is also sensitive – in accordance with the precepts of the “histoire croisée” approach – to instances of competition, contamination, transferal… between the two countries. <br />

Research conducted by both teams is generally qualitative. Methodologically, their work is rooted in discourse analysis and process tracing. Where objects of research are contemporary phenomena, in-depth interviews shall be conducted with experts, with actors working in labor administration or in ministerial administration, in political organizations or in labor relations.
Our analysis will seek to discern the influence of discourse on the construction of meaning; or on the long-term assimilation of objects, or of social phenomena, with categories of understanding; or on the institutionalization of orders of knowledge (Knobloch, 2005, p. 209 et seq.) Different instruments and means feed into these processes of category creation and operationalization. They are identified as social mechanisms. The francophone concept of dispositif (apparatus), as a mechanism, fits into our analytical framework.
Through discourse analysis (Keller, 2003, 2006, 2007), gathered sources will be treated in view of understanding how the attribution of meaning with respect to gender and work solidifies and contributes to creating models of thought and action in the form of gender “scripts”, models of action, and representations. These processes of creation and operationalization unfold through specific instruments (statistical categories, the content of negotiation, regulation, legal texts, etc.) Discourse analysis is a research perspective (Keller, 2006) which requires the use of proven social science methods. A body of texts shall be composed through relevant criteria. Within this body of texts, content and interpretative models shall be analyzed.

• women working at night:
analysis of elements of public debate shows that:
i. the categories used in debates to designate gender slip from a register centered on so-called “natural” elements, toward a register of social roles which seeks to account for what is at stake in terms of equality.
ii. systematic categorization of 54 types of argumentation, analyzed according to Perelman’s rhetorical approach, shows that pragmatic arguments are more frequently used than those which focus on unintended perverse effects.
• recognition of work carried out by the spouses of independent workers:
socio-historical analysis of the path toward recognizing work carried out by the wives of independent workers, via interviews, personal and nonprofit institutional archives, analysis of public and parliamentary debates. Initial results show that:
i. recognition of female labour has been an issue since the French Revolution and must be situated within a large timeframe;
ii. over the course of the 20th century, and especially after the Second World War, family and independence become increasingly de-privatized, through a process involving a series of phases;
iii. the varieties of feminist discourse which become dominant after May 1968 generate a real social movement, which confers a specific and autonomous “voice” to the underlying social group.
• professional equality and collective negotiation:
Analysis of union, Chamber of Commerce and European Union archives.
Initial results indicate the following:
i. the persistence of significant wage discrimination despite recognition of the “equal pay for equal work” principle (professional classifications, the undervaluing of “feminine” qualities);
ii. the growing weight of European regulation concerning wage equality and equal treatment (access to employment, training, social protection, etc.);
iii. legislative voluntarism and reformulation of the issues surrounding the principle of professional equality.

Beyond comparative work, our team will specifically work on analyzing different types of controversies, the spaces where these controversies are mobilized, the means by which they are mobilized, and the discursive coalitions which are built around them. Our project is therefore developing a transversal analysis of the diversity of forms of interaction – discursive arenas and spaces of sociopolitical action – which are grouped around a common issue.
Some of these controversies – the issue of women working at night, or of gender quotas for corporate boards of directors – stem from diametric confrontation between discursive coalitions which mobilize different arenas – science, law, politics, media, etc. – and thus mobilize large and diverse groups of actors. With respect to the recognition of work carried out by the spouses of independent workers, the confrontation takes place in spaces which are only difficultly visible, especially within semi-public organizations – Chambers of Skilled Trade, Chambers of Commerce – or private organizations – professional associations – which are dedicated to representing the interests of independent workers and which mobilize very specific actors – local feminist organizations for example – at a very advanced phase in the process of institutionalization. Most of the transformative work involves political issues – the process of recognizing equal status between men and women in family law, in matters of citizenship, etc. – being brought forward by diverse social and political coalitions.
Specific analysis of the dynamics linking discursive arenas with spaces of socio-political interaction, within the larger analysis of institutionalizing change, shall provide our project with transversal and innovative results.

1. Olivier Giraud & Arnaud Lechevalier. « Les femmes au cœur de l’éclatement de la norme d’emploi en Allemagne ». Travail, genre et société. N° 30, pp. 189-194, 2013.
2. Michel Lallement. « Un tsunami libéral ». Travail, genre et société. N° 30, pp. 177-182, 2013.

The project investigates the dynamics of gender equality in the FRG and in France from 1945 to 2010. Goal is to analyse interpretative models of gender and their transformation in the world of labour and employment relations. We assume that those models have changed between 1945 and 2010, and that the interpretative standards developed in the early 20th century have been radically challenged and supplanted. The specificity of the project lies in the analysis of the transformations in the statistics of vocational classifications (1), in labour collective bargaining (2) and in the policies of equality of treatment. The results the project will provide about the relevance of classifications, negotiations and equity to the production and the stabilization of gender (in)equalities (1945-2010) will consequently contribute to the investigation of a key sociological puzzle. Directly related to the former project, the specific output of the undertaking is to consider the social and cultural contexts via the framework of embedded comparative analysis. The “histoire croisée” perspective enables to identify cultural differences and structural homologies between interpretative standards of the French and (West-) German gender relations. In doing so, the project will give a new stimulus to the gender and labour and employment relations research in both countries.

Project coordination

Olivier Giraud (Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire pour la Sociologie Economique) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


LISE Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire pour la Sociologie Economique
Universität Potsdam Universität Potsdam

Help of the ANR 195,936 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2012 - 36 Months

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