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(Not) bringing your whole self to work: the gendered experience of upward mobility in the UK Civil Service

Friedman, Sam (2022) (Not) bringing your whole self to work: the gendered experience of upward mobility in the UK Civil Service. Gender, Work and Organization, 29 (2). 502 - 519. ISSN 0968-6673

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Identification Number: 10.1111/gwao.12776


Women from working-class backgrounds face a multiplicative earnings penalty in Britain's elite occupations. In this paper, I explore one driver of this “double disadvantage”; a strong gender divide in who discusses and displays a working-class identity in the workplace. Drawing on data from the 2019 UK Civil Service People Survey (n = 300,788) and 104 interviews with civil servants, I find that men from working-class backgrounds are more likely (than women) to identify as coming from a working-class background, to talk openly about their background, and to feel comfortable displaying embodied markers of their origin. For some men such “origin talk” can even confer advantage, allowing them to resist dominant behavioral codes or “brand” themselves as senior leaders with a unique perspective. In contrast, women from working-class backgrounds overwhelmingly choose to conceal their backgrounds at work, presuming that such disclosures will only leave them vulnerable to negative judgment. Such suppression often leaves a significant emotional imprint, with many women reporting a lingering sense of shame and inferiority. It can also have implications for their careers; feeling unable to inhabit one's “authentic self” at work often elicits a sense of withdrawal and self-elimination from the stakes of career progression.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2022 16:48
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2024 20:00

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