Gender Relations Dynamics In Professional Communication

Abstract

The paper discusses gender relations dynamics and their transformation in professional communication. The authors investigate how gender relations are built up in professional communication at educational institutions and their development from male and female patriarchal attitudes to modern business communication. Particularly, from the idea about "housekeeping for women" and "profession for men" to "gender equality", equal access to education for women alongside with men, equal gender relations, and equal self-realization. Today effective professional communication organization prevents discriminatory gender situations both in relation to women and men. The article describes the research experience done at educational institutions in Volgograd when gender approach was implemented to eliminate traditional gender stereotypes while women and men were trying "new" professions to promote their career in the professional communication process. The choice of activities and professions is determined by inclinations, interests, individual abilities and life circumstances, and not by gender. Analysis of gender relations in professional communication at schools in the Volgograd region revealed three groups of teachers: "traditionalists", "transition period" followers and "egalitarians".

Keywords: Educational institutionsgender relationsprofessional communicationpatriarchal attitudesself-realization

Introduction

In the XXI century all life spheres are marked by global transformations provoking changes in professional communication. Globalization is the main driving force in professional communication in modern society, so it impacts "on the economy, politics, culture,... and the private life of everyone" (Giddens, 2005). Gender relations in professional communication are important segments of social reality; that is why researchers consider them as "social arrangement for sex differences" and "distribution of benefits and prestige for any sex" (Zdravomyslova & Temkina, 2003) during their direct interaction. Gender relations in professional communication are one of the important tasks in the General society program, also, they indicate development and strengthening of democratic ideas and attitudes in social, family, professional and individual areas. Thus, this issue requires permanent research due to the active dynamics change, in order to apply gender theory and methodology in educational practice just as it is happening now in the world educational space.

Gender relation dynamics analysis shows their discrepancy in professional communication. On the one hand, they claim the social policy of "equal rights and opportunities for sexes" (Kletsina, 2009), which is focused on equal interaction between men and women, marked with gender symbols. And, on the other hand, they are based on a gender-deprived social policy that secretly manipulates gender relations, invading people's living space, and special "positive" discrimination in the labor division. Gender ideology in real practice, maintains power relations, gender stratification, and hierarchical relations in the public and private spheres, thus, it prevents the women mobility and encourages social risks for men to increase. For example, women tend to have a double burden: at work and at home, a more difficult career achievement due to greater care of family and children, low health protection and care, including reproductive. Men face the "lost" male health problem owing to "real" man position as a family breadwinner, who never pays attention to his ailments, but provided the "breadwinner" status is lost, it leads to stress due to the "meaninglessness of further existence", diseases and premature death. The study of gender relation dynamics in professional communication allows to build up theoretical and practical data, creating conditions for overcoming the contradictions.

Problem Statement

In traditional societies the models of gender relations in professional communication were strictly categorized in hierarchy. Women were intended "by nature and God" for housekeeping "within the house walls", for babysitting and caring for a husband (Aristotle, Democritus, M. N. Katkov, L. N. Tolstoy, etc.), and men were engaged to work "outside home", i.e. right at production industry, and in the social sphere. Nowadays, modern societies tend to bond male and female activities, professions, and features of professional communication. This is due not to any anatomical and physiological changes, but to social democratic transformations taking place in the modern global world and the gender theory development.

In traditional and modern societies, there are different methodological foundations for understanding gender relations in professional communication. Until the end of the 1980-ies, any research was based on sexual dimorphism, contrasting male and female professional communication in the context of the biological and evolutionary paradigm which was the most authoritative. The founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), an Austrian psychologist, psychiatrist and neuropathologist, believed that an individual acquires the fullness of the personality in gender relations only when he or she follows the behavior rules established for sex (separately for men and for women). Only then this is the case when professional communication is effective and not disrupted whilst it is based on the dichotomy of male and female activities. In professional communication, according to Freud, it is important that men strive for power to ensure control over the world. To Freud the male necessary qualities were activity, freedom and sadism, as opposed to femininity (feminine) qualities as passivity, dependence, subordination to man and masochism (Russian Federation Constitution, 1993). Any deviations from the listed standards were counted as norm violations. A woman, who aspired to a career or power, was not considered normal, provided she had a phallic nature, and only a man had the right to possess such qualities. Freud ideas were very popular in the whole world, and women and men in many countries for many years checked their identity and gender relations with these ideals, so much valued in society. Men and women often refused any "female" and male" activities although the most preferable for their individuality. Men were afraid to develop the emotional sphere of their personality, to show sympathy, empathy and other qualities like femininity despised in society, in order to avoid being known as weak and effeminate, men were trying at all costs to match the masculine ideal; women also avoided characteristics of masculinity and did not seek self-realization at work "outside home".

Research Questions

The Russian education system is aimed at improving the education quality and bringing it in line with international educational standards thus making it urgent to discuss the issue of gender relations dynamics in professional communication. At the same time new requirements to the education programs, the results of education create greater freedom for teachers to choose means, methods, content of subjects and courses. Russian state educational standards from pre-school to University possess no gender component that prevents gender approach at educational institutions in Russia. Teachers try to initiate such an approach within pedagogical practice. They make independent attempts to introduce a gender approach in order to improve gender relations in professional communication at school. Gender theory and methodology has long been applied as a professional norm in many developed countries, however, it remains unrealized in Russian education, and thus requires theoretical, methodological and technological development, which is the aim of this study.

Purpose of the Study

For many years, researchers discussed what is more important in the men and women development: biological or social. Long after that gender relations in professional communication have begun to be analyzed as a social aspect, from the point of view of real educational practice. Since the 90-ies of the XX century gender studies started using theories of gender social construction. Researchers concluded that it is rather misleading to consider the opposition "boy-girl", "man-woman". The article describes the research experience done at educational institutions in Volgograd when gender approach was implemented to eliminate traditional gender stereotypes while women and men were trying "new" professions to promote their career in the professional communication process.

Research Methods

Gender relations in professional communication changed dynamically due to the paradigm shift from biological-evolutionary (traditional) (V. A. Geodakyan, E. P. Ilyin, Z. Freud, etc.) to social-constructivist (humanitarian) (S. Bem, E. A. Zdravomyslova, E. N. Kamenskaya, O. I. Klyuchko, L. I. Stolyarchuk, A. A. Temkina, L. V. Shtyleva, etc.). A new turn in the understanding of gender relations in professional communication was the work by the American psychologist Sandra Bem (1944-2014) - on gender polarization. These ideas were discussed in a series of lectures held together with her husband Daryl Bem, in which the issue of egalitarian relationships, universal activities for both men and women, and the development of the ability to egalitarianism (Freud, 2017) was first raised. The proposed ideas were based on the androgyny concept, which refuted the centuries-old patriarchal concept on dichotomy, the indispensable opposition of masculinity and femininity as opposite qualities. Professors S. Bem and D. Bem’s family and professional life proved that favorable gender relations in professional communication contribute to the solution of mental health problems. Androgynous individuals are more adaptive, most successful in building business and interpersonal relationships, productive in career and family, thanks to the ability to create a stable and favorable psychological atmosphere (Bem, 2004).

Modern gender theory is developing within the social constructivist (humanitarian) paradigm. Without disputing biological, social, and psychological distinctions between women and men, it denies causal dependence between male and female anatomy and their social and professional calling. In accordance with the basic gender theory and methodology, biological characteristics of each sex do not imply situations of gender inequality. The hierarchy power system of sex difference is excluded; male and female students are inclined and desire to be engaged in any particular activity, according to their individual abilities and life circumstances.

Production is the process of manufacturing value or material goods necessary for needs of human and society (Bem, 2004), and professional communication in production course is the process of male and female communication (Marshall, 1892) during their professional activity. We organize a shared success activity for both men and women in a modern school (as a production part). The theory and methodology of gender relations in professional communication within the socio-constructivist (humanitarian) paradigm allow teachers and students to create favorable conditions to study the gender approach. Moreover, it leads to egalitarianism self-development and the ability to apply gender knowledge in practice, it teaches to be able to spot gender inequality situations, analyze them and carry out scientific research for emerging gender problems.

Findings

Analysis of gender relations in professional communication at school

Gender Studies Сenter (GSC) at Volgograd State Social-pedagogical University has analyzed gender relations in professional communication at schools in the Volgograd region. The sample includes 27 educational institutions that have the status of an experimental site or seeking to get it, i.e., as it seemed to us, a school open to innovation. We have studied the paper documents, educational programs, extracurricular activities, and experimental work. We attended classes and extracurricular activities during 2017-2019. The survey allows us to divide the employees – teachers at educational institutions, into three groups: "traditionalists", "transition period" followers and "egalitarians".

The first group of teachers - "traditionalists" of gender relations in professional communication at school

The first group, which includes managers and teachers of educational institutions, follows the traditional views and preserves patriarchal gender structure. They are close to the idea of male and female "natural ability" to carry out a job and to traditional male domineering labor. However, they do not consider being supporters of patriarchal views. They name themselves representatives of innovative traditionalism, claiming that they take into account the changes in society. Despite the fact that gender professional communication, in their opinion, should be one-dimensional i.e. for girls and women – the feminine type, and for boys and men – respectively, the masculine type only, it preserves the traditional family values and "everything is more balanced" at work.

During the experiment, representatives of this group, managers and teachers at school, developed educational projects within the biological and evolutionary paradigm. They were convinced that their projects would be approved through appropriate reviews. Our attempts, as experts, to explain that their educational products are based on a gender-differentiated approach, and not gender-oriented, were doomed to failure: “After all, we constantly watch TV girls-go-to-the-left-boys-go-to-the-right-experiments which imply gender approach”. We tried to do some explaining that the leading idea of the gender-oriented approach is gender equality, it doesn’t mean one sex is more domineering than the other, and that these approaches have different methodological grounds, consequently, the examples given by them are founded on misconceptions. These traditionalists’ projects are based on the biological dichotomy between men and women in the workplace, in fact, diametrically different from the social–constructivist (humanitarian) paradigm of gender relations in professional communication. Nevertheless, the project developers were totally against to classify themselves as the authors of the unpopular approach. Only the gender approach was necessary to them (not its essence, but its form) as it is considered innovative. Thus, in line with the biological-evolutionary (traditional) paradigm, traditionalist teachers, according to their conclusions, form a methodological gap between the theory and the egalitarian educational practice, which is in demand today, for understanding of gender relations in professional communication.

The second group - "transition period" followers of gender relations in professional communication at school

We named the second group of teachers, which were mostly experienced teachers, the "transition period" followers because, as it turned out in the study, they only agreed on the ideas of egalitarian relationships, but could not really bring them into educational practice. They theoretically agreed with the importance of taking individual characteristics of men and women equally into the educational process. But when the GSC staff attended their classes, it was found out that in their practice they were not able to implement the gender approach at school. They continued to "replicate" traditional gender stereotypes: women approved only by feminine behavior, men - only masculine, also, they decried the men’s emotionality and women’s assertiveness. The teachers were unable to cope with their own gender stereotypes, which they had learned throughout their lives, to shift to multidimensional and variable understanding and gender relations in professional communication at school. They found it difficult to implement the main innovative idea of the gender approach, which consists in creating favorable conditions for gender relations in accordance with the students’ individual characteristics on their own gender-oriented educational route. The way to eliminate this contradiction is to educate teachers in gender, those teachers who are really striving for innovative educational practice but still follow the "transition period" along the democratic path. They had to start with themselves, with understanding the resources of their own gender identity, the egalitarian potential of gender relations in professional communication. Perhaps, it was necessary to eliminate the "complexes" that prevented productive business and interpersonal communication and to gradually redesign gender behavior during training and other psychological and pedagogical techniques and technologies. It was essential to learn to distinguish evolutionary and biological paradigm from socio-constructivist paradigm, to master gender sensitivity and gender competence.

The third group - "egalitarian" gender relations in professional communication at school

The third group consists mainly of young teachers; they are "egalitarian minded" both theoretically, and practically. And this is not a mere coincidence, young people are really more receptive and easier to adapt to changing conditions in society and production, faster to be included in the social network, they are more mobile. Teachers in this group did not orient their students to gender relations in professional communication as to an "ideal woman" or "ideal man", but stimulated everybody regardless of their gender to reveal and realize the individuality in interpersonal and business communication. Young teachers did not limit their students' dreams of self-realization in future professions, interests and preferred activities to traditional gender stereotypes and prejudices. But despite their great flexibility and dynamism the "egalitarian" group lacked professional and personal experience in professional communication. The results of interviews and observations showed that they badly needed theoretical and methodological guideline to understand gender relations in professional communication and pedagogical models to implement gender relations in the context of the social-constructivist paradigm. Their pedagogical activity was interesting, creative and emotionally-saturated, but fragmentary, intuitive, not systematic and professional. That is the reason why the Gender Studies Center staff at Volgograd State Social-pedagogical University turned out to be quite helpful and appropriate for the "egalitarian-minded" group of young teachers.

Humanitarian model of gender relations in professional communication at school

Dynamics of gender relations in professional communication claimed not only the transition from biological and evolutionary paradigm to a social-constructivist paradigm, or the understanding of gender relations in professional communication to introduce the term "gender" into science. Dynamics were also observed in the transition from an interdisciplinary model to a particular model, specifying the features of the subject of study in each science. In particular, in pedagogical science, there is a coming need to substantiate the humanitarian model of gender relations in professional communication.

The humanitarian model is based on the ideas declaring the right to variability, plurality and uniqueness of human spiritual and educational needs, as opposed to the desire to build communication as if one is an "ideal woman" or "ideal man". Everyone, regardless of gender, is unique in their interests, inclinations, abilities, educational and life difficulties, ways to overcome them, personal life experience, and aspirations. Humanitarianism in gender relations in professional communication at school is the way to address these unique educational and professional needs through business and interpersonal communication, not limited to gender stereotypes, on the way to life satisfaction and comfortable work.

The humanitarian model to implement gender relations in professional communication at school is a new direction in gender pedagogy and is considered as the theory of obtaining and transforming gender knowledge and values, moreover, including content, operation and organization components.

Content component

During the research experiment the teaching staff learned the humanitarian model and the conditions to implement gender relations in professional communication at school. The humanitarian model is considered as an important environment for a comfortable and successful life in society. Equal shared activities between women and men at any enterprise, at educational organization, create conditions for success for all employees irrespective of their sex. All employees are stimulated to creativity, innovation, initiative and making experiments; they are also trained to interact with each other without gender prejudices (Blake & Mouton, 1981). Taking into account little free time on staff’s workday, and not furnishing them with unnecessary information we started with short methodological seminars (no more than 30 minutes). These 30 minutes we used for the video fragments (1-2 minutes) and demonstrated the prejudice origins about the "natural destiny" of men and women to be engaged in labour and various "male" and "female" activities over the centuries, in different historical periods.

The task of gender education is to analyze and to perceive the origins of gender stereotypes that have evolved over the centuries. The story of the biological approach (P. Abelard, Aristotle, Democritus, D. Dominici, etc.) is accompanied by the video episode about a widow woman in the middle Ages, the Guild denied her to inherit after her husband’s death to own and manage the factory for only one reason, her being a woman ("being mentally unbalanced, unable to manage herself", and even more the factory). To those she objects: "Who said so?", and immediately follow the threats that if she does not marry within a week in order to live at home, as a woman should do, and that the husband runs the factory, the factory will be sold out, and she will be put in prison. One more video episode is about the future Queen Margot’s wedding, when she was involved in an arranged marriage. And as she said nothing to the priest’s question, she was forced her head down, which was counted as consent. Here we highlight the ideas of the biological approach as an intellectual heritage in the development of traditional Patriarchal gender. The humanitarian model’s content component helps the teaching staff to understand the origins of gender stereotypes, to reflect on them for further understanding and subsequently develop new gender rules to implement gender relations in professional communication at school. These gender rules meet the requirements of new social reality, gender justice and effective productivity.

Operation component

The operation component of the humanitarian model is to build individual methodological assistance to teachers. We provide pedagogical guidance for the first group of teachers, i.e. "traditionalists", explain to them that if organizing educational activities within biological and evolutionary paradigm, they are guided by some ideal of traditional "male" and "female" qualities; they actually impose restrictions on any individual, students’ interests and opportunities, which due to social pressure may remain unrealized. Therefore, when teachers, representatives of the first group, start wondering where their gender stereotypes come from and why they are so deep, we consider it the first pedagogical result of gender education.

We provide pedagogical support to the second group of teachers so that they can pass the "transition period" pain-free and they don’t act automatically and traditionally when teaching, but move on to the scientific search for new issues. For example, from "gender differences" (Blake & Mouton, 1985; Ptacek et al., 1992; Torkelson & Muhonen, 2004) , to the scientific field of other issues: gender equality, shared creativity regardless of employees’ gender, equal interpersonal relations, business etiquette in professional communication, improving the comfort of communication, contributing to better work, and etc.

For representatives of the third group of "egalitarian" teachers, we provide pedagogical support in their creative and scientific search. In staff training sessions, they search for stories about successful people and how to achieve such success – men in traditional "female" professions, and women in traditionally "male" professions. Students analyze what qualities help them to realize productive gender relations in professional communication at educational institutions.

Organization component

The organization component of the humanitarian implementation model of gender relations in professional communication at school involves a continuous educational process that enables permanent work, a desire to improve the school's image and personal self-improvement, expanding the boundaries of "gender display" (I. Goffman, etc.), normative canons of masculinity, femininity, restructuring gender identity.

We carry out experiments with teachers who need to figure out whether they discover gender stereotypes that were previously invisible to them: for example, who they trust more – a male scientist, a male driver, a male writer, a male artist, a male architect, a male manager, a male pilot or a woman for the same professions. We also compare examples from educational practice, analyze scientific-pedagogical grounds and ask teachers to say if they belong to the social-constructivist paradigm or the biological–evolutionary one. To answer the question of whether the concept of "gender" is introduced as the main mechanism for managing social relations, opportunities for self-realization, or natural (biological) differences between men and women. We ask to reflect and give examples when it is worth showing hegemonic masculinity and femininity, tolerant and situational gender identity in gender relations of professional communication at school.

We measure pedagogical results of gender education for teachers by special tests and the analysis of educational products developed by them: projects, educational programs and schedules, lesson outlines and syllabus and extracurricular activity, and other means and methods to apply the gender approach at school (Anisimova et al., 2019; Davis et al., 2017). It allows observing if there are changes in gender consciousness of teachers and their gender interrelations, if their gender sensitivity and gender competence increase, eliminating methodological gap between pedagogical theory and educational practice.

The discussed dynamics of gender relations in professional communication testifies to the prospects of its further and more in-depth study.

Conclusion

The change of paradigms from biological-evolutionary (traditional) to social-constructivist (humanitarian) revealed the dynamics of gender relations in professional communication. Modern gender theory, developing in the context of socio-constructivist paradigm, denies any causal relationship between the anatomy of men and women and their social and productive natural ability. Suppression of one sex by another is not allowed. The choice of activities and professions is determined by inclinations, interests, individual abilities and life circumstances, and not by gender.

The dynamics of gender relations in professional communication is also found in the gender theory development, the transition from interdisciplinary to the specifics of gender studies in each individual science, as far the Humanities concerned – in Pedagogy.

Analysis of gender relations in professional communication at schools in the Volgograd region revealed three groups of teachers: "traditionalists", "transition period" followers and "egalitarians". For these groups of teachers, the humanitarian model of gender relations in professional communication at school was implemented through the content, operation and organization component.

The results of gender education for teachers were checked via specially designed tests and analysis of educational products developed by the teachers: projects, educational programs, lessons and extracurricular activities outlines, tools and techniques for applying gender approach at schools, allowing to observe how changes occur in their gender identity, gender relations, business etiquette skills and professional interpersonal interaction, how their gender sensitivity to gender inequality situations increases, as well as gender competence in general, erasing the methodological gap between pedagogical theory and educational practice.

The dynamics of gender relations in professional communication testifies to its further and more in-depth study.

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Publisher

European Publisher

First Online

28.12.2020

Doi

10.15405/epsbs.2020.12.04.104

Online ISSN

2357-1330