‘Doing Something Meaningful’: Gender and Public Service during Municipal Government Restructuring


*Diana Worts, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, 725 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5S 2J4, E-mail: dworts@chass.utoronto.ca


Research on the gendered dimensions of workplace restructuring often focuses on management strategies and their structural consequences. Less attention is paid to employees’ gendered practices. In this article, we analyse material from in-depth interviews with front-line public-sector employees following a major reorganization of their jobs and workplaces. Our study makes three contributions to theory and research on gender and organizational change. Firstly, it highlights the micro-level dynamics at the heart of restructuring by showing how workers engaged with an ideal that was central to their understanding of public-sector work — the public-service ethic — which they believed was threatened. Secondly, it highlights the importance of gendered meanings and identities in shaping how workers engaged with the public service ethic. Thirdly, the study shows that front-line employees did not passively accept management plans for change but struggled to resist or transform them in gendered strategies for dealing with organizational change.