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An Investigation of Silence and a Scrutiny of Transparency: Re-examining Gender in Organization Literature Through the Concepts of Voice and Visibility

By Ruth Simpson and Patricia Lewis


This article presents a review of the literature on gender and organizations through the twin concepts of 'voice' and 'visibility'. In gender studies, as in other areas, the concepts have been used at different levels of abstraction to analyse inequality and exclusion. However, we argue that their potential richness has not been fully exploited and we accordingly produce a 'framework' which is based on 'surface' and 'deep' conceptualizations. These conform broadly to liberal feminist and post-structuralist interpretations respectively. With 'voice', we therefore distinguish between the 'surface' act of speaking/being heard as discussed within 'women's voice' literature and, at a deeper level, the power of silence as discursive practices eliminate certain issues from arenas of speech and sound. Similarly, we can see visibility as a 'surface' state of exclusion and difference while, at a deeper level, conceptualizations can usefully explore the power of 'invisibility' and the battle for the (male) norm. Through the concepts of voice and visibility, and through exploring commonalities and tensions between and within the two conceptual levels, we help to illuminate the increasingly diverse field of gender and organizational studie

Topics: H
Year: 2005
DOI identifier: 10.1177/0018726705058940
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