Negotiating occupational identity: Women brewers and gendered territories of embodied work

Rydzik, Agnieszka and Ellis, Victoria (2016) Negotiating occupational identity: Women brewers and gendered territories of embodied work. In: Work, Employment and Society Conference, 6-8th September 2016, University of Leeds.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive


This paper explores how women in male-dominated occupations involving physical work, in this case brewers, negotiate and construct their occupational identity, the discourse they create around their ‘working body’ and their suitability for the role.

Women in male-dominated environments face unique challenges and use distinct coping strategies to negotiate their occupational identity (Martin & Barnard, 2013). Although there exists substantial literature on women in non-traditional occupations, limited attention has been given to their embodied experiences. Within the relatively vast literature on embodiment, the body of the worker has received scarce interest in the fields of sociology of work, sociology of the body as well as organisational research (Wolkowitz, 2006). Little consideration has been given to corporeality of female workers, particularly in relation to non-traditional roles requiring physical work and those outside of feminised occupations involving emotional labour (Bolton, 2009), aesthetic labour (Witz et al., 2003) and body work (Holmes, 2015; Twigg et al., 2011, Wolkowitz, 2006). Yet, it is vital to recognise the gendered and embodied experiences of women, and challenge the homogeneity and standardization of the worker’s body to better understand the ‘immediate situated activity of their work’ within these often gendered environments (Healy, Hansen & Ledwith, 2006: 291).

Despite increasing numbers of women entering the sector, microbrewing industry remains largely male-dominated. To date, brewing as a profession and the gendered and embodied nature of the work have been largely overlooked by scholars. Focusing on subjective experiences of an un-researched group of women brewers, this paper gives insight into the gendered territories of brewers’ embodied work. By foregrounding the corporeality of female workers performing physical labour, it seeks to capture the physical dimension of brewer’s role and the (in)visibility of female worker’s body in these male-dominated workplaces. The paper explores the ways in which the worker’s body is central to the enactment of their work and negotiation of their occupational identity.

Adopting the feminist phenomenological approach, this qualitative study is based on sixteen interviews with female brewers in the women-only network ‘Project Venus’ (bringing together female brewers from the United Kingdom and Ireland, and engaging them in collaborative action and co-creation) as well as participant observation conducted at Project Venus brewing events. Drawing on women brewers’ verbal narratives as well as visual representations of the brewing process and the brewer’s role, the study explores the embodied work of women brewers. Focusing on physical work and bodily performance of the worker, it aims to further (re)conceptualise the body/work nexus.

Keywords:body/work nexus, Occupational identity, gender and work
Subjects:L Social studies > L300 Sociology
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
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ID Code:24103
Deposited On:16 Sep 2016 08:58

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