University College Dublin Smurfit Business School, Ireland
This paper seeks to bring into sharper focus an enduring work ritual, namely long hours, to illustrate and develop the connection between gender discrimination and a firm’s economic model. Commencing from a position that long hours are a form of “currency”, and the gold standard underpinning the business model of many professions, this paper queries whether it is possible to contest systemic (if rationalizable) discrimination without challenging long hours and their importance in the reward structure of organisational life (Stiller Rikleen, 2013). In short, this paper seeks to develop a conceptual framework within which to imagine how work, and gender, might be “done” differently. This interpretation proposes that gender inequality in the workplace is reproduced as a logical and predictable consequence of decisions about the performance of work. Long hours are acknowledged to be a crucial component of “what it takes” to succeed (Donnelly, 2006) and accordingly, are implicated in sustaining “inequality regimes” (Acker, 2006). Viewed thus, long hours are not merely a smokescreen for slippery concepts such as cultural bias, or in-group favouritism (Gorman, 2005). Rather, as a unit of analysis, long hours are perhaps the “smoking gun”, the instrument by which the injury of discrimination is inflicted; the means by which women are excluded, even when such end is unintentional. The research further develops the proposition that long hours are an artefact of unchallenged organizational culture, an expression of socially, structurally and institutionally reinforced assumptions about how work is done and whether it is in the “doing” of work that women’s career ambitions are undone.