chapter  27
16 Pages

Linda McDowell, and Gill Court, 'Missing Subjects: Gender, Sexuality and Power in Merchant Banking' (1994)

One consequence of the expansion of the service sector, however, is that increasing numbers of men are also employed in these jobs, which Leidner (1991) has termed interactive service occupations, in which personal bodily attributes and character traits are a significant part of the job. These jobs involve selling the worker as part of the overall service. As Leidner argues, “these jobs differ from other types of work in that the distinctions among product, work process, and worker are blurred or non-existent, since the quality of the interaction may itself be part of the service offered” (1991, 155). These jobs, she argues,

As these jobs are increasingly central to the economy, and will no doubt become even more significant (Christopherson 1989; Sayer and Walker 1992; Smith, Knights, and Willmott 1991), a set of new and interesting questions is posed for economic geographers interested in the causes and consequences of new social and spatial divisions of labor. In particular, it seems clear that a new set of issues about subjectivity and gendered identities should become central to economic geography. We should begin to consider how the char­ acteristics of service sector jobs are connected to the gendered attributes of workers and how this varies across space and time. Are the familiar patterns of sex segregation in the labor market being restructured and, if so, how and to whose advantage? (McDowell 1991) How do jobs become gendered in the first place? What flexibility is there in this process? And how is the gender encodement of tasks achieved and maintained or contested and challenged? While some of these questions have been addressed with reference to man­ ufacturing, only a few studies have raised similar questions in relation to the expansion of service sector occupations in advanced economies. In the main, these studies have focused on the bottom end of the sector, on what might perhaps be termed “servicing” occupations, such as secretarial work (Pringle 1989), selling fast food (Crang 1992; Gabriel 1988; Leidner 1991), and selling insurance (Leidner 1991; Knights and Morgan 1991; Morgan and Knights 1991). Little investigation has been carried out of the ways in which the construction and manipulation of gendered identities have been important in the expansion of that set of high-powered, high-status occupations, particu­ larly in the financial services sector, that have been portrayed as the epitome of success in 1980s Britain and North America. This paper focuses on a subset of such occupations: high-status employment within merchant banking.