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Richard Gasparini

Richard Gasparini
A Bourdieusian Analysis of Gender Capital in Ontario College Administrations

Empirical support exists for the notion of slow but steady growth toward gender-equitable and more integrated managerialist structures across Canadian college administrations (Vitality 2015). The researcher’s Master’s thesis rendered supportive results in Ontario. How do we explain this process? Do females advance through leadership paths because they adopt hegemonic and performative male constructs in a masculine cultured economy? (Reay and Ball 2000) Is leadership within college administrative environments itself gendered? If so, what is the phenomenological impact on gender identity and the lived experience of gender in the workplace?

Some feminists contend that, to advance their careers, females use gender to accrue social capital resembling an economic resource which is then effectively traded for gain in the workplace. This dichotomous understanding of gender practice implies an androcentric sub-text – an accommodative more than integrative acceptance of gender differences (Calvert and Ramsey 1996, Puwar 2004). An intersectional and multi-dimensional interrogation of dominant meso-organizational paradigms in college administrative environments invites more nuanced discourse. The inherently masculine and feminine embodiments of management structures (Wajcman 1998, Collinson 1992), inclusive of traditional, exogenously-imposed role expectations and even race or ethnicity (Blackmore 2006) may subtly inform and reproduce individually gendered practices among the lived experiences of the organization’s middle management employees and contractors.

My project examines gender identity as a form of social capital, an endless dialectic, relational and evolving within middle management fields in diverse Ontario colleges neatly concealed by occupational structures. A prism through which to examine this phenomenon is Bourdieu’s (1977) concepts of capital, habitus and field (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992, Iellatchitch, et. al 2003). Although the theorist was ‘gender blind’, instead preferring class as the primary structure of social space, Huppatz (2012) and other feminists (Moi 1991) have adopted and expanded Bourdieu’s concepts to advance the primacy of gender as a form of social capital and a means of informing and understanding gendered practices in the workplace.

This eclectic approach admits movement beyond the gendered presentation of identities as the traditional product of relatively stable (and some say masculinist) organizational practices to an understanding of identity as a multi-layered agentic process of dynamically-shaped and relational identity construction: paradoxical, fluid and emergent (Pullen, 2006).


The objective of my research is to examine the influence of gender on managerialism in Ontario college administrative environments. Bourdieusian concepts will be used to investigate the relationship among objective social structures such as the college organizational environment and everyday gendered practices. While Bourdieu predicated gender capital to class, his logic lends itself to gender study (Taksa and Kalfa 2015). This dissertation, unique in Ontario, proposes an exploration of how individuals, as capital-bearing agents, successfully appropriate gender identities as a form of capital and possibly other multi-dimensional symbolic configurations in the managerial fields of college administration to achieve desired career path goals.

Therefore, the research objectives are:

  1. Using a questionnaire, to gain insight into how ‘gender capital’ is operationalized in Ontario college administrative contexts;
  2. Through interviews, to investigate how gender dispositions and distinctions, as constituent elements of gender capital, are symbolically legitimated and affect career progression; and
  3. With the assistance of both surveys and interviews, to develop an understanding about the impact of gender identities and sexed subjectivities on managerial practices in the occupational spaces found in college administrative environments.


Research Degree: PhD, Part-time
Department: Sociology