The organizational gendering of adulting: negotiating age and gender in the workplace

Riach, Kathleen and Brewis, Joanna (2019). The organizational gendering of adulting: negotiating age and gender in the workplace. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Equality and Diversity, 5(1)


While growing up is recognized as an important transitional period that lays the foundations for future gendered expectations, behaviours and trajectories, we know little of how this process is negotiated within the context of specific organizations. This paper advances life course approaches to age and employment through developing the popular cultural concept of ‘adulting’ as a lens through which to understand the ongoing process of growing up in the context of work, and how ageing traverses gender in this regard and vice versa. Drawing on 31 interviews with employees from a UK hedge fund, it presents three analytical motifs to help illuminate the gendered negotiation and reproduction of adulting at work. These concern: how men and women entered the hedge fund and progressed within it; decisions around starting a family; and how parenthood is navigated in this organization. Situating our findings within relevant debates surrounding gender, age and organizational life, we argue that adulting provides a way of articulating some of the complex ways that gender manifests in the formative stages of men and women’s career trajectories. Equally, the broader destabilizing of emerging adulthood notwithstanding, our analysis also suggests the enduring seduction and attraction of ‘stabilizing’ gendered ageing practices, shedding some light on why they might continue to persist.

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