The Lived Embodiment of Gender and Disability Within Sheltered and Mainstream Employment

Bend, G. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This paper will draw on the embodied experience of gender and disability identity of those who have a disability within two different type of employment: sheltered employment and mainstream employment.
Specifically, this paper will explore the experiences of recruitment, maintaining employment, progressing or transition in employment, and leaving employment for men and women with a disability. Research has
demonstrated that individuals who are identified cis male, i.e. women and individuals with a disability, and even more so disabled women, experience discrimination on the face of their identity (Woodhams et al.,
2015). Many disabled employees experience difficulties due to their impairment which requires adapting to, or adapting, their working environment (Baumberg, 2015). Specific to employment, support systems
often fail to take in to consideration the embodiment of gender and disability by not proving ongoing moral support, which further promotes social inequality with working environment both physically and mentally (Wright, 2015). Post structuralist feminists such as Judith Butler (1990) argues that gender is a socially constructed and performative identity that is distinct from biological sex; this line of reasoning had also been applied to disability when discussing impairment and disability (Sherry, 2005). However, using a lens of posthumanism can facilitate the move away from representationalism (Barad, 2007), thus away from the duality of binary distinctions (Knights, 2015), as it forms the ‘robust foundations to study and critique the social mechanism that support the construction of key identities, institutions and practices’ (Braidotti, 2013, p.3). This research study aims to contribute theoretically and empirically within gender and disability research field. Within disability studies, embodiment and ateriality is becoming increasingly popular to further the debate on disability experiences for those within the critical disability theory (Flynn, 2017; Goodley, 2013). This paper draws on the intersectionality of feminist disability studies (Garland-Thomas, 2005) and performativity (Barad, 2007), underpinned by posthumanism (Braidotti, 2013), to explore how lived embodied experiences within employment disrupt entrenched stereotypical assumptions about disability and gender (Flynn, 2017). Feminist disability studies, performativity and posthumanism combined allows for voices that are too easily dismissed to be heard by presenting the actual lived experiences of those whom have a disability, within the socio-cultural environment of the workplace, which have been previously misrepresented (Garland-Thomas, 2005). Empirically this paper will draw on two data sets: first ethnographic participant observations and twelve interviews with management and shop floor workers, who have a disability, within a charity based workshop; Secondly nine (currently) interviews with individuals who have a disability and work, or have worked, in mainstream employment. The findings from a thematic analysis will highlight the embodied experiences of employment such as interactions with the physical space, interactions with others, and the inner workings of the individuals body demonstrating how intersecting identities can impact employment experiences.
PeriodJun 2018
Event titleGender, Work and Organisation 10th Biennial International Interdisciplinary Conference
Event typeConference
Conference number10
LocationSydney, Australia, New South Wales
Degree of RecognitionInternational