Charity, Retail or Care? Gender and managerialism in the charity retail sector


Parsons E & Broadbridge A (2007) Charity, Retail or Care? Gender and managerialism in the charity retail sector. Women in Management Review, 22 (7), pp. 552-567.

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore how gender identity is played out in a particular type of work setting, that of charity retail, and to explore the impacts of increased managerialism on this process of identity construction. Design/Methodology/approach - The paper is informed by interviews with 22 charity shop managers from three UK cities. The narratives of three of these managers are chosen for more in-depth analysis. The paper focuses primarily on understandings of identity as practised, exploring the enactment of a series of conflicting and overlapping ‘selves’ in the workplace. The practices and discourses surrounding the retail (or businesslike) self, the charitable self and the caring self in particular are discussed. Findings - We find that the process of creeping managerialism in the sector both values and promotes the discourses of ‘retail’ but marginalises those of ‘charity and of ‘care’. This presents serious dilemmas of identity for charity shop managers and is a source of considerable stress for them. However we also found that managers were using the discourses of charity and of care to resist this managerial process. Thus we focus on the ways in which gendered identities are constrained and enabled by and through the discourses circulating in organisational life. We also have a series of observations to PAGE 3 make concerning the future possibilities that retail work in particular might offer for identity construction. Research limitations/implications – The analysis is based on a small sample of qualitative interviews, therefore the findings are not meant to be generalisable to the wider population. This ‘vignette’ approach allows us to explore in some depth the relations between identity construction and organisational context. Originality/value – Empirical paper using an alternative lens to analyse gender identity and the impacts of increasing managerialism on processes of identity construction. Highlights in particular the continual struggles over meaning within organisations.

identity; gender; managerialism; retail managers; charity retail

Women in Management Review: Volume 22, Issue 7

Publication date31/12/2007