not4sale From time to time I write about the commercialization of higher education. Some of my writings are even based on actual research, using interviews with administrators and faculty at various universities. Yet, I have to confess that my own administrative involvements –two long stints as chair of large departments– have provided me with insights that no interview could provide, sensitizing me to the commercial pressures affecting virtually everything about higher education these days.

A case in point: the emergence of revenue generating Master’s programs. This is of course a global phenomenon –one in which European universities  are actually ahead of their US counterparts. American universities are catching up rapidly, though, largely due to declining levels of state support for higher education and to demographic shifts that have reduced the supply of naïve 18-year olds with access to federal loans. Another factor (which sorely needs attention) is the spread of new budget systems such as “resource centered management” which require each academic division to generate its own revenue, rather than relying on the largesse of the central administration. The results of these pressures have compelled many universities to fetishize enrollments to an unprecedented degree. Thus one exasperated colleague of mine, appalled by the revenue-driven nature of curricular design these days, remarked that she had begun to feel “we’re not trying to educate students so much as capture them.” It seems that we’ve moved beyond seeing students as mere “customers,” and now view them as virtual ATMs.

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A new study published by researchers at North Carolina State University tackles the challenge of shopping for, preparing and sharing healthful family meals.  In “The Joy of Cooking?,” Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott and Joslyn Brenton describe women in particular as struggling to enact cultural ideals associated with home-cooked meals.  Expensive ingredients, time pressures and picky eaters seem to conspire against them, with poor, working-class and middle-class mothers all feeling the pinch.

The study’s findings were hotly debated in recent weeks, with coverage and commentary in outlets such as Slate, PBS and The New York Times focusing almost exclusively on values and priorities.  Some praised the study for questioning the idealization of burdensome family dinners.  Others called for increased commitment to home-cooked family meals, citing the rewards of time spent together and noting how easy and rewarding meal preparation can be.

Because the debate’s participants have primarily viewed the issues through lenses of family and food rather than work, very little of the debate has broached the root causes of families’ mealtime struggles:  deteriorating employment opportunities, stagnant wages, and changing expectations of workers. Read More

Guysby Kristen Schilt

Recently the New Republic featured a story about how the workplace experiences of transgender men and women can shed light on occupational gender equality more broadly. Jessica Nordell interviewed me for the article, and we talked extensively about the research I did for my first book, Just One of the Guys, that focuses on the work lives of transgender men in Texas and California. I argue in the book that trans men can develop what Patricia Hill Collins calls an “outsider-within” perspective from the unique experience of having worked on both sides of the gender binary. This experience can put into high relief the often-invisible social processes that produce and maintain a workplace gender gap. As many of the men I interviewed noted, bringing their appearances in line with their feeling of maleness could bring a noticeable change in their workplace treatment – a change that one man described as going from “bossy” to “take charge.” However, white and heterosexual trans men reported more positive changes in their treatment from co-workers and employers than trans men of color and gay trans men.

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hrmgrIt is not surprising that work organizations want to become more socially diverse.  Google, whose workforce of 48,600 is 30% female and whose top-ranking managers are 8% female, just announced sweeping plans to improve diversity at the company. How can they successfully accomplish this given the challenges of recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce? And once they achieve a diverse work group, how can they handle the challenges of managing this diversity?

I recently came across two articles that draw on very different settings that help answer these two questions. The first was featured in a WSJ article, co-authored by management scholars David R. Heckman, Wei Yang, and Maw Der Foo. The second was co-authored by sociology PhD student, Brad R. Fulton and fellow sociologists, Ruth Braunstein and Richard L. Wood, in the journal American Sociological Review .

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Domestic worker

Source: International Labour Organization

by Christelle Avril and Marie Cartier

Home-based service jobs have developed considerably across Western societies. In fact, chances are high that a working-class woman in France today will, at some point in her life, be a house cleaner, home-based childcare provider, or home aide for the elderly. Political, scholarly, and everyday discourses, saturated with the double prejudices of gender and class, treat all these home service occupations, which require little prior training, the same. In our article (here), we illuminate the variability of the forms of subordination experienced by women in these occupations in France.

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Fear no more, fellow females and anybody interested in gender equality, research is supporting ‘optimism about a better world to come’. Thus tells us Tyler Cowen in the New York Times, and he is not talking about any old optimism but about that of John Stuart Mill, one of the great old thinkers of economics. So it’s gender equality optimism with an extra-dose of gravitas and academic credibility. In his NYT piece Cowen reviews two recent books that study gender inequality through an economics lens. According to these studies, women ‘are perceived as easier to take advantage of in … economic settings’ and ‘participate less in many public settings, especially those in which real power is exercised.’ But ‘once women achieve a critical mass in a particular area, their participation grows rapidly’, says Cowen. Read More

A recent New York Times article by

The article discusses sociologist Michelle Budig‘s research showing that bias affecting fathers and mothers varies by income level: Men with high incomes see the largest pay increase for having children; mothers with low incomes experience the lowest relative earnings. The article also discusses sociologist Shelly J. Correll‘s finding that “employers rate fathers as the most desirable employees, followed by childless women, childless men and finally mothers.” In Correll’s words, “A lot of these effects really are very much due to a cultural bias against mothers.”


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