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by Paula McDonald

Changing gender relations have meant that young people increasingly expect to share paid work and care in their relationships. Yet there is continued evidence of ‘gender fates’. This can be seen in fewer girls than boys choosing STEM subjects at school, the dominance of men in trades occupations and women working in early childhood education, the predominance of women choosing to work part-time hours, and persistent sex discrimination in the workplace.

How can this divergence between young people’s aspirations for gender equality, and the reality of the gendered status quo, be explained? My recent study, which comprised 123 interviews with young Australians aged between 16 and 26, sheds light on this issue. It suggests that the way men and women negotiate their respective roles at the household level is key to understanding why the dynamics of work and care over the life course have been slow to change.

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by Brooke Harrington

The story of financialization, as told by sociologists, has been the story of firms. Corporate structures and wealth have put investors at the forefront of the global political economy since the 1970s. The rise of the investor has radically transformed our world, increasing inequality and shifting the balance of power in ways that benefit rentier finance over nearly everyone and everything else.

This account, I argue, is persuasive but incomplete. Among other things, it leaves out another key player in the story of financialization: the trust. Trusts are asset-holding structures that are widely used to preserve private wealth and make complex commercial arrangements—like mutual funds, bond issues, and asset securitization—possible.  In a recent article in Socio-Economic Review, I make the case that trusts have to be considered as co-stars in the financialization story—and sometimes as competitors for the leading role.

In several key domains of finance, trusts dominate, yet they are little known outside the practice of corporate finance or the circles of the ultra-rich (the main creators and beneficiaries of private trusts). Trusts have played a key role in significant political and economic events of recent years, from the Panama Papers to the subprime mortgage crisis, but they have received virtually no interest from researchers in sociology.

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by Sarah E. Patterson and Sarah Damaske

In 2013, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg directed women to “lean in” at work by taking individual initiative to move into leadership positions. While Sandberg acknowledges that women are behind men in terms of promotion and pay, she suggested these gender differences could be explained primarily by the choices women were making at work. Sociologists have long been skeptical of such an individual framing, as we were.

In the study described here, we seek to understand the primary factors driving gender differences among MBA graduates, asking: do women’s and men’s pathways diverge following completion of the MBA program? If so, how and why do they diverge?

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by Dirk Witteveen and Paul Attewell

As enrollments in the American secondary and post-secondary school system grew throughout the 20th century, so did the meritocratic ideal of social mobility. Most people came to believe that stable employment can be secured through hard work in school and by obtaining educational credentials – and to a large extent, this holds true. Both school performance and educational attainment are positively and strongly associated with better, safer, and higher-paying jobs. The more education, the better.

But meritocracy makes another promise: educational diplomas could erase the effect of parental class background on their offspring’s destiny in the labor market. Popular culture celebrates the idea that no matter what your parents do, graduating from college is your ticket into the middle class. So, the American higher educational system is proclaimed the “Great Equalizer,” with the bachelor’s degree as the ultimate vehicle for upward mobility.

Some sociological research published since the 1980s has confirmed that a college degree fulfills this promise, leading scholars to state that the chances of achieving economic success are independent of social background among those who attain a BA. In our study, recently published in Social Forces, we present analyses that challenge this upbeat conclusion.

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by Gaye Yilmaz and Sue Ledwith

Migrating women may escape conflict, war, poverty, family pressures and responsibilities, and fear of sexual oppression. But they also find themselves caught between the twin ideologies of patriarchy and religion.

This was the case for the 120 women migrants we interviewed for our book, Migration and Domestic Work. All are now domestic workers in London, Berlin or Istanbul. Most were either Muslim or Christian with a handful who were Buddhist, Hindu or Pagan. Twenty atheists had come to disbelief from the two main religions.

These women’s migration decisions, their domestic and working lives, the possibilities for collective solidarity and for joining trade unions, were all influenced by patriarchical gender ideology. When combined with their religion, these pressures were difficult to resist. They were also policed across continents by family: ‘My parents very often phone and check whether I am going to church or fulfill my religious obligations.’

Few of the women in our study positively sought to be a migrant. Yesterday’s refugee is today’s migrant. Regardless of their dreams of a better life, they all finished up far from home, as domestic workers.

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By Mónica L. Caudillo

Although women’s participation in the labor force has increased substantially in the last decades, there is still a large gender gap in political representation in the United States. As of 2017, women occupy only about 20% of the elective offices in the country. Sociologists have found evidence that early involvement in organizations requiring the exercise of political skills is strongly linked to sustained future political participation, higher confidence in leadership skills, and political interest. Thus, increasing young women’s early participation in political organizations could be instrumental to close the gender gap in political representation.

What factors shape young women’s participation in political organizations?

The answer may in part come from one’s childhood environment. Children tend to be strongly influenced by the gender roles they observe within their families. Daughters’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are often deeply influenced by the extent to which their mothers comply with or reject traditional gender scripts. For instance, social scientists have found connections between growing up with an employed mother, and daughters’ positive attitudes towards being employed themselves, holding authority positions, and participating in politics.

In a recent study published in the April 2017 Social Science Research, I show that Millennial women who grew up with a full-time employed mother are indeed more likely to participate in political organizations as young adults, compared to daughters of part-time employed or stay-at-home mothers. This is true for daughters of relatively disadvantaged mothers, with high school or less education. But according to my findings, there is no relationship between maternal employment and the early participation in political organizations among daughters of mothers with at least some college, and sons of mothers with any education level.

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Mother and baby girl lying on the bed together looking at each other.

 by Amy Blackstone

While we give the mothers in our lives their well-deserved thanks and recognition, this Mother’s Day, let’s remember something very important about motherhood: It’s not a given. Not every woman wants to be a mom.

Despite our culture’s deeply held belief that women are uniquely wired to want children, the notion of maternal instinct is a myth. Evidence for the idea that women are innately drawn to having children is scant, if it exists at all.

Not one of the over 700 entries in Sage Publishing’s Encyclopedia of Motherhood is dedicated to the concept of maternal instinct.

Professor Maria Vicedo-Castello reviewed the history of scientific views about maternal instinct and concluded that “there is no scientific evidence to claim that there is a maternal instinct that automatically gives women the desire to have children, makes women more emotional than men, confers upon them a higher capacity for nurturance, and makes them better equipped to rear children than men.”

If women were really born with a maternal instinct, we would see birth rates stay the same through the years. Even the feminist movement of the 1960s and ‘70s that expanded educational and workforce opportunities for many women shouldn’t change which women decide to be parents. But childfree adulthood has been on the rise since then.

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