Author Archives: Julie Kmec

blind audition

Image: Igen, CCO Public Domain, Pixaby

A lot of us are familiar with the story, thanks to economists Goldin and Rouse and later Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, about the innovation in orchestra auditions. In the 1970s, when auditions consisted of a musician performing in front of judges, orchestras were nearly 95% male.  When orchestras turned to blind auditions—ones in which the identity of the musician was hidden by a screen—women’s share of orchestras rose to about 25%.  These blind auditions, it seemed, allowed judges to assess musicians on quality alone, leaving no room for gender bias (or any other prejudices) to enter the assessment process.

This leads me to consider two questions:

  1. Does gender bias exist outside of orchestra settings?
  2. If so, can blind auditions minimize gender bias outside of orchestra settings?

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Image: keepingtime_ca via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Image: keepingtime_ca via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This past week, voters in Houston struck down Proposition 1, or HERO (the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance), which would have barred discrimination on the basis of race, age, military status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and additional categories in non-religiously based organizations and institutions.

Several things come to mind in light of the vote.

HERO was drafted by Houston Mayor Annise Parker, certainly not the first female mayor or a major city but the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city.  The bill’s opposition could be, in some way, opposition to an openly gay woman seen as “favoring her own,” a barrier many minority leaders face.  While it is rare for straight, white male leaders get accused of passing legislation that benefits other straight, white men, it turns out that women and minorities are deemed as “selfish” and disliked if they attempt to promote other minority groups.

But would HERO have passed if a straight, white man drafted it?  Maybe not because of the way HERO was framed by opponents.

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Matthew Futterman’s recent piece in The Wall Street JournalThe U.S. Soccer Double Standard,” should sound very familiar to scholars of work.

He makes the very strong case that women athletes in the U.S. are held to a different standard than men.  The evidence?  Female soccer players on the UNDEFEATED 2015 U.S. World Cup team are accused of “sloppy, uncreative play” (despite outscoring opponents by a wide margin), having “unsatisfying wins,” and some players are even apologizing for some victories, saying that their play will improve.  The coach has even been defensive in response to recent victories.

In contrast, Futterman goes on to point out, soccer players in last year’s men’s U.S. World Cup team won one game (against Ghana), tied a game (against Portugal), and lost to Germany and Belgium yet were hailed as the “spunky underdogs storming the gates of the soccer establishment” and widely celebrated upon their return home.  I’m not able to find record of ANY member of the men’s national team apologizing for their 2014 World Cup performance. The double standard, some argue, is because we have heightened expectations for women to win—and win big—and expect less of the men.  The women recently won two World Cup titles (in 1991 and 1999) and at the start of World Cup play were ranked second in the world by FIFA. The men have qualified for every World Cup since 1990 but have never won a title.

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SOURCE: Public Domain Pictures

Searching for that perfect Mother’s Day gift this year?  My suggestion is some reading material, all of which you can find here.  So go ahead and share this with loved ones this weekend.

Gift Idea #1:  Workplace Tips for Mom-to-Be

There’s the study “Professional Image Maintenance: How Women Navigate Pregnancy in the Workplace.” By Laura M. Little, Virginia Smith Major, Amanda S. Hinojosa, and Debra L. Nelson recently published in the Academy of Management Journal.

The authors were interested in understanding professional image maintenance at work. More specifically, they asked how employees sought to managing others’ perceptions of them, the better to maintain a viable professional image. In one of their three studies presented in the paper, they interviewed a sample of 35 mostly white, pregnant or recently pregnant working women employed in a range of jobs. The question they posed was this:  How does pregnancy affect working women’s professional experiences?

By and large, interviews revealed that pregnant women actively engage in “image maintenance.”  They actively attempt to manage others’ perceptions and reactions to their pregnancy in order to preserve the professional image they had before revealing their pregnancy.  Interviewees felt this image maintenance was necessary in order to avoid being stereotyped as “delicate” or “cute” or “irresponsible”—all of which have negative implications for their professional image and careers. Others cited the need to ensure that others did not see them as more likely to quit (which would have reduced their changes of winning good job assignments, promotions, etc.). How did these women do this?

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busy-600x600Before you continue reading, I want you to do an experiment.  Go to the first person you see and ask them, “How are you?”

My guess is that a lot of people you asked (especially if you are at work) said, “Busy.” (I suspect the runner-up responses are “Tired” or “Stressed” which are related to being busy.).

If you are wondering what happened to the response “I’m fine” or “I’m OK,” read on.

In her new book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the TimeBrigid Schulte draws on research from psychology, sociology, management, economics, medicine, and personal experience to talk about being “time poor” or simply  being busy.  The book has generated a great deal of interest, been reviewed in the NY Times, the Washington Post, and was named a top book of 2014. Read More

tilt deskThat women are paid less than men at work is not news.  In the U.S., a gender pay gap is nearly ubiquitous.  Even in Hollywood.  We’ve figured out the gender pay gap is largely an artifact of women and men working in different jobs (and the jobs men work in simply pay more than the ones women work in). Yet when women and men work in similar jobs, men still tend to earn more than their female counterparts. What accounts for this difference?

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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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ussoccerlogo Perhaps you have heard of Landon Donovan.  He is a professional soccer play for the L.A. Galaxy and the all-time leader in both scoring and assists for the U.S. national soccer team and one of the few in the U.S. professional soccer league who has who has registered both 60 goals and 60 assists.  He’s played professionally in both the U.S. and abroad since the age of 17 (he is now 32) and has made successful World Cup appearances for the U.S. national team, scoring five goals in World Cup play.

Perhaps you have also heard that he was recently cut from the final 23-man US men’s national team’s World Cup roster. Some speculate he was cut because his skill level has recently declined (yet days after he was cut from the national team, he broke the MLS record for most goals scored in the regular season) or because of the U.S. men’s national coach could not stand having a star detract attention from him.

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pink collarI recently talked with my colleague, Associate Professor of Sociology at Washington State University, Dr. Jennifer Schwartz about her April 2013 American Sociological Review collaboration with Darrell Steffensmeier and Michael Roche entitled “Gender and Twenty-First-Century Corporate Crime: Female Involvement and the Gender Gap in Enron-Era Corporate Frauds.”

The article is of particular interest to readers of this blog for its application of theories of work (e.g., homosocial reproduction, network theory, and theories of power at work) to explain the connection between gender and corporate malfeasance.  This piece also tells us about gender differences in work styles and locations:  women engage in less “big time” corporate fraud than do men, a fact that is NOT fully explained by their lower level corporate positions. The authors suggest male-dominated networks at the top of work organizations and informal barriers to women’s upward mobility may explain why men outpace women in corporate fraud.

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by Julie A. Kmec, Lindsey T. O’Connor, and Scott Schieman

President Obama’s State of the Union address last month recognized that working women—and men—should not face hardship for taking care of their family responsibilities.Recent research by sociologists,Julie A. Kmec, Lindsey Trimble O’Connor and Scott Schieman suggests that workplaces have a long way to go before realizing the President’s message.  In new research, they find that working mothers perceive penalties—like feeling ignored and that they are given the worst tasks—when they adjust their work schedules after having children.  They suggest that policies and practices that challenge societal assumptions about ideal work are a good starting place in attempts to realize President Obama’s call to give working parents a “break.”

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