Author Archives: Julie Kmec

social-mediaWe–fellow Work in Progress Blogger Adia Harvey Wingfield and I–recently attended a summit centered on Redesigning and Redefining Work. This summit, organized by the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, had lofty goals:  to join academic researchers, government policy makers, members of the media, and company representatives to discuss, among other things, new ways to redesign the world of work so that workplaces can better align—for the long term—with the composition and needs of today’s workforce while at the same time allowing workers and businesses to flourish.

The summit focused, among other things, on how flexible work arrangements have the potential to change work environments in ways that produce greater gender equality. Presenters from corporate and academic sectors considered the ways that these programs have been implemented, barriers to implementation, successes, challenges, and benefits.  The program offered a number of different perspectives on ways that flexible work arrangements can have multiple, expected, and possibly surprising benefits for workers and for corporations.

We wanted to share our personal observations of the summit, whose agenda can be found here, because we feel that sociologists of work should be keyed into the discussion of redesign.  We also think the public should be aware of—and join in via commenting here—work redesign discussions happening in academic, workplace, and policy circles.

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New research by management scholars on workplace flirting is getting quite a bit of media attention.  You might have rolled your eyes at the topic, thinking that nothing serious can be learned about the workplace by studying flirtatious women.

I disagree.

A study of flirting at work may reveal a lot about workplace gender inequality.  In fact, the behavior may be telling of underlying problems that are not “sexual” in content.

First, the study (read a summary of the study here).  The authors surveyed about 300 employed female attorneys in 38 Southeastern U.S. law firms.  Female attorneys reported on, among other things: their strategic flirting (engaging in socio-sexual behaviors with the intent of attaining a desirable outcome); daily mistreatment (the frequency with which they were treated rudely, excluded from a work activity, or as not-smart or inferior); and the femininity or masculinity of their law firm (the extent to which their firm could be characterized by terms such as “assertiveness, forcefulness, and masculinity” versus “compassion, and warmth”).

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Documenting Desegregation

Over the last few months, in various parts of the country, several scholars have been invited to critique and discuss fellow OOW members Kevin Stainback and Don Tomaskovic-Devey’s new book, Documenting Desegregation: Racial and Gender Segregation in Private-Sector Employment Since the Civil Rights Act. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2012. 

This panel brings together a few of these scholars’ voices in an attempt to kick start a conversation about occupational sex and race segregation and, in many cases to move forward with more research. 

You will want to read OOW member and Work in Progress blog editorial board member Steve Vallas’ summary below.

The book is the first major study use EEO-1 data to examine the nature and consequences of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (CRA) over time. The book is painstaking in its use of data, but also careful and creative in its application of theory (largely, social closure theory). Major findings emerge in the book, some of which confirm existing assumptions about corporate policy, and others that are highly counter-intuitive. The book has generated much debate in the few months since its publication, and seems destined to provide a touchstone in this field now and for the foreseeable future.

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I could not resist adding my two cents to the outpouring of commentary on Yahoo’s new decision to ban telecommuting.  Bottom line:  a lot of people think the ban is a really bad idea, especially for working mothers and fathers.  Jennifer Glass offers great insight about the ban on this blog.  Only time will tell whether the telecommuting ban will increase innovation and quality at Yahoo.  And actually, we might not be able to tell that at all; the media attention brought on by this announcement may be enough to increase Yahoo’s profits!

My take on the matter is slightly different:  it’s about the scrutiny the public is placing on Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo.

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Historian Robert B. Townsend recently published data revealing, among other things, that marriage correlates with more rapid promotion for male compared to female historians.  Married female historians took, on average, 7.8 years to be promoted to full professor while married men took an average 5.9 years (never married women took an average of 6.7 years compared to an average of 6.4 years for never married men).

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Even wonder why so few men enter the child care profession, especially as caretakers for very young children?  In Germany, the government is spending (a lot of) money to recruit men into the profession.  In that country men are in high demand because many parents don’t want their children looked after exclusively by women and about one third of mothers and fathers prefer day care facilities that have male staff. In the U.S., the situation is somewhat different; male childcare workers often have to explain themselves and why they do their job.

In the following piece, a guest blogger Lata Murti, contemplates a situation in her child’s daycare center involving a male childcare worker.  We invited sociologists Christine Williams, Barbara Risman, and Andrew Cognard-Black to comment and discuss some of the issues surrounding men who work in the childcare profession.

By Barbara J. Risman, Professor and Head, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago

There is no debate about the remarkable lack of men as child care workers.  This occurrence of apparent gender stereotypes driving one man away from the profession illustrates some core issues in the continuing saga of a somewhat stalled gender revolution.   Another illustration of the state of current gender politics is a Stanford educated lawyer, once her husband’s mentor in a law firm, describing herself as the mom-in-chief.

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Did you know that know that employment decisions based on the assumption that men are breadwinners can be just as illegal as those that assume women are caregivers?  That penalties men experience as a caregiver can be illegal under Title VII?  If you’ve ever wondered what gave rise to men’s legal right to provide family caregiving and how was written—and subsequently unwritten—into law , read law professor Stephanie Bornstein’s recent publication.

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