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Researcher’s Notebook

vip imageAshley Mears, Associate Professor of Sociology at Boston University, has gone where few sociologists have gone: First, the world of high fashion and runway modeling, and now the world of VIP clubs, which often traffic in women. Combining multiple strands of social science theory, her 2011 book, Pricing Beauty (University of California Press), has won multiple prizes. Her recent article in the American Sociological Review, “Working for Free in the VIP,” asks why women workers participate in their own commercial exploitation. Here we sit down with Ashley and ask some “back stage” questions about the course and conduct of her fieldwork.

Steve: Your book, Pricing Beauty, addresses three distinct but overlapping bodies of knowledge (so to speak) –the sociology of economic institutions, of gender, and of work. Wasn’t it a daunting prospect to try to speak to three areas of study, al this while you were a graduate student? Any thoughts about managing one’s ambitions while also addressing broad intellectual challenges?

Ashley: Don’t forget field theory and the sociology of culture! To me, each of these literatures is a tool to be mobilized to solve empirical problems. My work has always been driven by puzzles and phenomena I encounter Read More

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Source: Google Images.

by Marianne Cooper

In the fall of 2011, I received an e-mail from Professor Shelley Correll, director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. Its subject line read: “An opportunity.” Shelley explained that Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, was looking to hire someone to do research for her on women and work and to help translate the research into everyday language for a general audience. This seemed like an intriguing opportunity. I said yes, and a meeting was set up.

At this first meeting, Sheryl and I had a wide-ranging conversation about why so few women get to the top. We talked about structural barriers like gender bias and the lack of flexibility in so many jobs. We also talked about internal barriers such as the fact that women often have lower expectations for success than men. At the end of the meeting, we agreed that I would do a preliminary project and then progress from there. I left with a list of topics she wanted to know more about; on my way out Sheryl said, “It’s important to me that I get the research right.” I took this as a positive sign.

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