In making sense of the desegregation trajectories that have developed since passage of the Civil Rights Act, the book makes highly creative use of social closure theory, applied alongside the shifting American political landscape. The book finds that racial and gender segregation has remained especially pronounced in higher paying industries and occupations (much as closure theory would predict). But the book also finds that organizations that rely on formal professional credentials exhibit a much more level playing field than do firms that rely on less formal markers of skill and expertise. This finding calls for important modifications in social closure theory, since it suggests that educational credentials can enable (and not merely block) access to job rewards among historically excluded groups. This is a vital and important finding. But in presenting these results, the book does not always show us why this pattern is the case. Did the class or racial advantages that white women enjoy give them easier access to credentialing institutions? Was the effect of meritocracy also apparent in industries that rely heavily personnel in STEM fields? Or are the leveling effects of educational credentials limited to professional contexts such as law, accounting, social work and teaching? Arguably, heavily feminized professions account for much of this meritocracy effect. My point is that the nature and sources of the meritocracy trend need more discussion than the authors provide.
Both men and women experience job discrimination when occupations are closely associated with either masculinity or femininity. In my research on “men who do women’s work,” I found that men are often excluded from occupations that involve close contact with children due to stereotypes about male sexuality and suspicions of pedophilia. Homophobia is often at the core of these damaging and destructive stereotypes.
Partially because of these stereotypes, men constitute only 2-3 percent of all preschool and kindergarten teachers. However, those who remain in the occupation seem to do pretty well. Data on median weekly earnings indicate that men out-earn women in this occupation by a sizeable amount—more than $700 compared to women’s $600. (However, note that the occupation as a whole is woefully underpaid—no one is exactly thriving in these mostly dead-end jobs!)
So men are both discriminated against AND they earn more money than women. How can we make sense of this paradox?
Like Lata Murti, I, too, have been thinking, teaching, and writing about men and women at work for a long time, and my initial reaction to her story is one of regret for Adam. Nearly simultaneously, though, I think about my own daughter and what my spouse and I expect of the people who care for her. When I look back at the history of her baby-sitters, the majority of them (all but one) were women. And when I’m honest with myself, I’m not sure I can dismiss the possibility that each of those independent decisions was gendered in some way.
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.
A recent WSJ article by Kay Hymowitz (Why Women Make less than Men, April 26, 2012 ) reports that “most people have heard that full-time working American women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Yet these numbers don’t take into account the actual number of hours worked. And it turns out that women work fewer hours than men.” Hymowitz continues, citing Labor Department statistics indicating more than half (almost 55%) of workers who work more than 35 hours per week (what the department defines as full time work) are men and suggests that the sex wage gap is “to a considerable degree a gender-hours gap.”
Andras Tilcsik is a Ph.D. candidate in Organizational Behavior at Harvard University. His paper, “Pride and Prejudice: Employment Discrimination against Openly Gay Men in the United States” won the 2011 James D. Thompson Award from the Organizations, Occupations, and Work section of the American Sociological Association and was recently published in the American Journal of Sociology. The following (after the jump) is the text of an interview recently conducted with Andras by Rachel Gorab, a Ph.D. student in the sociology program at Northeastern University.
A recent New York Times article reports on how the long downturn of the US economy has hit the public sector hard, which, in turn, has been devastating for the black middle class. The article notes that black workers are about one third more likely than whites to be employed in the public sector. Blacks have historically been more able to find work in the public sector, as they faced more discrimination in the private sector. Overall, unemployment rates for blacks have consistently been about twice that for whites, with the black unemployment rate peaking at 16.7% last summer.
The article provides important reporting, but it is unfortunate that it only cites economists and does not address sociological contributions to understanding racial discrimination in labor markets. It notes that economists explain the persistent racial gap in terms of lower educational levels for blacks (the standard human capital refrain), along with continuing discrimination.