Tag Archives: women’s work

Fear no more, fellow females and anybody interested in gender equality, research is supporting ‘optimism about a better world to come’. Thus tells us Tyler Cowen in the New York Times, and he is not talking about any old optimism but about that of John Stuart Mill, one of the great old thinkers of economics. So it’s gender equality optimism with an extra-dose of gravitas and academic credibility. In his NYT piece Cowen reviews two recent books that study gender inequality through an economics lens. According to these studies, women ‘are perceived as easier to take advantage of in … economic settings’ and ‘participate less in many public settings, especially those in which real power is exercised.’ But ‘once women achieve a critical mass in a particular area, their participation grows rapidly’, says Cowen. Read More

glass_blogimage_june-20141by Christy Glass

In a recent article published in Forbes (here), business writer Tim Worstall wonders why family-friendly policy advocates support paid maternity leave policies. In his view, such policies are not just ineffective but harmful to women because they damage women’s professional standing—and ultimately reduce their wages. Quoting a woman CEO who shares his views, Worstall argues that mothers should limit their time on paid leave or risk losing the confidence of their employer. So why on earth would anyone argue for more or better paid leave policies?

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While the first flight attendants were male and many early airlines had a ban on hiring women, flight attending would eventually become a quintessentially female occupation.  Airline marketers exploited the presence of these female flight attendants.  Based on my reading — especially Phil Tiemeyer‘s Plane Queer and Kathleen Barry’s history of flight attendants’ labor activism — there seem to have been three stages.

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The early 2000s saw the rise of the yummy mummy. Wholly dedicated to all things baby, bib and bugaboo, but with a yoga-toned body and the latest it-changing bag slung across the shoulder where other mums sported baby puke.

In the last five years, the yummy mummy’s business-minded sister has entered the scene: the mumpreneur. Like the yummy mummy, the mumpreneur is 100% committed to a home-centred version of motherhood. Unlike the yummy mummy, the mumpreneur has not given up her identity as a working woman. But because corporate careers are still difficult to reconcile with baby yoga and toddler swimming she has set up a business that is, literally and metaphorically, closer to home: cupcake decorating classes, personalised bunting, a toy comparison site and a French-speaking nanny agency are just some of the many examples from the business directory on Run from home and requiring little start-up investments, such lifestyle businesses are promoted as perfect opportunities for combining motherhood and work.

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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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Flight attendants are not only friendly with their passengers, they’re also often super friendly with each other.  This may be because especially gregarious people go into the profession, but it’s also an adaptation to a surprising structural feature of their job. It turns out that, on any given flight anywhere in the world, most flight attendants are meeting their co-workers for the very first time.

There are about 100,000 flight attendants in the U.S. alone and they get their flights through a process of bidding, one month at a time, one month ahead.  Most really do “see the world,” as the old glamorized image of the intrepid stewardess suggests, instead of working the same route over and over again.  As a result, explains Drew Whitelegg in Working the Skies, they rarely run into the same flight attendant twice.

This means that flight attendants must get to know one another quickly once they get on board.  They need to do so to make food and beverage service efficient, to coordinate their actions in the tight galleys in which they work and, most importantly, so that they will trust one another if they are called upon to do what they are really there for: acting in an emergency, one that could theoretically happen within seconds of take-off.  There’s no time to lose. “[F]rom the moment they board the plane,” writes Whitelegg, “these workers — even if complete strangers — begin constructing bonds.”


Image credit: National Library of Australia

Their instant bonding is facilitated by their shared experiences and their “peculiar identity,” Whitelegg explains — few people understand their job and the airline industry deliberately misportays it — and also by a culture of confession.  The galley has its own rules to which new flight attendants are socialized.  So, even though the workers are always new, the workplace is predictable.  Whitlegg describes how galley conversations during downtime tend to be extremely, sometimes excruciatingly personal.  “The things you hear,” laughs Clare, a flight attendant for Continental, “I could write a book. The things you hear at 30,000 feet.”  It’s the odd combination of a habit of bonding and the anonymity of strangers.

So, if you have the pleasure of taking a flight, spend a few minutes watching the surprising coordination of strangers who seem like old friends, and take a moment to appreciate the amazing way these workers have adapted to their very peculiar position.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.  This post was cross-posted at Sociological Images and The Huffington Post.

Males retain lion’s share of power and prestige in post-recession economy.

by Inga Kiderra

(This article was originally published on the UC San Diego News Center. The original version can be read here.)

It’s March 2013 – 50 years after Betty Friedan’s explosive book launched feminism’s “second wave,” 41 after Title IX, the equal-opportunity amendment banning sex discrimination in education, was signed into law – and some exceptionally successful women are making a lot of news. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is riding high in public opinion, winning straw polls for the 2016 presidency. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, after shrugging off maternity leave, has sparked the “Great Telecommuting Debate” with a company-wide ban on working from home. And Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, is on the cover of TIME and every other national stage, it seems, talking about “Lean In,” her just-published memoir and “sort of feminist” manifesto on succeeding as a female in corporate America.

The very presence of these women would seem to contradict the need for a national dialogue on women in the workplace that Sandberg is urging. Except that it doesn’t. These women are rare exceptions – according to a report from the Center for Research on Gender in the Professions at the University of California, San Diego.

The report details ongoing inequalities in the American labor market on the basis of gender.

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Julie and Rebecca have cited important sociological analysis that documents the fact that net of hours worked, the gender wage gap remains such that men still outearn their female peers in the same occupations. One other piece of commonsense wisdom often cited to explain the wage gap is the argument that women select occupations that tend to be lower paying—teaching, nursing, and other positions that we tend to associate with women. According to this line of reasoning, women are more likely to self-select into the “feminized” positions within certain fields, which then contributes to gender inequality in the labor market.

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