Thinking beyond gender: Why does sexuality and race matter in the tech industry?

By Lauren Alfrey  and France Winddance Twine

How do women negotiate male-dominated workplaces of the tech industry? In the February 2017 issue of Gender & Society, we address this question by building upon foundational work on occupational inequality. Inspired by Joan Acker’s concept of inequality regimes, we offer the first qualitative study and intersectional analysis of women tech workers from a wide range of backgrounds. We show how race, class privilege and gender expression shapes the occupational experiences of “geek girls.”alfrey_video_game

In our interviews with 50 men and women employed in a variety of positions in the San Francisco tech industry, we discovered that the gender-fluid, LGBTQ, White and Asian female workers reported a greater sense of belonging among male co-workers when compared to heterosexual women. In contrast to the gender conventional women in our sample, they were perceived as “one of the guys.” However, the gender-fluid Black LGBTQ women we interviewed did not experience the same inclusion or degree of belonging. Neither did conventionally heterosexual White and Asian women, who, like the Black women, also described routine micro-aggressions and sexist interactions that undermined their ability to be seen as competent equals in their workplace.

We argue that this represents a racialized and gendered spectrum of belonging—the dynamic forms of inclusion and exclusion that women experience according to their race, sexuality, and gender presentation. In occupational cultures where masculinity and hetero-normativity are the norm, fluid gender expression provides some women with conditional acceptance. Continue reading “Thinking beyond gender: Why does sexuality and race matter in the tech industry?”


Will working class men go into jobs mostly done by women?

By Janette Dill

The election of Donald Trump has brought attention to a group of voters that helped to bring him into office: the working class, and especially working class men. The shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy, referred to as the New Economy, has been a difficult transition for working class men: the percentage of men working in manufacturing and production jobs – jobs that used to be “good jobs” for men without a college degree – has declined by over 50% since the 1970s, and men’s wages have also dropped over the same time period. Working class men’s support for Donald Trump, who has promised a return of the manufacturing economy, shows their frustration with the labor market and their

As male-dominated manufacturing and production jobs have declined, there has been a concurrent rise in demand for many female-dominated occupations, such as nursing assistants, home health aides, and child care workers. However, few working class men are entering these female-dominated occupations, despite high demand for these workers. Why? A recent article in the New York Times explored this issue, asking why men don’t want to do work that is mostly done by women. The article primarily focuses on the masculine identity; men don’t want to do jobs that require doing tasks that are associated with femaleness, such as caring for an elderly person or child. Indeed, the swagger and machismo of Donald Trump promises not only a return of men’s manufacturing jobs, but a return of the working class masculine identity. Continue reading “Will working class men go into jobs mostly done by women?”

Is there a chilly climate for women faculty?

By Dana M. Britton

chilly-climatePicture a professor.  Who comes to mind?  These are the pictures I found in a Google Search for public domain images of a “Professor.”  The first 22 above are a diverse group, at least in terms of their eyewear, neckwear, and hair (facial and otherwise).  They are real and fictional, live and animated.  And they are all white men.

This group of images captures an enduring cultural stereotype about who discovers and possesses scientific knowledge.  It also captures an aspect of reality.  Women are more likely to hold university faculty positions than ever before, yet they remain underrepresented in the highest prestige institutions, the highest paying disciplines and at the highest ranks.  As of the academic year 2013-2014, men were about three times as likely as women to be full professors at degree-granting postsecondary institutions.  As this image suggests, most of these men were white.  Of all full professors, 57% were white men, while men of all other racial and ethnic groups made up 13%.  White women were 25% of all full professors, women of all other racial/ethnic groups, 5%. Continue reading “Is there a chilly climate for women faculty?”

Leaning in or pushing down: Do powerful women in corporate America help or harm the advancement of women subordinates?

By Kevin Stainback, Sibyl Kleiner and Sheryl Skaggs *

Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) may be the most well-known and influential woman in corporate America. Her 2010 TED talk entitled “Why we have too few women leaders” has been watched more than 6.1 million times. Her subsequent 2013 book, Lean in: Women and the Will to Lead, has been widely read, making both the New York Times and Amazon best sellers lists.

Sandberg argues that women “lean in” and work diligently at achieving what they want at work. In effect, regardless of the gendered biases and inequalities confronting women in the paid labor force, they should strive to do it all—a “make advances, not excuses” self-help approach. Sandberg acknowledges that women have a more difficult situation navigating both the work and the work-family nexus than men; and she hopes to inspire women to go after their ambitions despite structural obstacles.

Yet while Sandberg acknowledges some structural obstacles, the main argument of Lean In suggests that women should strive to overcome them to succeed.

Notwithstanding the criticism it has received and its overly agentic emphasis, Sandberg’s message is a powerful one—even if for no other reason than generating the fodder for conversations and debates that would otherwise be absent.

Although Sandberg and other women who have been successful in the corporate world have received enormous attention in the media, women’s representation in corporate leadership positions, such as executives and directors, remains incredibly low.

For example, Catalyst Inc.’s estimates of women’s representation in Fortune 500 firms, suggest that women continue to hold very few leadership positions—only about 17% of corporate board positions and less than 15% of corporate executive positions. Moreover, on this indicator and others of women’s opportunities progress has stalled. It will take much more than leaning in to overcome the structural barriers blocking women’s access to the corporate suite. Continue reading “Leaning in or pushing down: Do powerful women in corporate America help or harm the advancement of women subordinates?”

Cheap Food & Women’s Work

By Ivy Ken & Benjamín Elizalde

People tend to think about school meals from the point of view of children:  Does the food taste good?  Is it nutritious?  How much of it is thrown away?

Feeding kids at school, though, is also a labor issue.  We spent half of last year in Chile to study the school feeding program there, focusing on the labor conditions of women along the commodity chain that supplies public school children with meals.  The government outsources this public service to private companies that hire workers to prepare students’ food.  In Chile these workers are called manipuladoras de alimentos:  food handlers.  More affectionately they call each other tías or señoras de la cocina, and throughout the country these women are organized, unionized, and politically active.

In October 2014 the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, used the occasion of International Rural Women´s Day to announce a new law to support women’s work.  “All companies that help the state to serve Chile should be the best, with outstanding labor practices,” she said (translated).  The law applied to 40,000 manipuladoras along with cleaning and maintenance staff, security workers, and drivers, or in other words, employees of companies that contract with the state.  For manipuladoras, the law requires a yearly bonus of CLP$67,500 (about US$100) and salary for the months of the year when school is out of session.  To accomplish this, the government is supposed to give priority to the food service companies that agree to pay it. Continue reading “Cheap Food & Women’s Work”

Flirking (Flirting at Work to Get Ahead): Why Some Women Do It

When “Friends” Meets “Office Space,” Where Do Workers of Color Fit?

By Adia Harvey Wingfield 

Originally posted at Work in Progress.  Cross-posted with permission.


Image: Luigi Mengato via Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)
Image: Luigi Mengato via Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School, has an op-ed in the New York Times that describes the decline in workplace friendships. Grant notes that compared to workers in other countries, Americans are much less likely to claim close friends at work or to see the workplace as a social space where close friendships are built. He refers to several important sociological studies in analyzing why this is so, noting that the nature of work has changed so that workers are more likely to switch jobs frequently and thus may not feel a close sense of association with colleagues. Continue reading “When “Friends” Meets “Office Space,” Where Do Workers of Color Fit?”