Work & Organizations

Gender & Society in the Classroom: Work & Organizations

Organized by: Vicki Dryfhout, PhD from University of Cincinnati
Updated by: Lacey Story, Oakland University

These theoretical and analytical articles, all published in the last ten years, examine the ways in which gender segregation is reinforced and reproduced through work and organizations. Several articles emphasize the importance of understanding the role of race and class and intersectional analyses in studies of gender segregation in these spheres, while others place an emphasis on understanding organizational context and its role in creating gender segregation within work and occupations. While women have increasingly entered the workforce their entrance into typically male-dominated occupations has been slow and when women enter these male-dominated fields inequalities persist in the way of assignments, jobs, pay and attrition. Conversely, men have been slow to enter female-dominated occupations but experience an advantage when they do enter these occupations. Overall, these articles highlight the impact of formal and informal practices and processes (e.g., hiring and wage setting, co-worker and supervisor support) and norms and beliefs (e.g., ideal worker norm, gender essentialism) in maintaining gender segregation in work and organizations while emphasizing the importance of viewing through a lens of intersectionality.

Brumley, Krista B. 2014. The Gendered Ideal Worker Narrative: Professional Women’s and Men’s Work Experiences in the New Economy at a Mexican Company. Vol. 28, 6: pp. 799-823.

Workplaces have transformed over the past decades in response to global forces. This case study of a Mexican-owned multinational corporation compares employee perceptions of a new work culture required to confront these demands. Employees are expected to work long hours and to produce results, obtain the right skills and knowledge, and exhibit proactivity. Drawing on extensive qualitative data, this article theorizes what the expectations mean for women and men employees. The competitive culture reinforces inequality because expectations are grounded in the gendered “ideal worker” narrative. However, tensions ensue for the company that is partly characterized by paternalism yet requires a competitive work culture. The study uncovers a hybrid organizational logic with gendered assumptions undergirding a hidden inequality as professional women navigate the emergence of the glass ceiling in the global south.

Martin, Patricia Yancey. 2003 ‘Said and Done’ Versus ‘Saying and Doing:’ Gendering Practicies, Practicing Gender at Work. Gender & Society 17(3): 342-366.

Gendering processes in organizations are explored using interviews and participant observation from multinational corporations. Patricia Yancey Martin argues that gendering practices and practicing gender are integral parts of understanding gender inequality in work organizations. Furthermore, she argues that the “sayings and doings” of gender must be included in research and theory.

Acker, Joan. 2006. Inequality Regimes: Gender, Class and Race in Organizations. Gender & Society 20(4): 441-464.

To understand the practices and processes within work organizations that create and perpetuate inequality the author introduces the idea of  “inequality regimes.” Inequality regimes perpetuate class, gender and racial inequalities in work organizations through workplace practices and processes such as recruitment and hiring, wage setting, supervisory practices and informal interactions at work. While the concept of inequality regimes aids our understanding of how inequalities are created and maintained in the workplace, the concept may also shed light on why some organizational change projects are successful but others are not.

Duffy, Mignon. 2007. Doing the Dirty Work: Gender, Race, and Reproductive Labor in Historical Perspective. Gender & Society 21(3): 313-336.

The goal of this study was to show the changing context of paid reproductive labor, particularly nonnurturant reproductive labor (e.g., cleaning and cooking), and the importance of using intersectionality to examine paid reproductive labor. Analyses showed that while white women’s participation in nonnurturant tasks has decreased racial-ethnic women have become increasingly involved in these tasks and are more likely to be involved in cooking and cleaning in the private and public sphere. Race and intersectional analyses are important components for understanding job typing and devaluation of reproductive labor.

Wingfield, Adia Harvey. 2009. Racializing the Glass Escalator: Reconsidering Men’s Experiences with Women’s Work. Gender & Society 23(1): 5-26.

The “glass escalator” refers to the advantage men may have in female dominated professions with respect to mobility and the author explores whether this phenomenon applies to all men or if race plays a role in the effect. Through semi-structured interviews with 17 Black men nurses the author explores whether the “glass escalator” effect applies to Black men in nursing. Findings reveal that Black men face “glass barriers”, such as supervisor bias and negative patient perceptions, suggesting that the “glass escalator” is a racialized concept.

England, Paula. 2010. The Gender Revolution: Uneven and Stalled. Gender & Society24(2): 149-166.

Despite dramatic changes that have taken place in the gender system with respect to the number of women receiving college degrees, women’s increased employment rates and women entering male-dominated occupations, other changes in the gender system have been slow and the author offers explanations for why this change has been uneven and, in some areas, has stalled. One possibility for the slow and uneven change is the devaluation of activities typically performed by women. A second explanation is the belief in individualism combined with gender essentialism (e.g., the idea that men and women have innately different interests and skills).

Fox, Mary Frank, Gerhard Sonnert and Irina Nikiforova. 2011. Programs for Undergraduate Women in Science and Engineering. Gender & Society 25(5): 589-615.

Because the undergraduate degree is a pathway to careers in scientific fields, segregation of men and women in science and engineering during undergraduate education creates and sustains gender segregation at the occupational level. A mail survey was sent to directors of undergraduate-level programs for women in science and engineering in institutions of higher education to collect information and examine the substantial gender disparities in these degree programs. Findings suggest that a structural orientation, versus individual orientation, of the programs is key to addressing gender inequality within science and engineering.

Madden, Janice Fanning. 2012. Performance-Support Bias And The Gender Pay Gap Among Stockbrokers. Gender & Society 26(3): 488-518.

Organizational processes that lead to gender inequality in pay among stockbrokers at two brokerage firms are examined and discussed. Women were found to earn far less than men, but data show that the gender gap in pay is the result of gender differences in sales. Furthermore, data showed that the gender difference in sales is due to women receiving less sales support and lower quality sales assignments. When women and men were given equivalent accounts, determined based on prior sales histories, there were no gender differences in sales. Among stockbrokers, at these firms, the gender gap in pay is due to performance-support bias where women are given inferior accounts.

Ecklund, Elaine Howard, Anne E. Lincoln, and Cassandra Tansey. 2012. Gender Segregation in Elite Academic Science. Gender & Society 26(5): 693-717.

Occupational gender segregation is precipitated by gender segregation in academic study at the graduate level, where women are concentrated in social and life sciences and men are concentrated in the physical science. The goal of this study is to understand the barriers women encounter within biology and physics, and investigate their perceptions of why there are fewer women in physics compared to biology. This study uses data from the Perceptions of Women in Academic Science study, which includes survey data and in-depth interviews from 150 scientists, graduate students to full professors, in U.S graduate programs in physics and biology. Respondents invoked a combination of supply- and demand-side explanations (e.g., natural differences, discrimination, lack of role models for women, historical tradition of gender segregation, and family choice) to explain what keeps women from entering physics but these explanations were dependent on career stage (e.g., graduate student versus full professor).

Cha, Youngjoo. 2013. Overwork and the Persistence of Gender Segregation in Occupations. Gender & Society 27(2): 158-184.

This study explores how overwork, defined as working long hours, may create and maintain gender segregation in occupations. Even when women work full-time they still have a greater share of familial obligations than men, and because of this greater share of familial obligations, women with children, as compared to women without children and men, are less likely to be able to meet the demand of long work hours. The authors showed, using longitudinal data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, that, indeed, mothers are more likely than men or childless women to leave male-dominated occupations when they work 50 or more hours per week. Overwork combined with motherhood, leads to women’s attrition from male-dominated occupations, where overwork is expected and/or rewarded, and reinforcing gender segregation in occupations.