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. 

Sarah Damaske. 2019. “Job Loss and Attempts to Return to Work: Complicating Inequalities across Gender and Class” Gender & Society 34 (1): 7-30

Drawing on data from 100 qualitative interviews with the recently unemployed, this study examines how participants made decisions about attempting to return to work and identifies how class and gender shape these decisions. Middle-class men were most likely to take time to attempt to return to work, middle-class women were most likely to begin a deliberate job search, working-class men were most likely to report an urgent search, and working-class women were most likely to have diverted searches. Financial resources, gendered labor force attachments, and family responsibilities shaped decision making. Ultimately, those in the middle-class appear doubly advantaged—both in their financial capabilities and in their ability to respond to the crisis with greater gender flexibility.

Emily Springer. 2019. “Bureaucratic Tools in (Gendered) Organizations: Performance Metrics and Gender Advisors in International Development” Gender & Society 34 (1): 56-80

This article contributes to a growing conversation about the role of numbers in promoting gendered agendas in potentially contradictory ways. Drawing from interviews with gender advisors—the professionals tasked with mainstreaming gender in development projects—in an East African country, I begin from the paradox that gender advisors articulate a strong preference for qualitative data to best capture the lives of the women they aim to assist while voicing a need for quantitative metrics. I demonstrate that (women) gender advisors come to imagine metrics as expeditious bureaucratic tools able to inspire cooperation from otherwise reluctant (men) coworkers. I argue that development organizations are gendered in ways—acutely seen in how advisors struggle, are sidelined, and attempt to advance their goals with numbers—that lead to the utility of valuing quantitative metrics over qualitative ones. I establish two theoretical contributions: (1) Gendered organizations theory is essential to understanding the adoption and globalization of performance metrics, and (2) in an age of evidence-based decision making, the utility of quantified data to garner resources is heightened, rewarding those who adopt quantified knowledge production. I coin the term “the paradox of quantified utility” to describe how these material advantages encourage even skeptics to value quantitative metrics.

Madeleine Pape. 2019. “Gender Segregation and Trajectories of Organizational Change: The Underrepresentation of Women in Sports Leadership” Gender & Society 34 (1): 81-105

This article offers an account of organizational change to explain why women leaders are underrepresented compared to women athletes in many sports organizations. I distinguish between accommodation and transformation as forms of change: the former includes women without challenging binary constructions of gender, the latter transforms an organization’s gendered logic. Through a case study of the International Olympic Committee from 1967-1995, I trace how the organization came to define gender equity primarily in terms of accommodating women’s segregated athletic participation. Key to this was the construction of women’s bodies as athletically able but inferior to men, an arrangement formalized in codified rules and procedures and legitimized by external stakeholders. Defined in these terms, gender equity did little to transform the organization’s binary and hierarchically gendered logic, which continued to shape the informal norms and procedures associated with the organization’s allegedly gender-neutral and meritocratic yet male-dominated leadership. I argue that the exclusion of women from ostensibly gender-integrated leadership positions allows organizations to avoid revealing gender similarity between men and women. This maintains a logic underpinned by notions of binary gender difference and masculine superiority.

Alison T. Wynn. 2019. “Pathways toward Change: Ideologies and Gender Equality in a Silicon Valley Technology Company” Gender & Society 34 (1): 106-130

Companies have devoted significant resources to diversity programs, yet such programs are often largely ineffective. Cultivating an organizational commitment to diversity is critical, but scholars lack a clear understanding of how top executives conceptualize change. In this article, I analyze data from a year-long case study of a Silicon Valley technology company implementing a gender equality initiative. The data include 50 in-depth interviews and observation of 80 executive meetings. I pay special attention to longitudinal interviews with 19 high-level executives and explore how their ideologies about inequality affected their change efforts. I find that executives tend to favor individualistic and societal explanations of gender differences and inequality, and these explanations correspond with change efforts focused mainly on altering individuals or affecting external communities. Executives rarely engaged in attempts to change the organization structurally. Thus, the implementation of gender equality remains limited by top executives’ ideas and assumptions about the sources of inequality.

Candace Miller and Josipa Roksa. 2019. “Balancing Research and Service in Academia: Gender, Race, and Laboratory Tasks” Gender & Society 34 (1): 131-152

Our study highlights specific ways in which race and gender create inequality in the workplace. Using in-depth interviews with 67 biology PhD students, we show how engagement with research and service varies by both gender and race. By considering the intersection between gender and race, we find not only that women biology graduate students do more service than men, but also that racial and ethnic minority men do more service than white men. White men benefit from a combination of racial and gender privilege, which places them in the most advantaged position with respect to protected research time and opportunities to build collaborations and networks beyond their labs. Racial/ethnic minority women emerge as uniquely disadvantaged in terms of their experiences relative to other groups. These findings illuminate how gendered organizations are also racialized, producing distinct experiences for women and men from different racial groups, and thus contribute to theorizing the intersectional nature of inequality in the workplace.

Amanda C. Sargent, Jill E. Yavorsky, and Rosalyn G. Sandoval. 2021. Organizational Logic in Coworking Spaces: Inequality Regimes in the New Economy. Gender & Society 35(1): 5-31

Globalization, technological advances, and changing employment structures have facilitated greater flexibility in how and where many Americans do their paid work. In response, a new work arrangement, coworking, has emerged in the United States. Coworking organizations bring together professionals from different companies to share a common workspace and build community. Despite the prevalence and potential benefits of coworking, little systematic research about coworking contexts exists, let alone research focused on gender inequality therein. Using 78 interviews and more than 700 hours of observation across nine coworking spaces, we examine the organizational logics that shape gender dynamics, as well as intersecting racial and class dynamics, in coworking spaces. Building on Acker’s inequality regimes framework, we uncover organizational logic that either reduces or reproduces inequality for diverse groups of women in coworking contexts. We conclude by discussing important theoretical and empirical implications of these findings.

Jennifer J. Lee and Janice M. Mccabe. 2021. Who Speaks and Who Listens: Revisiting the Chilly Climate in College Classrooms. Gender & Society 35(1): 32-60.

Almost 40 years ago, scholars identified a “chilly climate” for women in college classrooms. To examine whether contemporary college classrooms remain “chilly,” we conducted quantitative and qualitative observations in nine classrooms across multiple disciplines at one elite institution. Based on these 95 hours of observation, we discuss three gendered classroom participation patterns. First, on average, men students occupy classroom sonic space 1.6 times as often as women. Men also speak out without raising hands, interrupt, and engage in prolonged conversations during class more than women students. Second, style and tone also differ. Men’s language is assertive, whereas women’s is hesitant and apologetic. Third, professors’ interventions and different structures of classrooms can alter existing gender status hierarchies. Extending Ridgeway’s gender system framework to college classrooms, we discuss how these gendered classroom participation patterns perpetuate gender status hierarchies. We thus argue that the chilly climate is an underexplored mechanism for the stalled gender revolution.

Glenda M. Flores and Maricela Bañuelos. 2021. Gendered Deference: Perceptions of Authority and Competence among Latina/o Physicians in Medical Institutions. Gender & Society 35(1): 110-135.

Prior studies note that gender- and race-based discrimination routinely inhibit women’s advancement in medical fields. Yet few studies have examined how gendered displays of deference and demeanor are interpreted by college-educated and professional Latinas/os who are making inroads into prestigious and masculinized nontraditional fields such as medicine. In this article, we elucidate how gender shapes perceptions of authority and competence among the same pan-ethnic group, and we use deference and demeanor as an analytical tool to examine these processes. Our analysis underscores three main points of difference: (1) gendered cultural taxation; (2) microaggressions from women nurses and staff and; (3) the questioning of authority and competence to elucidate how gendered racism manifests for Latina/o doctors. Taking demonstrations of gendered deference and demeanors are vital to transforming medical schools and creating more inclusive spaces for all physicians and patients. Conclusions are based on experiences reported in interviews with 48 Latina/o physicians and observation in their places of work in Southern California.