Research Findings

The troubling return of workplace racial segregation

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July 17, 2019

The United States struggles with a long history of racial employment segregation.  Exclusionary hiring based on race was only banned in 1964, and enforcement only gained teeth when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) set to work in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

We know that segregation declined significantly during the “long decade of enforcement,” through the early 1980s. Since then, though, progress seems to have stalled. Sociologists have repeatedly studied occupational segregation—how separated races are between different jobs—and found that it has barely moved in more than a generation. Yet even this is too rosy a picture.

There are two broad ways to think about employment segregation. One is occupational, as already mentioned. The other might be called establishment segregation—how separated races are between different workplaces. (An establishment is an individual workplace; think a McDonald’s restaurant, not the McDonalds corporation.) On this dimension, U.S. workplaces have backslid to where they were in the mid-1970s.

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Research Findings

Habermas in the boardroom? Evidence from shareholder engagement

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July 10, 2019

Can dialogue be established between civil society and corporations on social and environmental questions such as climate change? Our study of shareholder engagement at Ford and General Motors suggests that dialogue is possible and socially-conscious shareholders might be able to drive positive change in corporations on climate change.

We also show that overcoming initial adversarial positions take years and, to use the language of Jürgen Habermas, parties need to shift from strategic action. The strategic action is the instrumental pursuit of individual goals, to communicative action: a form of coordinated action where parties achieve a common definition of the situation. Our study shows how these ideas from German philosophy help explain engagement effectiveness, and understand current events in corporate boardrooms.

Dialogue has become central not only for traditional social movements, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and labor unions, but also for shareholders, who are increasingly active on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issue.

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Research Findings

The costs of raising children and the consequences for parental wealth and inequality


July 3, 2019

Children are expensive. Almost any parent will attest to this. For 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that raising a child into adulthood cost approximately $234,000 in total for a middle-income family.

Families face many similar expenses with childrearing, which vary over the child’s lifetime. Upon the birth of a child, there are immediate costs. Parents must purchase food, clothes, and many other items to support their children on a day-to-day basis. Children bring long-term costs, too, as parents often have to save money for their children’s futures, particularly for education.

Although the costs of childrearing may be similar, families have very different resources available to attend to these costs. As a result, higher-income families tend to spend more on their children in absolute dollars, but lower-income families spend a greater proportion of their income on their children, often at a cost to their own financial wellbeing. 

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Research Findings

What is a racialized organization?


June 26, 2019

Scholars of race and scholars of organizational theory have long lamented the lack of a structural theory of race and organizations. Acker’s classic work, which argued that gender is a constitutive element of organizations, concluded with a series of questions about how race shaped organizational formation and continuity. Similarly, Nkomo called for a structural theory of organizations that moved beyond understanding race as a simple demographic characteristic. More recently, scholars such as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Melissa Wooten have repeatedly called for a theory that integrates the sociology of race and organizational theory.

In an article recently published in the American Sociological Review, I outline a theory of racialized organizations with the aim of bridging the sub-fields of race and organizational theory. To make my case, I draw on Sewell and Bonilla-Silva, scholars who are concerned with how social structures arise, how structures become stable, and how they constrain or enable human agency in oftentimes in taken-for-granted ways.

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Research Findings

Of women and men: A lifetime of segregation


June 20, 2019

That women and men tend to be employed in different occupations comes as no surprise. It is both common knowledge and a basic fact that goes by the name of occupational segregation. That even if there was no occupational segregation at all, still around half of all the overall segregation between women and men would remain at two critical junctures in their lives—the career- and family-building years and retirement—is somehow more surprising.

How did we come up with this fact about segregation over the life course in our recent article? We had to consider additional sources of segregation beyond just the occupations where women and men work. For example, we know that women tend to work for pay shorter hours than men. Call this source of gender differences “time segregation” and call the joint measurement of occupational and time segregation “market segregation.”

Next move on to the elephant in the room, or what is one of the most sex-segregated and sex-typical occupation, even if unpaid: looking after home and family or “homemaking.” To be sure, besides gainful employment in the market and working full time at home, there are other stations in life. Unemployment, being a student, and retirement stand out. Call the measurement of gender differences in these stations “economic segregation.”

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Research Findings

Unstable and unpredictable work schedules are an occupational hazard

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June 17, 2019

The rallying cry for millions of fast food and retail workers is $15 an hour.  But, low pay isn’t the only occupational hazard that baristas, servers, and cashiers face.  These workers also contend with work schedules that are unstable and unpredictable. 

Long gone are the days of 9-5 shift, and so too are even regular night or evening shifts.  Instead, workers contend with schedules that vary from day-to-day and week-to-week often with little advance notice. Workers are required to be on-call – paid if asked to work, but otherwise uncompensated.

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Research Findings

Nonprofit interlocks on corporate boards: Corporate board members on the boards of nonprofit organizations

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June 13, 2019

No one likes to be told what to do, but it happens all the time—even to some of the most powerful people. When powerful people have to comply, what does that mean for the organizations they influence?

We all know what it feels like to be coerced into doing something that makes us uncomfortable. As you consider examples of this, you may go to the extreme and think of a scenario where someone puts a gun to your head and tells you to do something that you never would do otherwise. While a gun to the head is, luckily, very unlikely, there are many settings where we might see forced compliance in our day to day world – including both business and philanthropic settings.

We see this, for example, when watchdog groups or other outside stakeholders (for example, regulatory agencies) mandate certain rules and actions even when the organizational members themselves consider the mandate to be detrimental to their stakeholders. Our motivation for this study was in exploring the performance impact of forced compliance on boardroom actions in corporate and non-profit settings.

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Research Findings

Why should you work with a creative star?

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June 10, 2019

Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton(LV)’s men’s artistic director, and founder of Haute streetwear label Off-White, admits he learned a lot from his LV predecessor, and former mentor, Kim Jones, now creative director for Dior Homme.

The two first met in 2007 when Virgil was a virtual unknown and Kim, a prominent designer renowned for successfully blending high fashion and streetwear. Virgil reflected on his dream of collaborating with Kim, who he had admired for years: “I slept on his couch in a front room in Maida Vale and forced him to teach me stuff; I spent a summer sitting there with him.”

Like every aspiring innovator, Virgil knew that working closely with stars such as Kim would be good for him. Indeed, stories of junior designers learning from creative masters are common in various industries. However, what do you get by working with a creative star beyond fame and connections? And does it actually make you more creative?

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Research Findings

The networks of people who think of quitting their job

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June 6, 2019

Numerous studies have shown that people with large networks who have many friends and work relationships are less likely to quit their job than people who only have small work-related networks. But do people who think of quitting their job change their networks at work? Do they change the people they go to for advice or seek out for help? Do they change their friends? Knowing this is important because after all it may be that people who expect they will be leaving a company give up their network during the months prior to quitting. 

If this is the case it means that many previous studies that have found a connection between network size at time of exit and turnover incorrectly concluded that smaller networks make people leave the organization. Should the explanation behind the relationship between networks and turnover need to be re-written? Indeed, we found in our study that people who were thinking of quitting their job had very different networks from those who were not thinking of quitting. But the results were different from what we expected.

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Research Findings

Collaborative by design? How matrix organizations see/do alliances

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June 3, 2019

Matrix companies such as Procter & Gamble, Eli Lilly, General Electric, or PepsiCo are more likely to enter into complex alliances with other companies, because their structure and experience working in a matrix give managers more confidence to collaborate in challenging situations.

Our research shows, however, that the stock market often penalizes these companies for such collaborations because companies take on “double complexity”; that is managing complexity both within the organization and in its alliances.

The matrix organizational structure is designed with multiple links across the company’s customer, functional, geographic, and product groups. You work in a matrix organization if you have more than one boss; for example, you report to both a regional leader and a product leader. Account manager positions and cross-functional teams are typical elements of the matrix design.

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