Research Findings

Gender, race, class, and family care disparities shape the landscape of remote work during COVID-19

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May 12, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic sent large numbers of workers whose jobs permitted it into working from home. At the peak more than 60% of U.S. workers worked remotely. Working from home blurs the boundaries between work and personal lives. We find, surprisingly, that remote work brought with it both more and fewer hours, but this varied depending on family care responsibilities as well as gender, race, and class.

Work hours are important because working time is a fundamental aspect of working conditions associated with pay and status, family and personal lives, as well as health and well-being. Given the currently “frighteningly high levels” of burnout among U.S. workers, it becomes all the more important to understand how working from home affects hours worked.

In a recently published study, we investigate how work hours changed as women and men moved to remote working conditions, and how remote workers themselves account for increases, decreases, or stability in their work hours. We find different experiences for women and men, as well as at the intersections of gender with caregiving obligations, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

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Commentary

When it comes to addressing gender inequality in STEM fields, the leaky pipeline problem starts with the metaphor

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May 5, 2022

By many accounts, women self-select out of STEM programs at various points across the career trajectory because they feel they do not belong, or because they feel less confident in their ability to thrive in a STEM career. When speaking of issues related to gender inequality in STEM, the predominant metaphor used is that of a “leaky pipeline.”

Last year, we completed a report for a scientific governing body on ways they can make their funding services to university faculty more equitable. We interviewed women who opted out of academic careers because the culture in their labs was inhospitable. And we documented stories of interviewees’ colleagues who experienced harassment and likewise opted out of academia.

Taken together, we were provided evidence of a leaky pipeline, and we had conversations with interview participants about what might ultimately be its cause. These conversations were unsettling and unsatisfactory because we kept butting against the issue of recruitment, hiring, and retention. But the real problem with the leaky pipeline explanation of gender inequality is the metaphor itself.

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Research Findings

More Dads are Home Taking Care of Children than Ever Before – Are Views About Gender and Work Changing?

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April 28, 2022

In 2021, the number of stay-at-home dads in the United States reached record highs. Does this mean that cultural views about gender, masculinity, work, and family—particularly the idea that men should be breadwinners—are changing? Not necessarily.

Our recent research in Gender & Society assesses cultural views of stay-at-home fathers over three decades, by examining their portrayal in leading newspapers and magazines between 1987 and 2016. We found that news portrayals of stay-at-home dads have indeed become more positive over time. But the growing support for full-time caregiver fathers is conditional.

Dads who lost their jobs because of involuntary unemployment are viewed sympathetically, especially since the Great Recession. But dads who are able to work, but choose to stay home with children instead, are still described negatively. As much as we’d like to think that the gender-bending phenomenon of (slightly) increasing numbers of dads at home is a harbinger of more fundamental gender liberalization, our results suggest that this is not unambiguously the case.

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Research Findings

Dependency on platform work is associated with greater financial strain and poorer mental health

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April 21, 2022

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, many of us increasingly turned to gig workers to have meals, groceries and other household necessities delivered to our doorsteps.

The increased demand for these services during this period meant that online labor platforms were an alternative source of income for at least some of the workers who had been laid off as part of the resulting economic shutdowns. For other workers looking to reduce their exposure to the virus, online crowdwork platforms offered remote job opportunities that could be performed from the safety of their home.

During a period of unprecedent upheaval, risk and uncertainty, then, the gig economy provided some much-needed flexibility and convenience to many consumers and workers. These purported benefits remain core to platform firms’ marketing strategies as they seek to expand in a future post-pandemic economy.

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Research Findings

How the idea of the local “business climate” was created in the 1950s to give companies leverage at the height of unions’ power


April 7, 2022

Employment insecurity has emerged as a defining trait of the contemporary American economy, and it’s not just workers who fear job loss. Employment insecurity manifests at the community level as well. Shared concerns over an area’s ‘business climate’ and its relationship to employment growth inform virtually every area of local politics in the United States, often through the work of public economic development agencies operating in partnership with the private sector. Maintaining a favorable business climate to encourage job growth means limiting regulation, offering enticing tax breaks or publicly funded business infrastructure to potential employers, and promising a skilled and eager workforce (preferably one that is not unionized).

Large companies with the ability to relocate or grow their operations elsewhere exercise a great deal of power over their workers and the communities in which they do business.

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Research Findings

Customer abuse and aggression as labour control against LGBTQ+ service sector workers

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March 31, 2022

Anyone who has worked with the public has likely dealt with irate customers. Abuse and aggression from customers is a common experience in ‘low wage service’ jobs. These are jobs that are customer facing, pay at or just above the minimum wage, and are precarious and unstable. Over the past 50 years the number of people Canada and the US working in low wage services has expanded so that it now surpasses the number of people working in manufacturing. Women and people who are racialized as non-white are more likely to be working in these jobs, as are LGBTQ+ people.

Given that LGBTQ+ people are frequently employed in low wage services, we decided to look at how gender and sexuality influence their experiences of customer abuse and aggression in a recent article in Work, Employment, and Society. As we expected, interviews with 30 LGBTQ+ service workers in Windsor and Sudbury, Ontario, revealed that LGBTQ+ people experienced customer abuse and aggression related to their gender identity and sexual orientation.

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Research Findings

Patriarchal webs: Understanding workplace inequity for lower-ranked Pakistani policewomen


March 17, 2022

I was sitting in an open-ended police van with half a dozen policewomen, “hanging out” with them as they awaited orders to begin crowd control in that part of town.

A policeman came up to the back of our open-ended van and told us that it had to be taken somewhere else; we had to get off. The women grumbled good-naturedly as they began gathering their things and climbed out.

One of them, Ruqqaiya, began adjusting her headscarf so that she could also use it to cover her lower face. She then pulled out a black gown from her bag and began putting that on top of her uniform.

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Research Findings

Sticking to the Job or Opting for Alternatives?

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March 10, 2022

The “Great Resignation” has fueled growing conversations about the labor conditions facing American workers today. Millions of workers in this country, according to recent statistics, have left or are in the process of leaving jobs they have deemed unfulfilling in order to seek out something better. We are living in a moment where workers have both the ability and inclination to find new work if they are unhappy with their current job.

This moment—which is fundamentally about how workers think about jobs and strategize about their future employment—raises at least as many questions as it answers. For instance, how are workers who regularly face unpredictable schedules, pay, and changing employment status—sometimes called non-standard work conditions—able to manage job changes?

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Research Findings

Work-schedule instability increases turnover among low-wage workers, leading to lost earnings and horizontal mobility

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March 3, 2022

Over the last year, American workers quit their jobs at higher rates than ever before. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 4.5 million people quit in November 2021 – the most ever recorded since the BLS began publishing turnover data in December 2000. While the “Great Resignation” spans across the economy, quit rates were highest in the retail and food service industries, where workers have been resigning in droves since the beginning of last year.

Why are so many workers in retail and food service quitting their jobs? In addition to concerns over their risk of infection from COVID-19, many workers are quitting because they are dissatisfied with their poor working conditions and they hope to find better opportunities elsewhere. In particular, retail and restaurant workers report that frustration with inflexible and unpredictable hours is a primary motivation for quitting.

In a recent study, we investigate how and why unstable schedules might lead retail and food service workers to leave their jobs and assess if workers leaving these jobs are really able to find better opportunities after.

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Research Findings

Enabling Uber’s Disruption


February 24, 2022

Over the past 25 years, much has been written about the role of disruptive innovations in the contemporary economy. Indeed, a great deal of attention has been paid to how nascent technological platforms, like Google, Amazon, Uber and Airbnb, have been disrupting existing industries.

Most of this research has focused on the market strategies that contribute to the success of disruptive firms. However, scholars have increasingly begun to highlight the important role that non-market and corporate political strategies  play in producing market disruption. Indeed, a growing body of research suggests that, to disrupt markets, start-ups must often pursue strategies to change existing laws and regulations, which scholars have referred to as regulatory entrepreneurship.

While informative, the research on regulatory entrepreneurship has mostly centered the corporate political strategies and tactics of the disruptive firms that seek to influence their political environments, leaving the work of regulators and lawmakers to manage that disruption relatively under-explored.

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