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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Work in Progress is a project of the American Sociological Association's Sections on Organizations, Occupations, and Work, Economic Sociology, Labor and Labor Movements, and Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility