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Research Findings

Research Findings

Earnings inequality matters for understanding how family policies affect mothers’ employment

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June 11, 2020

Many rich countries provide paid parental leave and childcare to help mothers reconcile work and parenting. But, where are these policies most effective at keeping moms employed, and which moms respond most strongly to them? Not surprisingly, the answers to these questions are complex and contentious. 

In a recent study, we propose that a missing piece of the puzzle is a country’s level of earnings inequality, the size of the gap between those who earn a little and a lot. Earnings inequality helps explain who is most affected by family policies and why these same policies “work” in some countries, but not others. 

We found that when countries spend more on early childhood education and care (ECEC), mothers of young children are more likely to be employed. The effect is stronger for mothers without a college degree than for mothers who have completed college.

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Research Findings

Riders on the storm: Workplace solidarity among gig economy couriers in Italy and the UK

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June 4, 2020

Food delivery couriers have become an increasingly common sight across cities all over Europe and North America, as myriad food delivery platforms have proliferated in recent years as part of the growth of the global gig economy. Even during the global lockdown which followed the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, food delivery was among those essential activities which continued uninterrupted. Yet workers in this sector are mostly underpaid, with a precarious contractual situation, and subject to stringent forms of algorithmic control on their work activities.

These adverse circumstances are often seen as obstacles to workers’ mobilisation. Yet, food delivery has been one of the segments of the ‘gig economy’ where workers have started to organise to protest exploitative working conditions. How so? In a recent article, we investigate what explains the emergence of workers’ solidarity even in this hostile context through analysis of the mobilisation of food delivery couriers in the UK and Italy.

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Research Findings

Women’s Stalled Advancement: A Work-Family or a Work-Hours Problem?

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May 21, 2020

Women remain remarkably underrepresented in the partner ranks in professional service firms—as lawyers, accountants, and consultants—despite having gained parity with men at the associate level long ago.

This stalled advancement is surprising in light of companies’ efforts to improve the situation, often by means of well-intentioned work-life accommodation policies.  Time and again, however, researchers document how taking accommodations has the unintended effect of derailing women’s careers. Yet these remain the go-to solutions, and women’s careers continue to languish. 

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Research Findings

When gender diversity makes firms more productive


May 14, 2020

Does gender diversity make an organization more productive?

Some say yes, suggesting that gender diversity could lead to more innovative thinking and signal to stakeholders that an organization is well run. Others say no, pointing to group research showing that demographic diversity could lead to conflict and reduce team solidarity.

But while past research has been conflicting, most have looked at this question only within a single country or industry. This oversight got me thinking: could social context play a role? Social norms and regulatory context could affect people’s approaches to and attitudes toward diversity, which might, in turn, influence diversity’s organizational impact overall. 

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Research Findings

How organizational spaces contribute to disabling employees with impairments

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May 7, 2020
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Disabled people continue to be underrepresented in employment and to experience unequal career opportunities when they are employed. (While in the U.S., it is more common to use the term ‘people with disabilities’, we follow the U.K. tradition of using the term ‘disabled people’, which is used to particularly highlight the social origin of disability and the role of societal barriers in causing people with impairments to become disabled.) 

This problem has many different causes, including employers’ and co-workers’ stereotypes, different forms of discrimination, the way jobs are designed, and the lack of access to reasonable accommodations. In an article recently published in Organization, we focus on another element that can contribute to the disadvantaged labour market position of disabled employees: the disabling role of organizational spaces.

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Research Findings

Why British disabled workers fail at employment tribunals and what can be done

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April 30, 2020

It is common knowledge that disabled people have a tough time at work throughout the developed world. In Britain, in theory, the law (Equality Act 2010) protects disabled people against discrimination in employment, but in practice it is a different story. Yes, a British disabled person can take a case to an Employment Tribunal and sue the employer for discrimination, but if they do they are likely to lose. Looking at over 750 judgments in England and Wales between 2015 and 2017, we found that less than a fifth of all cases that went to the first stage (a preliminary hearing) were successful. At the final stage (a full hearing) a claimant is almost three times more likely to fail than to succeed.

Our research explores why this occurs and we found several reasons.  First, many judges make restrictive judicial decisions, for instance on the time period necessary to bring a claim (3 months). Woe betide the person who waits more than three months from when he/she experienced discrimination! Judges can extend the time limit where it is ‘just and equitable to do so’, but in practice they rarely do, choosing not to exercise their discretion. 

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Research Findings

Women in tech work: Navigating the ‘gender structure’

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April 23, 2020

In the UK, only one in six tech professionals are women. In the US, women’s representation is higher at one in four. How do technically-skilled women working in tech think women in their industry are regarded, and how does it affect how they as women behave at work? Qualitative interviews with 57 UK-based female tech professionals from range of organizations suggest that the “gender structure” in tech influences how female tech professionals experience their careers.

A gender structure is an enduring pattern of how men and women relate to each other within a social system. As with any social structure, a gender structure consists of norms that guide behaviour. These norms can be detrimental to how women experience their jobs, and so some push back against them. The gender structure in tech includes a pervasive belief that women are less suited to tech work. Male colleagues communicate this belief in subtle ways, which influence how women behave and think of themselves as women within the industry.

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Research Findings

Do gender pay gaps in workplaces narrow the longer employees stay? (They don’t)


April 16, 2020

Even though pay differences between men and women have declined in past decades, evidence suggests men continue to receive greater pay raises than women for the same performance.

In a recent study, I investigate whether these biases in annual merit raises disappear when supervisors get to know new employees over time.

I found that no matter how long employees work with their company, gender pay gaps widen with each additional year employees stay.

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Research Findings

How family-friendly work arrangements relate to jobs’ gender composition

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April 9, 2020

Balancing work and life outside of work can be difficult in modern societies. Work-family imbalance especially pertains to women in the labor market, because they are often responsible for childcare and housework besides working their jobs.

In a recent study, we examine how different work arrangements that play a role in reconciling work and family life relate to jobs’ gender composition. We scrutinize whether women specifically choose jobs with work arrangements that correspond with women’s preference for reconciling work and family life, or whether more and more women entering jobs shifts the work arrangements in these jobs towards women’s preferences.

Our results show that women increasingly enter jobs that offer more part-time work and work from home, and avoid jobs with more weekend work. We do not find that working women can shift the work arrangements in their jobs toward a better balance of work and family life.

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Research Findings

Public preschool helps some families more than others


April 2, 2020

Just a few decades ago, it was rare for young children to attend a preschool of any kind. The majority of children of this age were cared for in their homes by their parents, usually their mothers. Fast forward to today, and a majority of young children attend some kind of preschool.

Certainly, many preschools in the contemporary United States are private, but cities like New York and states like Oklahoma have made tuition-free public preschool universally available to all families. The United States still invests less in preschools than most other advanced democracies. However, as public preschool programs have been rolled out in state after state, US investment in preschool is now more similar to what we see in other countries than is investment in childcare for younger children. 

The important role of these investments in public preschool for inequalities in children’s learning and development is well-documented. In a recent study, I set out to better understand the implications of the rise in children’s preschool attendance for the work lives of their parents, focusing on the very simple outcome of whether parents with children of this age participate in the labor market.

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