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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Research Findings

What studying twins tells us about inequality of educational opportunity

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March 26, 2020

Why do the children of highly educated parents so often turn out highly educated themselves? Is this inheritance largely a social affair, that the welfare state can compensate for by levelling the playing field? Or is educational attainment “mostly in the genes” and thereby beyond the influence of policy levers?

Historically, sociologists have tended to favor social explanations. At the same time we have often shied away from competing perspectives (with important exceptions). Recently, that has begun to change. Understanding the links between genetics and the social environment in generating social inequalities is increasingly a concern for social scientists.

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Research Findings

Labor struggles of domestic workers: examples from Lebanon and Belgium

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March 19, 2020

The way housework is organized has changed significantly over time. We have witnessed a proliferation of platforms and private agencies that provide consumers with occasional cleaners or live-in domestic workers. But what are the experiences of these diverse workers and do they share common interests and struggles? 

In the context of globalizing neoliberal policies, documenting experiences of labor organizing and autonomous initiatives is more important than ever for emancipatory politics. In global care chains, the logistics around the mobility, placement and regulation of domestic workers are increasingly mediated through private-sector brokers.

In a recently published article, we compare emerging infrastructures for the regulation of domestic work in Belgium and Lebanon and analyze subversive attempts to organize within these infrastructures. Our case studies illustrate how the commodification and logistification of domestic labor pose new challenges for organizing. 

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Research Findings

Youths’ gender attitudes maintain the status quo

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March 10, 2020

Since the mid-twentieth century, women have entered the labor market in droves and now make up over half of the paid workforce. Still, women do a disproportionate amount of housework and childcare, despite their increasing hours spent in the labor force. Both academic research and public sentiment suggest that most people support gender equality and we just need workplace policies to catch up. But what if workplace policies are not the only barrier to progress?

Our new study in Sociological Science finds that fewer young people desire gender egalitarian arrangements—equal earning and caring roles for men and women—than conventional wisdom presumes. We analyzed almost 40 years of Monitoring the Future data to examine trends in young peoples’ division of labor preferences, an indicator of beliefs about appropriate roles for men and women in both work and family contexts.

Our study differs from prior research by evaluating perceptions of both women and men’s behavior in work and family contexts. Each year, high school seniors were instructed to imagine they were married and have one or more pre-school children. They then evaluated six distinct division of labor arrangements as not at all acceptable, somewhat acceptable, acceptable, or desirable for their future selves. This data enabled us to evaluate whose employment was prioritized, not just tolerated.

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Research Findings

LGBTQ-inclusive anti-discrimination policies are important but insufficient for LGBTQ workplace equality

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March 6, 2020

On Tuesday, October 8th 2019, the Supreme Court heard arguments for the first time regarding whether the federal laws that have banned employment discrimination on the basis of sex can also be applied to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) workers. 

Essentially, the question that is now before the court is whether it is legal for LGBTQ workers to be fired or denied jobs on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender expression. Given recent social science scholarship documenting persistent patterns of discrimination against sexual and gender minority workers, it is hard to over-estimate the importance of a favorable ruling for current and future generations of LGBTQ-identifying working Americans. 

A common goal in the existing literature on LGBTQ workers is to uncover mechanisms, such as hiring discrimination, that prevent LGBTQ workers from accessing or entering into certain jobs and occupations. Thus, much attention has been paid to the factors impeding LGBTQ workers’ access to certain jobs and occupations. A Supreme Court ruling making such discrimination illegal, many advocates say, would go a long way to addressing these disadvantages. 

Our research suggests that banning discrimination for the hiring and promotion of LGBTQ workers may not act as the great equalizer many have hoped for. In a study of LGBTQ workers who already enjoy anti-discrimination protections, we find that those workers still face a myriad of biases in their workplaces on a day-to-day basis. 

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