Research Findings

Does money shape couples’ labor division after the birth of their first child?

September 21, 2023

After the birth of their first child, different sex couples often opt for a gendered labor division, with mothers assuming more of the primary responsibility for childcare, which often leads to a reduction in their salaried working hours, while fathers continue full-time employment. In my research, I analyzed the role financial aspects play when new parents negotiate their labor division. What role do childcare costs play when parents decide whether to work outside the home or take care of their children by themselves? Are mothers more likely to reduce their paid working hours and take on more unpaid work than fathers, because, on average, they earn less?

To answer these questions, I traced the financial decisions of 54 parents (27 couples) living in Switzerland. While most of the couples belonged to the middle-class, their income configurations varied: before childbirth, the man earned more than the woman did in 12 couples.  In 9 couples, both parents earned the same.  In 6 couples, the woman earned more than the man did. Each parent was interviewed once before and once or twice in the first two years after the birth of their first child. This longitudinal data with more than 130 in-depth interviews provided a detailed picture of how the couples navigated their financial decisions.

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Research Findings

In business to save the world? which companies join moral markets

September 7, 2023

Why did Unilever enter the market for plant-based alternatives to meat? Why was BP engaged in solar panel manufacturing? And why did Patagonia enter the organic food market?

Usually market entry decisions are ascribed to superior resources or capabilities: companies enter markets where they can leverage their knowledge, technology, or expertise to gain an advantage. But of the three instances mentioned above, only one is largely consistent with this story. What accounts for market entry decisions when companies do not have the requisite resources and capabilities?

A first step to solving this puzzle is to acknowledge that the markets these companies have entered—markets for organic food, solar energy, and plant-based meat alternatives—are all instances of so-called “moral markets”: sectors that emerge not just to create economic value, but to explicitly offer market-based solutions to social and environmental problems.

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New book

Credit by numbers? The quantification of creditworthiness

August 31, 2023

Do you know what a FICO score is, or the value of your own score?

Not everyone does, even though FICO scores are incredibly fateful for individuals and their households. Why? Because today FICO scores govern access to credit, and credit is usually needed to make big purchases (for example, financing a new car, or getting a mortgage to buy a home), to deal with short-term emergency expenses (like surprise medical bills), or to maintain consumption when household income gets interrupted because someone lost their job.

A high score means easier credit, while a low score means expensive credit (higher interest rates) or even no credit at all. That these scores play such a central role should come as no surprise because, in fact, FICO scores were designed to govern access to consumer credit, on a mass scale. But now they are used in other contexts as well, and so have become even more consequential.

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Research Findings

The equality policy paradox: helping women advance in the workplace

August 17, 2023

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies aim to improve the experiences of marginalized groups in organizations, yet a large body of research finds that these policies are often ineffective and might even backfire. One previously explored reason is that they can activate biases, generating opposition to policies from majority groups. In a recently published article, I identified another reason why DEI policies might fail, which I label the “Equality Policy Paradox.”

Key Finding: The Equality Policy Paradox

I found that managers who voice the most support for improving equality might also be, contradictorily, the least likely to implement DEI policies. This Equality Policy Paradox may come about because often the managers who are most supportive of DEI policies are themselves members of marginalized groups. As such, they experience career barriers, such as discrimination, that make it difficult for them to practically support DEI policies without harming their own careers.

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Research Findings

Why do startup employees say no to female bosses more frequently?

August 10, 2023

Navigating the entrepreneurial landscape is a challenging feat for women. The hurdles they face are well-documented, which range from equitable access to funding and other resources, to widespread discrimination from venture capitalists and investors. Crunchbase, a data provider, reveals that in 2020, a mere 2.3% of global venture capital was allocated to female entrepreneurs. But the issues are not limited to the funding stage. Post-entry, a systemic performance gap persists. As an example, Crunchbase also reports that of the 120 new entrants to its “Unicorn Board” that year, only 10 were founded by women.

This inequity is far from new or surprising. Research has consistently highlighted the patterns of unfair distribution of venture capital. However, even after succeeding in raising venture capital, we still observe a persistent performance disparity between startups led by men and women. Why? Are there any other hidden challenges that female entrepreneurs face, hampering their success?

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Research Findings

A feeling for AI: ChatGPT and the emotion work of AI-assisted knowledge production

August 3, 2023

ChatGPT has feelings about you. Or, at least, it pretends to.

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) language model, able to provide conversation-like responses to inquiries, by drawing on a vast database of written text. And it has been designed to express emotions when it talks to you.

If you ask ChatGPT, it will explain that “As an artificial intelligence, I don’t have feelings or emotions. I don’t experience the world the way humans do.” At the same time, it happily admits that it can simulate all kinds of sentiments, from joy to frustration, to better engage users in “a realistic interaction”.

Mimicking human feeling goes deeper than this though. It has important political and ethical implications, problems that go beyond the by now well-rehearsed errors people have discovered with ChatGPT’s model. In a recently published research note in Sociology I sat down to talk to ChatGPT, about itself, reflexivity, AI ethics and what it means for knowledge work that ChatGPT seems to feel the way that it does.

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Research Findings

How technology developers can shape the future of work without leaving workers behind

June 29, 2023

The rise of ChatGPT and other generative AI models has taught creative and white collar professionals what many workers have long known: technological change can inspire fear and uncertainty about the future of work.

Yet, experts are increasingly getting out of the prediction business. Rather than estimating how many jobs or tasks will be displaced by new technologies, they remind us that the path of technological change is shaped by our collective choices. In fact, emerging technologies may impact the quality of work more than the quantity of jobs available.

Governments have released policy guidelines that outline principles for protecting our privacy and rights at work. Unions are seeking new ways to influence issues around data use and surveillance. Even some employers are stepping up to lead efforts to retrain and upskill displaced workers.

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Research Findings

Learning about inequality in unequal america

June 22, 2023

The joint growth of income segregation and inequality across Western nations calls attention to the changing conditions of life on each end of the growing divide. Alongside the material consequences of this process, there is an important cognitive aspect: as social worlds become increasingly divided by socioeconomic fault lines, how do we learn about the lives of others?

Sociologists are beginning to address this question by describing how people make sense of inequality. Understanding how we perceive and explain inequality is important because our beliefs, in turn, are predictive of a host of political attitudes on topics ranging from healthcare to redistribution and the welfare state.

My article in Research in Stratification and Social Mobility sets out to learn how young Americans growing up in a country defined by inequality and segregation learn about their society. I investigate this question in the context of college. School, more than any other institution today, provides the context for children’s cognitive, social and moral development, for its presence in children’s lives across the Western world is sustained, durable, and compulsory.

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Research Findings

Are lesbian, gay and bisexual people underrepresented in workplace authority?

June 15, 2023

Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people across the globe experience discrimination which leads to severe inequalities across life domains and especially in the labor market. In a German study about 30 percent of the LGB respondents report having experienced discrimination in their work life over the past two years. In addition, various studies show that gay and bisexual men earn less than heterosexual men and that occupational segregation and hiring decisions based on sexual orientation lead to inequalities in the labor market.

The gender pay gap and the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions and workplace authority are highly discussed and well-researched topics that received more and more attention in the last decades. In this context, results have shown that workplace authority – defined as control over the work process of others – is associated with higher earnings, status and psychological rewards (e.g., messages of worth and esteem). Recent research suggests that unequal access to workplace authority can shape further inequality. However, there is so far little empirical evidence about the connection between sexual orientation and workplace authority.

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Research Findings

Women’s entry into authority positions alone is not sufficient for achieving gender equality

June 8, 2023

Women are significantly underrepresented in positions of workplace authority and power across the globe. Improving women’s representation in authority jobs has become an important goal for many organizations and governments striving toward gender equality in the workplace. Firms are increasingly adopting policies to increase diversity at all levels of management and some governments have introduced legislation requiring a set quota of representation of women in corporate boards.

Although undoubtedly an important direction, my recent research in Gender & Society shows that women’s entry into authority positions alone is not sufficient for achieving gender equality.

In my research, I ask a straightforward yet underexplored question: how do the jobs and experiences of women and men compare once they have positions with authority?

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