Module 7: Gender Inequality

Module 7: Gender Inequality


[MUSIC PLAYING] Hi, there. Lindsay here, again. I’d like to welcome you to our
module on gender inequality. As you may have noticed
by now, many recent trends in poverty and inequality
are a bit puzzling, and the trends in gender
inequality are no exception. The good news is we have the
best gender scholars to help us try and make sense of them. I want to introduce
this puzzle because it unfolded during my lifetime. Lindsay, having joined this
world only relatively recently, missed all the exciting stuff. To get started,
let’s take a look at the percentage of
married mothers and fathers who are employed. The top line, for fathers,
shows that about nine in ten were employed from
the mid-1960s to 1995. Almost all fathers
worked in the mid-1960s, and almost all fathers
worked in the mid-1990s. The trend for mothers
looks very different. We see nothing short
of a revolution. The employment rate
for mothers nearly doubled over this period,
and just like that, it’s suddenly a new world for women. I presented pretty much the
same graph two decades ago when I was teaching a
class on inequality. When I turned to the question
of what the future holds, I went ahead and extrapolated
the line for married mothers. And on the basis of
that extrapolation, I concluded then, that in
another 30 years or so, the rates of labor force
participation for married men and women would
be about the same. In this new world
of gender equality, men and women would be
equally likely to work outside the home with about nine
out of ten men and women doing so. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Look what’s happened. The line for women suddenly
stopped moving upward. As Paula England will
show in her contribution, the same type of stalling out
appears for many outcomes, not just labor force
participation, but also, occupational sex segregation,
the pay gap, and much more. The puzzle is why? Why did all this change
come suddenly to a halt? But we’re getting
ahead of ourselves. Before we can even try to answer
the stalling out question, we need to understand why there
was such a spectacular decline in gender inequality
in the first place. It is puzzling that the trend
has recently stalled out, but it’s even more extraordinary
that that dramatic decline in gender inequality took
place over just 30 short years. We can’t outline all the
reasons for the revolution here, but we can give you some
tools to help you tease out some of them in the
videos that follow. It’s useful, then, to
start out by introducing the distinction between
demand side sources of change and supply side
sources of change. Let’s start with
the demand side. When we examine the demand
side sources of change, we look at what happens
when firms hire, fire, and promote workers. The classic example of a demand-side process is discrimination. So if an employer decides to
hire a man, not because he’s more productive, but
just because he’s a male, then that’s a case of pure
employer discrimination. The gender revolution may
be understood, in part, as a result of employers
no longer so overtly discriminating against women. In a relatively
short period of time, employers became
willing to hire women for jobs that, in the
past, were exclusively seen as jobs for men. In the video by
Cecilia Rouse, she’ll lay out one interesting
example of a decline in employer discrimination. As you watch the videos,
ask whether they reference a demand-side source of change. This won’t always be
overt discrimination but could be any
employer practice that privileges one
gender over another for reasons other than merit. I want to step in here. Although in general, social
scientists love the demand side when it comes to explaining
the recent stalling out, there’s some pretty important
research on the supply side, too. By supply-side
accounts, we mean those that emphasize the
decisions that workers make. Decisions about whether
they’ll get more schooling, about whether
they’ll go to work, about whether
they’ll stay at home. The recent stalling out in
labor force participation is sometimes explained as just
such a supply-side phenomenon. The simple claim here:
Women are voluntarily opting out of the labor force. According to some
scholars, these women find that going to
work just isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. That happiness is,
instead, found in a more traditional domestic life. It’s possible that
they’ve experienced lots of discrimination in
the workplace, so they quit. They go home. Or maybe their partner
doesn’t help out much at home, so in exasperation, they quit. These decisions, as
I’ve laid them out here, are made in the context
of entrenched views that women are nurturers
and men are breadwinners. The world is, of course, rife
with such views, even today. They’re expressed in movies and
television, in child rearing, and much more. Here’s an example. Some fast food restaurants
still give two types of toys, one for boys, another for girls. The girl toy is
likely to be a doll, and this presumes that
girls just love to nurture. If you don’t think it’s
strange that fast food restaurants provide separate
toys for boys and girls, just think about how you’d
react if, instead, they provided separate toys for
black and white children, or for rich and poor children. You’d think that’s
racist or classist, but we often accept,
without a second thought, just that type of practice
when it pertains to gender, rather than race or class. It’s pretty insidious,
and it suggests the traditional
attitudes about gender are so pervasive that
they can stall out all progress toward equality. When you watch the videos by
Arlie Hochschild and Christine Percheski, you
should ask yourself how they speak to this type
of supply-side account. Do they support it? Or do they reject it? Before we wrap up, I want to
insert a bit of an addendum. I should point out that
entrenched views on gender can also influence how firms
set up their hiring practices, and so we’re not just talking
about supply-side effects here. Why, for example, do tech
firms, here in Silicon Valley, fill the new high tech
jobs mainly with men? How did this happen in a cool
new progressive industry? As Cecilia Ridgeway
suggests, it’s because firms borrow
longstanding templates about what constitutes a
man’s job and a woman’s job. Templates that draw upon
these entrenched views. The upshot is that the recent
stalling out in gender trends has been explained by both
supply-side and demand-side accounts. As you go through
the videos, think about which account is
being proffered, but also, consider the possibility that
some accounts will address both the supply and the demand side. Good luck and happy viewing.

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *