Tag Archives: management

Women at the top: comment for Orgtheory

Over at Orgtheory, Isabel Fernandez-Mateo has a comment on why there are so few women at the top of the work hierarchy – and her research to look into it further. They invited me to offer a comment in response, which you can see there as well.

I wrote, in part:

We especially need to consider the role of state policy in shaping family-career interactions over the life course. When adequate family leave is not available, when health care is too expensive, when high-quality preschool education is inaccessible or too expensive, when the state-sanctioned workday is too damn long – all that increases the pressure that women’s family obligations place on their career trajectories.

If you don’t already read Orgtheory, I hope you will check them out.

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Alabama matriarchy (debunking The End of Men edition)

Hanna Rosin, in The End of Men, says sociologists have described the collapse of the manufacturing-based white working class. But we have missed how that event has had different effects on men and women.

In fact, the most distinctive change is probably the emergence of an American matriarchy, where the younger men especially are unmoored, and closer than at any other time in history to being obsolete.

This is from the chapter that was excerpted in the New York Times Magazine. In it, she describes Alexander City, Alabama — a small town devastated by the vanishing manufacturing sector — and nearby Auburn, the nearby success story. These two towns are two sides of the End of Men — and her description of them is basically fiction.

In this fantasy, Alexander City has a “new domestic reality: the woman paying the mortgage, the woman driving to work.” She writes:

“I was born in the South, where the men take care of the women,” [Charles Gettys, a laid off textile manager] said. “Suddenly, it’s us who are relying on the women. Suddenly, we got the women in control.” This year, Alexander City had its first female mayor.

That last sentence is Rosin giving us the context. That spooky feeling of women encroaching, taking over: A female mayor. To help her illustrate this drama, I checked the composition of the city council for Alexander City and confirmed it — there is also a woman on the council:

(In fact, Mayor Barbara Young does not fit the mold of the leading edge of rising women, as described by Rosin. Instead, she seems more like the old-fashioned female politician: a retired school principal and widow of a judge, she is the mother of two politicians, Circuit Judge Tom Young and council member Bill Young [second from right], the latter of whom, despite a 1990s federal felony conviction, is himself now running for mayor this year.)

Anyway, this collapse of man is not just limited to politics. “Wherever I went in town,” Rosin writes, “I met couples like the Gettyses, where the husband was stuck in place and the wife was moving ahead.”

And they’re not all formerly well-to-do. She highlights another couple that fits that description, the young, unmarried Shannon and Troy. She works part-time at Walmart, studies nursing at community college and works as an exotic dancer to feed their young son. Troy sleeps till 11, except for the four days last month when he did a little work. You can tell when he’s awake because cigarette smoke starts coming out from under the door of his room in their trailer. Troy is not the only deadbeat, unemployed man in town. According to Rosin, in fact, when he does the family’s shopping, all he sees are “aisles and aisles of dudes” at the store.

To check out this male vacuum for myself, I took a ride down the information superhighway to the American Community Survey’s 2006-2010 file (you need 5 years to get estimates for small areas).

Given her description of Troy as the typical Alexander City deadbeat, I was surprised to learn that 77% of Alexander City’s 20-something men are employed, compared with only 53% of women. In fact, the employment rate is higher for men at all ages, and the employed labor force is 53% male.

Alexander City is a poor place, there’s no doubt about that, and men’s earnings are especially low. More than 40% of men who work full-time all year earn less than $30,000, compared with 24% nationally. And there are, in fact, more women than men with jobs in the $30,000-$50,000 earnings range. But look at the top of Alexander City: 70% of the people earning more than $75,000 are men (which is where 15% of men are, compared with 7% of women). Overall, men’s full-time year-round median earnings are about $5,000 more than women’s.

Rosin quotes the local Southern Baptist leader, who’s also beating the “matriarchy” drum. “The real issue here is not the end of men, but the disappearance of manhood.” Literally. That probably explains why there’s also a woman among city government’s department heads:

What does that one woman do? She is in charge of the city’s Senior Nutrition program. And so it begins: the matriarchy’s pedicured toe creeps a little further up the ladder.

Matriarchal success

Down the road is the success story: Auburn, “the one city [in eastern Alabama] that got it right.” The secret?

Auburn has become the region’s one economic powerhouse by turning itself into a town dominated by women.

Wow – dominated by women. A strong claim. What’s the evidence? Well, she starts with the thing about young women earning more than young men (without even mentioning that only includes never-married, childless, full-time workers). In fact, Auburn is a “perfect reflection of the modern, feminized economy: a combination of university, service, government jobs, with a small share of manufacturing.”

She launches into an anecdote about a woman who “works in the female-dominated economic development department” (that department is actually directed by a man), and her “three best girlfriends … a consultant, a lawyer, and an engineer.”

That’s should be enough evidence to support the “dominated by women” claim. But, to bring it home, she asks, “Does any place still belong to the men”? And goes to a manufacturing plant, but even that has recently “tipped to 55 percent women.” (The city’s manufacturing industry employees are actually 32% female, says the Census.)

To see if “any place still belonged to the men” Rosin might have checked the Mayor and City Council…

…or the city government’s department heads…

…or, because it’s a university town, the university’s top administration and board of trustees:

I wouldn’t go so far as to say married couples in Auburn “belong to the men.” But a lot of their income does. As I showed previously, among married couples in Lee County, Alabama (home of Auburn), those with women earning none of family income outnumber the reverse by 32-to-1:

If Rosin really wanted to see what male domination looks like, she could have checked the Census data (5-year ACS file), and found out:

  • The city’s workforce is 54% male.
  • Women on average earn 71% of what men earn.
  • 70% of the people in management occupations are men.
  • Male managers earn an average 36% more than female managers.

Women are very sneaky, concealing their domination like that.

But seriously: I do believe there is an important and interesting story to tell about what happens to gender and families when economic fortunes decline asymmetrically by gender. I’d love to read that book.

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Work-family links for male bosses

From Reeve Vanneman comes a tip about an interesting piece of research: researchers asked if men in positions of authority were more likely to make sexist judgments if they were themselves in “traditional” marriages involving stay-at-home wives.

In this article, we examine a heretofore neglected pocket of resistance to the gender revolution in the workplace: married male employees who have stay-at-home wives. We develop and empirically test the theoretical argument suggesting that such organizational members, compared to male employees in modern marriages, are more likely to exhibit attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that are harmful to women in the workplace.

First, in an analysis of the General Social Survey, they found that men with stay-at-home wives had more negative opinions toward working women and women’s employment. Second, using the GSS linked to the National Organizations Survey, they found that men were less likely to see their female dominated workplaces as “running smoothly” if they had stay-at-home wives.

Then they conducted an experiment using several hundred married, male college students with managerial jobs. The men were asked to rate the “organizational attractiveness” of a fictional organization where they might work; and some of the men were additionally told that women were well represented on the organization’s board of directors. As expected, men in “traditional” marriages were less likely to find the egalitarian organization attractive as a potential workplace.

Finally, researchers recruited another few hundred male managers from an accounting association. These men were asked to make a recommendation about employing a person whose resume they reviewed; half received a resume with a man’s name and half reviewed an identical resume from a woman. The results also matched their expectations, with managers in “traditional” marriages being less likely to recommend the female applicant.

Is it all really Carmela’s fault?

The write-up of the study in Forbes took the nonsensical, but not surprising, approach of finding a way to blame women:

But new research … adds another layer to the debate over gender discrimination at work, and another (possibly just as important) person to blame: your boss’s stay-at-home wife.

Really?

Anyway, the authors speculate that they have uncovered “a pocket of resistance to the gender revolution,” and that seems reasonable. It is no surprise that the gendered nature of relationships at home and at work would be related in this way.

I don’t see much evidence here that the relationship is causal, however, such that a stay-at-home wife causes a manager to make more sexist decisions. The researchers use controls for common demographic characteristics, but not much that can account for the personalities and experiences that would produce sexist men. That is, “men may be self-selecting simultaneously into traditional marriage structures and non-egalitarian attitudes and behaviors towards women in the workplace.”

But the paper does suggest that those of us who study the gendered decisions of people in positions of authority would do well to keep looking for ways to get at additional qualities beyond their gender.

I found a complete draft of the paper here.

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The richer sex (is men)

Time‘s cover story this week is adapted from The Richer Sex, a forthcoming book by Liza Mundy. I provided a few numbers for the story (see below). The content is behind a pay wall here, but the cover gives a taste:

My only beef with the story is that it misidentifies the richer sex, which I’ll return to below. Otherwise, it’s an interesting piece on the (very partial) convergence in roles among married couples. Despite the current stall in progress toward equality, I’m glad to see an article with a positive take on the idea of equality (for middle class straight couples, at least) without focusing on the demise of men.

They only used two of the numbers I sent, so consider the other 9 numbers here a Family Inequality blog exclusive!

First, I showed them the trend in the gender composition of managers from 1980 to 2010. I used the 1990 occupational categories for this (from IPUMS), in the vain hope of maintaining consistency over time*:

My emphasis was on the stall in progress since 1990, so I ended up in the “on the other hand” paragraph of the story.

The other piece of “other hand” I pitched to them was the segregation among managers — with women concentrated in some corners of the managerial world — which I mentioned here, and which Matt Huffman and I studied here. For 2010, that segregation, in broad strokes, looks like this:

This didn’t make it into the story. There was to be only one “on the other hand” paragraph. It’s all about how women are pulling ahead of men and becoming the primary breadwinners, and what that means for gender and relationships.

Of course, women are not yet the richer sex, so the evidence in the article is about trends in that direction. The text says, for example:

Assuming present trends continue, by the next generation, more families will be supported by women than by men.

By the time the graphics department got to it, the “assuming…” part was gone, and this was the header:

The numbers that support this are the trend from 24% of wives out-earning their husbands in 1987 to 38% in 2009 (helped considerably by the mancession’s crimp on men’s jobs in 2008 and 2009). Here’s their graph:

Going from 24% to 38% in 22 years doesn’t mean we’ll pass 50% in another generation. It might be OK for rhetorical purposes to say something like, “at this rate it’ll take 300 years for the U.S. to catch Sweden’s welfare state” — but not OK to say it will happen in that time. If that were true, I could show you this graph and say, “the Earth will be a ball of human flesh expanding at the speed of light in less than 1,000 years!”

Besides projecting from the trend, the other reasonable way to make guesses about the future is to look at young people. For that Liza Mundy reuses a statistic that Time first used in 2010, showing that among those who are single, child free, under 30 and living in metro areas, women have higher earnings than men.

Great, you’re thinking, stay young and single, and don’t have children, and equality is yours!

I do believe our children are the future, but predicting the future from this subset is not a safe bet. The original Time piece is critiqued here and here, although the New York Times hit on this formula for gender equality in 2007 (critiqued here). The basic manipulation here is limiting the comparison to men versus women within a group where women are more likely to have completed college but not yet experienced the wage-diminishing events that now largely begin in the late 20s (marriage, children, and slower earnings growth). It’s an interesting comparison, but shouldn’t be used for projecting the future — or even characterizing the whole present.

Anyway, interesting story.

*There can be no perfectly matching set of occupational categories over long periods of time, because the type of work being done has changed. For example, there were no computer programmers or “customer service representatives” to speak of in 1980, and there are millions now.

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What if women were in charge?

The Council on Contemporary Families has produced a mini-symposium on the Gender Revolution, titled, “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby.” Or Have You?. The keynote essay is by David Cotter, Joan Hermsen and Reeve Vanneman, and then a series of short essay follows.

The whole series is worth reading (they’re very short). Here is my contribution, with some references and suggestions linked:

What if women were in charge?

Few would deny there was a gender revolution in the world of management from the 1970s through the mid-1990s or so. Less remarked upon, but no less apparent, is the abrupt stall that followed. Was that progress for women a cause or consequence of gender equality in the workforce as a whole? It was both. And that means the stall spells trouble for future progress toward equality.

Research shows that women’s presence in management is beneficial not only for those who reach those positions of leadership, but for those they are charged with leading as well. Where women lead, workplaces are less gender segregated and less gender hierarchical. I don’t think that’s because women are inherently better or more egalitarian-minded as leaders and managers. But their experience, their perspective, and their behavior do diminish gender differentiation in workplace.

That’s not to say getting women to the top is more important than anti-discrimination enforcement or other government policies. But women entering management is part of what gave the gender revolution a boost. After more than doubling from 1970 to 1990 – from less than 15% to more than 30% – women have now climbed to just 38% of those employed full-time in management occupations. Further, those managerial women have median earnings that are just 73% of men’s (compared with 78% overall).*

Something happened on the way to (partially) integrating management: women started getting concentrated in very specific types of positions. You might not be surprised to learn that 94% of day care center managers are women. But less obviously, women now make up three-quarters of the mangers in the human resource offices of the banking industry, and the frontline management of nursing homes. Three-quarters isn’t integration: it’s ghettoization. At the very top of the corporate hierarchy, on the other hand, just 16% of Fortune 500 corporate board of director members are women (3% are women of color), as are only 14% of their CEOs. In heavy blue-collar industries managerial women remain nearly invisible.

For women’s stall we may lay considerable blame on the logjam in our family-related workplace rights and policies, which force too many women (and men) to choose between work and family commitments, culling ambitious women from leadership tracks.

The strong association between gender and jobs undermines future efforts to integrate workplaces. Segregation shapes our consciousness and expectations with regard to men’s and women’s roles, skills, and potential. And that limits the choices young people have to develop and exercise their ambitions in the world of work.

Thanks to Stephanie Coontz for including me in the symposium, and editing my essay.

*American Community Survey, 2010, table S2402.

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Meet the new result on the new boss

A new article by David Maume digs deeper on the question of women as supervisors.

Matt Huffman and I have been trying to figure out whether the trend toward more women in management bodes well for all women in the workplace. Specifically, we’ve asked whether female managers reduce the gender gap in pay, and (with Jessica Pearlman) whether they reduce gender segregation among their workers. So far our results suggest women in charge do reduce gender inequality, though our analysis of pay gaps was based on indirect evidence — and found the inequality-reducing effect occurred only when women were in high-status managerial jobs.

Maume’s results are not consistent with our findings, but his approach is different, focusing instead of subjective reports of supervisor support and advancement potential. He finds that men with female supervisors report receiving more career support, and have more positive views about their chances of advancement, than men who work for male supervisors. But women report no such benefits. The analysis used the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce, a phone survey of about 1,500 workers.

He reports:

…men who report to female supervisors get significantly more career support, in contrast to the insignificant female supervisor effect among women. These results support the strong version of the [female managers as] cog in the machine hypothesis suggesting that female supervisors pay more attention to male than female subordinates, as a way of conforming to organizational expectations to advance men’s career prospects.

His conclusion is cautionary:

The results are consistent with much research showing that workplaces are pervasively male-oriented in their customs, policies, and structures, and that female bosses are no different from male bosses in reacting to organizational preferences to invest in men’s careers more so than women’s. Additional research is needed on the organizational mechanisms fostering or impeding women’s ascendance to supervisory positions in order to assess progress toward the goal of affording men and women equal opportunity to exercise managerial authority. Yet, irrespective of what future studies of managerial attainment show, those who expect that female bosses will dramatically change the nature of superior-subordinate relations are likely to be disappointed.

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Managing women

The march of progress, by baby steps.

The Government Accountability Office has a new report out on the progress of women in management in the 2000s. And by progress, I mostly mean in terms of the passage of time. From 2000 to 2007, the percentage of managerial workers who were women increased from 39% to 40%. Matt Huffman, Stefanie Knauer and I have previously reported that women’s entry into management slowed in the 2000s, up to 2005.

The report calls attention to the role of family barriers to women’s advancement. Notably, they found that women in management were less likely to be married and have children than men:

And the pay gap among managers was larger among those with children. The adjustments they made, which included marital status and presence of children, narrowed the gender among managers with children from 66% to 79% in 2007. That means those factors are an important part – though not the only part – of the pay gap.

Source: From the report. The “adjusted” pay gap controls for age, hours worked beyond full time, race and ethnicity, state, veteran status, education, industry sector, citizenship, marital status, and presence of children in the household.

The GAO report and news reports on it focused on which industries have more of fewer female managers, but they did not include a breakdown of managerial occupations, which we have found is crucial. There is a lot of job segregation by gender among managers. As they sliced it, lower level human resource managers and CEOs are all counted as “managers.”

This all matters for gender inequality more broadly, as our research shows that having more women in management improves the gender situation for women below them in workplaces as well as the labor market more generally.

The implications of this and other aspects of the gender gap were the subject of a hearing before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress yesterday, including as experts my friend Michelle Budig (who appears at 53:40 in the video), Catalyst, and others. Michelle was the co-author of the classic article, “The Wage Penalty for Motherhood.”

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Engendering Change

Organizational Dynamics and Workplace Gender Desegregation, 1975–2005

At long last, the article by Matt Huffman, me, and Jessica Pearlman is out in the June 2010 issue of Administrative Science Quarterly.

Here is the gist of it:

We examine workplace-level sources of gender inequality to explore the link between organizational change and levels of workplace gender integration over time. To do so, we analyze the gender division of labor and key structural aspects of U.S. private-sector work establishments, using longitudinal data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1975 to 2005. We find that women’s presence in managerial positions is positively related to gender integration, as is both establishment size and growth. Additionally, the results show that trends toward gender integration are due to change within workplaces rather than new, relatively integrated workplaces entering the population over time. Our results also provide compelling evidence that the effect of female managers varies dramatically across organizational contexts, with the strongest desegregating effects in larger and growing establishments. Finally, the effect of women’s access to organizational power structures has sharply diminished over time.

This analysis of worker segregation follows up on an earlier analysis of worker earnings, and one on the trend for women in management — their numbers, earnings and segregation into gendered positions.

The basic relationship – which we subject to all kinds of tests – is seen in this spruced-up version of a figure from the paper. The more women in management (x-axis), the lower the level of segregation in the workplace (y-axis). That is, up until you get to female-dominated management, where you start to see more worker segregation (on the far right side). Overall, segregation of the private sector workforce has declined (z-axis).

We also go into the other things that foster or retard gender desegregation.

The abstract and article info is here, with links to full text. If you don’t have institutional access but would like a copy, please feel free to contact me.

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Women in charge at Xerox

As we accumulate material on women in positions of workplace authority, the issue of female top executives comes up. Xerox is one highly visible case. Here are some notes.

By my sophisticated reading of stock price history at Yahoo!, the value of Xerox’s stock fell more than 75% during the 9 years the company was run by Anne Mulcahy, while the S&P 500 fell about 40%. Still, she was credited with leading the fabled “turnaround” at the company, meaning they reached bottom while she was in charge and then turned profitable again. Now the NYTimes profiles her successor, Ursula Burns, who took over last summer.

Despite her relationship with Mulcahy, to hear Burns tell it, she initially rose at Xerox by serving as executive assistant to a series of men, though later her relationship with Mulcahy was pivotal.

Mulcahy worked her way up through human resources at Xerox (where her older brother was a longtime executive), a common occupation for female managers. From that experience, she did not develop into a radical egalitarian, reflecting:

I think sometimes companies get confused with egalitarian processes that they think are the fairest, and that is not what companies need. Companies need to be very selective about identifying talent and investing in those leaders of the future.

Mulcahy is credited with overseeing early work-life experiments when she was in HR at the company, which reportedly served as an unnamed model for the books Finding Time, and Disappearing Acts: Gender, Power, and Relational Practice at Work. Such experiments reflect the reform-minded view that modern corporations need not be essentially masculinist.

Whatever the merits of those programs, of course, Mulcahy did preside over the “first woman-to-woman transition at a Fortune 500 company,” and Burns is the first Black woman in such a position. And as such success is measured, Xerox claims a good record at the top, with women holding 32% of both executive and professional positions in the U.S. in 2007. Still, I don’t know what benefits have reached those lower down.

Those who have rigorously studied corporate diversity programs report mixed success at best, at least when it comes to diversifying management, although there is always something to cheer for. With regard to the gender of leaders, Matt Huffman and I are among those who have found evidence for an egalitarian effect of female managers on those below them, but we have not studied executives at the highest levels, where the high visibility and shareholder profit demands could have good or bad results — and where gender integration has stalled.

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MBAs’ lasting gender gap

Speaking of women’s stalled march to the top

A new report from Catalyst shows a gender gap among MBAs that starts with their first job, and persists through the first decade. The analysis, based on a large online survey of high-level MBAs from the U.S., Europe and Asia that started in the late 1990s, controls for “total experience, time since MBA, first post-MBA job level, industry, and global region of work at the time of survey.”

The follow-up survey, in 2007-2008, excludes those who are not currently fully employed, and finds this big disparity in job status:

The report is a free download, and includes the full analysis.

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