A special issue of Rutgers Business Review explores the pathways to gender equity
In a special issue of the Rutgers Business Review, the Center for Women in Business showcases scholarly research that focuses on understanding the issues that hinder the advancement of women in business.
“The Center for Women in Business was established in December 2019 as a research and education center dedicated to helping women achieve economic and workplace parity,” said Professor Lisa Kaplowitz, the center’s director. “The center accomplishes this by providing access to education, opportunity, and thought leadership that removes barriers, builds community, and empowers women with the confidence and skills to succeed as business leaders."
“This Rutgers Business Review issue is an extension of the center’s mission to educate both scholars and practitioners through thought leadership,” Kaplowitz said. “We have collected articles from academic scholars throughout the country that are organized around the three tenets of the CWIB mission.”
In the issue’s final article, “Pathways to Gender Equity in Leadership: More than a Seat at the Table,” Nancy DiTomaso, a distinguished professor at Rutgers Business School, teams up with Catrina Palmer Johnson from Kent State University, to discuss current research on the role of gender in organizations. The article explains why more knowledge about such things as gender role expectations and intersectionality, could help expedite a true path to gender equity.
In a short Q&A, Professor DiTomaso explains why these issues were important to highlight.
Q: What did you want to accomplish with this article?
We wanted to provide an overview of the current research on gender inequality and highlight the need for a shift in policy and not just a shift in attitudes.
Among other things, we wanted to move away from what we think is too much focus on bias (including implicit bias) as the central explanatory factor for gender inequality. We wanted to add the structural and institutional context for everyday interactions and how gender role expectations come into play when thinking about what needs to be done to create more gender parity, and we wanted to highlight the importance of intersectionality, namely, that gender cannot be separated from race, ethnicity, and class.
We also wanted to provide a brief overview of the research about the gender pay gap and job segregation since these are closely related and important to the wellbeing of women and families, including men. And because of the impact of family responsibilities on gender inequity, we wanted to provide an overview of what the costs are for women to have greater responsibilities for child and family care, including the current trends of a substantial upward shift in the age of first marriage and a decline in the numbers of couples who are having children. Finally, we wanted to be sure that issues suggesting that we need to “fix the women,” such as confidence and the willingness to negotiate, are reframed so we can see how these competences are about what people do and not what they are.
Q: What are some of the challenges identified in academic research around the pathways to gender equity?
A: It seems to us that the conversation about gender inequity has been far too limited. Specifically, gender inequity has been treated as a problem of individuals, whether the bias of men toward women or the failings of women to meet the standards that men have set at the workplace for leadership. But there is a larger context to gender inequity that shapes it and continually reproduces it, and that context affects both men and women.
Gender is not just a demographic category. It is also part of a set of role expectations that are hierarchical in which it seems natural that men are in charge and women are subordinate. These expectations are strongly influential in the greater access that men are given to positions of authority and power. While one can describe this as “bias,” it is far more than individual prejudice. It is enacted in everyday life, and it is built into institutions, inscribed in laws, and continually reproduced by the choices that are made about who gets what kinds of jobs, what pay is offered, whether promotions seem appropriate, and so on. It also circumscribes how women who are offered leadership positions can behave in those roles without suffering negative feedback. Even outlining this context and trying to explain why it affects the pathways to gender equity underlines how important it is to consider intersectionality in this conversation. Not all women are treated the same and gender role expectations apply differently to women from different race, ethnic and class backgrounds. There is a fair amount of research that shows that the normative prototype of women is of a white woman, while Black women are often thought of as not feminine enough and Asian women are often thought of as too feminine. (There isn’t as much research on Hispanic/Latinx women.) This intersectionality also has implications for understanding gender inequity and the pathways to gender equity.
Q: How significant are the structural and institutional factors that are contributing to ongoing gender inequity and are they changeable?
A: We think it is essential to understand the structural and institutional factors that shape gender inequity. This larger context is critical to understanding what is happening and what might be done. But it is not automatically the case that knowing about this broader context suggests any easy solutions. With all the social change that we have experienced, we still re-inscribe gender into the workplace in ways that give preference to men, and which continue to characterize men and male behaviors as the essence of leadership. We need to address the structural and institutional level, but we also need to know how this broader context interfaces with our everyday interactions to reproduce gender inequity.
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