Gendered Tradeoffs

Gendered Tradeoffs: Women, Family, and Workplace Inequality in Twenty-One Countries

Becky Pettit
Jennifer L. Hook
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    Gendered Tradeoffs
    Book Description:

    Gender inequality in the workplace persists, even in nations with some of the most progressive laws and generous family support policies. Yet the dimensions on which inequality is measured—levels of women’s employment, number of hours worked, sex segregation by occupations and wages—tell very different stories across industrialized nations. By examining federally guaranteed parental leave, publicly provided child care, and part-time work, and looking across multiple dimensions of inequality, Becky Pettit and Jennifer Hook document the links between specific policies and aggregate outcomes. They disentangle the complex factors, from institutional policies to personal choices, that influence economic inequality. Gendered Tradeoffs draws on data from twenty-one industrialized nations to compare women’s and men’s economic outcomes across nations, and over time, in search of a deeper understanding of the underpinnings of gender inequality in different labor markets. Pettit and Hook develop the idea that there are tradeoffs between different aspects of gender inequality in the economy and explain how those tradeoffs are shaped by individuals, markets, and states. They argue that each policy or condition should be considered along two axes—whether it promotes women’s inclusion in or exclusion from the labor market and whether it promotes gender equality or inequality among women in the labor market. Some policies advance one objective while undercutting the other. The volume begins by reflecting on gender inequality in labor markets measured by different indicators. It goes on to develop the idea that there may be tradeoffs inherent among different aspects of inequality and in different policy solutions. These ideas are explored in four empirical chapters on employment, work hours, occupational sex segregation, and the gender wage gap. The penultimate chapter examines whether a similar framework is relevant for understanding inequality among women in the United States and Germany. The book concludes with a thorough discussion of the policies and conditions that underpin gender inequality in the workplace. The central thesis of Gendered Tradeoffs is that gender inequality in the workplace is generated and reinforced by national policies and conditions. The contours of inequality across and within countries are shaped by specific aspects of social policy that either relieve or concentrate the demands of care giving within households—usually in the hands of women—and at the same time shape workplace expectations. Pettit and Hook make a strong case that equality for women in the workplace depends not on whether women are included in the labor market but on how they are included.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-678-5
    Subjects: Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Gender Inequality in the Labor Market in Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 1-20)

    In February 1993, the U.S. Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The bill was soon signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The passage of the FMLA was a watershed event for American families, and for American women. For the first time in the nation’s history, the federal government required employers to provide twelve weeks of job-protected leave for new parents and other workers with family caregiving obligations.

    The FMLA has been characterized as a pivotal moment in work-family policy in the United States. Its passage signified widespread government recognition of the competing demands of the workplace...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Institutional Underpinnings of Gender Inequality
    (pp. 21-44)

    Across advanced industrialized economies, women are entering the labor force in record numbers; they have made inroads into all types of occupations and jobs and achieved great advances in garnering equal pay for equal work. Women’s gains in the labor market have been tied to several factors: legal changes that protect the rights of women as workers; worldwide increases in women’s educational attainment; declines and delays in childbearing; and growing preferences for gender equality in work and family, articulated in attitudinal surveys. Historical trends suggest that women’s labor market experiences now more closely approximate the experiences of men than at...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Gender, Family, and Work in the Paid Labor Force
    (pp. 45-66)

    Women’s labor force participation increased dramatically in most industrialized countries in the latter half of the twentieth century. Figure 3.1 shows the cross-national trends in women’s involvement in the paid labor force from 1978 to 2001, with the mean level increasing from 50 to 65 percent. The figure further reveals that during the 1980s and 1990s women’s labor force involvement rates converged across countries. In 1978 rates ranged from a low of 30 percent in Spain to a high of 70 percent in Sweden; by 2001 this forty-percentage-point gap had narrowed to twenty-five. Substantial variation remains, however, across countries and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Gender, Family, and Part-Time Work
    (pp. 67-92)

    Employment rates indicate a general level of access to economic opportunities, yet overall employment levels mask important differences in work hours (Buddelmeyer, Mourre, and Ward 2008). There is significant cross-national variability in levels of part-time work among women across countries, as well as scholarly agreement that women are more likely to work part-time than men (see, for example, Blossfeld and Hakim 1997; Fagan and O’Reilly 1998). However, explanations for overall levels of part-time work and gender differences in involvement in part-time work are routinely debated. Part-time work is sometimes viewed as a mechanism that employers use to regulate labor, particularly...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Gender, Family, and Occupational Sex Segregation
    (pp. 93-122)

    Despite women’s inroads into the labor market through the late twentieth century, there is ample evidence across countries that women and men are segregated within the labor market (Charles and Grusky 2004; Chang 2000). By a host of measures, and across countries, women and men are located in different occupations and are not equally represented in managerial jobs (Grusky and Charles 1998; Charles and Grusky 2004; Jacobs 1993; Jacobs and Lim 1995; Bridges 2003; Reskin 1993; Chang 2000). The segregation of women and men into different jobs—horizontal segregation—has been framed in relation to norms about gender and cultural...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Gender Wage Gap
    (pp. 123-144)

    Public policy initiatives have helped to mitigate explicit gender discrimination in pay, and the expansion of higher education and training programs has advanced the employment fortunes of women in many countries. Given the massive growth in women’s education and their movement into sectors of the economy typically reserved for men, we might expect a narrowing of the gender wage gap, both over time and across countries. There is clear evidence of an improvement in the relative wages of women over the last two decades of the twentieth century, yet the gender gap in wages persists (Blau and Kahn 1996, 2002)....

  11. CHAPTER 7 Inequality in Employment, Hours Worked, Occupation, and Wages in the United States and Germany
    (pp. 145-166)

    Up to now, this book has focused on gender inequality cross-nationally. This chapter shifts the focus to examine heterogeneity among women within countries, offering additional detail on how the dynamics of labor market inclusion and workers’ attachment to the paid labor force influence inequality for different groups of women within single-country settings. The aim of this chapter is to apply some of the insights generated from cross-national accounts of gender inequality in the labor market to the study of inequality between women of different races, ethnicities, and nationalities within countries.

    The processes that generate inequality are situated at both the...

  12. CHAPTER 8 The Institutionalization of Gender Inequality in the Workplace
    (pp. 167-178)

    Women’s economic fortunes are highly variable across countries. Women in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland lead the world in levels of employment; women in Belgium and the Netherlands are the most likely to work alongside men in similar occupations; and working women in Italy have reached near-parity in wages with men. No single explanation can account for gender inequality in employment, occupational sex segregation, and wages across countries, but political foundations lie beneath gender inequality in the workplace. Inequality between women and men in the workplace is rooted in societal conceptions of gender and family obligations, and it is institutionalized through...

    (pp. 179-212)
    (pp. 213-224)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 225-238)