Women On Top: The Temporal Status Of Gender In Elite Professions

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: 414
Oral Presentation
Mana NAKAGAWA , Education, Stanford University
Alison WYNN , Stanford University
The recent growth of women’s integration into “high-status” professions over time has been documented around the world, but stark variation exists across fields of education, government and corporations. However, while there has been much focus on women's labor force participation generally, the literature surrounding hubs of elite workforces is more fragmented. As a result, we lack a holistic view of the experience of gender in high-end professional spaces where women continue to permeate in new and diverging ways from the past. There is of course important research that explores the experience of women in specific industries and organization types, but there remains a need for more studies using comparative frameworks. For instance, across the world, most governments have far less than 50 percent of women members making critical decisions in their countries. In corporations globally, women have progressively taken over greater numbers of high-status positions, but top C-suite levels continue to be dominated by men. While industries in each country have unique drivers of inequality, common mechanisms lead to the overwhelming lack of women in high echelons of professional organizations cross-nationally. In this paper, we provide a meta-analysis of existing literature describing the mechanisms that perpetuate gender inequality within and across international professions. Building on existing sociological research examining gender in the legal profession, consulting and academia, we ask: (a) What kind of changes have we seen over time in these elite professional spaces? (b) How are these changes different from findings in the labor force more generally? (c) What does this emergence say for how we think about inequality and stratification in these professions more generally?