How the Organization of Workplaces Affects Gendered Career Patterns
The shift from the Fordist economies of the post-war decades to the “knowledge economies” of today is accompanied by a surge in levels of education and labor force participation among women. Despite this revolution, men are still outnum- bering women in high-pay occupations and in leadership positions. Why is this the case? The paper presents a theoretical framework in which the distribution of workplace flexibility across jobs affects the level of gender segregation in the labor market. Compared to men, women in paid work do a larger share of the house- hold and childrearing work. This “second shift” makes workplace flexibility, such as shorter working days and part-time work, more important to women than men. Thus, when some employers supply jobs that are highly flexible whereas others supply jobs that are highly inflexible, segregation is predicted to arise. Combined with the Varieties of Capitalism’s emphasis on specific skills as a source of occupational segregation, the job flexibility perspective can explain both between- and within-country variation in occupational gender segregation. Yet I emphasize that the effect of job flexibility should depend on the presence of work-family policies (WFPs). Where WFPs—in particular generous, publicly-funded daycare services and paternity leave—are available, there is less need for job flexibility, which again decreases the importance of flexibility for education and career choices. The re- search implies that an equal sharing of household work is a key to gender equality in the labor market.
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