New Network Addresses Gender Pay Equality
Published in Network, newsletter of the British Sociological AssociationNumber 89, Autumn 2004
Why are changes in gender inequalities so much faster and more consistentin some spheres and social groups than in others? Why are new payinequalities between women emerging and growing? Why, despite the manypolicy initiatives concerned with addressing inequality, has the gender ‘wagegap’ proved so stubborn? Why has the demise of the breadwinner family leftwomen’s primary responsibility for family care-taking unchanged? Why docorporations differ in their willingness to embrace gender equity goals?
These and related questions will be addressed by a new ESRC researchpriority network on Gender Inequalities in Production and Reproduction whichruns from October 2004 for five years. A main objective of the Network is tomove forward the theoretical understanding of changing forms of genderinequalities and to provide new substantive evidence of the dynamic inter-links between life processes, resource constraints, and policy contexts.
The Network’s research programme is co-ordinated by Jacqueline Scott, asociologist at Cambridge University. The Network brings together ninesubstantive projects spread across eight institutions and involves some twentyresearchers from a wide range of disciplines. Three large-scale longitudinalprojects, using state-of-the art analysis of quantitative survey data, areexamining the gendered pathways to adult attainment. Picking up onconcerns raised by Denise Kingsmill in her Employment Review about thewastage of talent in the British economy, Shirley Dex and Heather Joshi(Institute of Education) will examine how policy initiatives and employerpractices affect the careers of men and women and mothers and fathers, andhow career paths have changed across the generations. Ingrid Schoon, apsychologist (City University), will focus on young people’s changingaspirations and attainments. Demographers, Wendy Sigle-Rushton (LSE),John Hobcraft and Kathleen Kiernan (York) will examine the distinctivegendered pathways that contribute to the different ways childhood(dis)advantages affect adult attainment.
A second theme, with four-inter-related projects concerns resource allocationsand gender, ethnic and class inequalities. Jonathan Gershuny (Essex) willuse cross-national time trend data to test further hypotheses concerning howhousehold division of labour reproduces gender inequities across time andplace. Holly Sutherland (Essex), Sue Himmelweit (OU) and Fran Bennett(Oxford) will look at the way the new tax credits help or limit families’
capacities to adapt to new opportunities for gender equality in paid and unpaidwork. Geographers Linda McDowell (Oxford) and Sarah Radcliffe(Cambridge) will examine the gendered opportunities and disadvantagesfaced by new migrants and different ethnic groups in the service sector ofLondon. Sociologist Rosemary Crompton (City) will extend and develop herongoing study of how particular labour market sectors are changing as aresult of a feminised or feminising work force.
All the projects are concerned to address policy, but two projects are explicitlyconcerned with policy response. One project based in Cambridge (SimonDeakin and Jude Browne) will investigate the role of corporate governance inthe public and private sectors in promoting and blocking the employability ofwomen and men across the life course. Another project on work and care inthe UK and EU, with Jane Lewis (LSE) and Ceridwen Roberts (Oxford) willuse a historical perspective to understand the turning points in the wayproblems are defined by policy makers and solutions proposed
The purpose of bringing distinctive projects together under the umbrella of aNetwork is to “add value” to what could be achieved by stand-alone projects.
The Network as a whole has the critical mass, diverse expertise, time andresources to make an impact. Our common goal in examining changing livesand structures is both to understand the way these are changing and toidentify how policy can intervene effectively to promote greater equality.
We will hold a variety of open events around the Network theme, includinginternational workshops and conferences. A Network seminar series will bestructured around theoretical questions, key concepts, and methodologicalchallenges that confront the research of gender inequalities. The Network willalso hold training workshops for researchers who wish to expand theirmethodological skills in areas directly applicable to dynamic analyses ofgender inequalities.
The Network faces many challenges. How to prevent gender beinginterpreted as “women”? How to ensure reproduction and production areeach given due weight in developing theoretical constructs and empiricalanalyses of inequalities? How to provide an effective evidence base for policymakers? We are optimistic that these challenges will help spur us on toachieve real progress in furthering gender equality, an important and timelytask.
Further details of the Network’s activities can be found at www.genet.ac.uk(currently under construction).
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