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Where the girls aren't: How firms, families, and educational specialization affect the gender gap in workplace authority

  • Author(s): Beresford, Lauren Sage
  • Advisor(s): Haveman, Heather
  • et al.

This dissertation is written as three separate, but related, papers. Each paper, examines a different aspect of the gender gap in workplace authority by asking where and how women lose out to men in access to management jobs in corporate America. I interrogate common, human capital arguments that women lack the relevant skills and experience to be managers and find that women's qualifications are not holding them back. Gender roles, stereotypes, and decision makers' biases in predominantly smaller American firms keep highly qualified, college-educated women out of management.

In "Where to mind the gap: Variation in gender gaps in management across firms and levels of educational attainment," I examine how higher education affects the differential allocation of men and women into management occupations with different levels of authority across employing organizations of different sizes. Results from logistic regression models using the Current Population Survey March Annual Demographic Supplement (CPS) 2003-2011 show that although gender gaps in managerial authority are wider among workers with bachelor's and master's degrees compared to workers without college degrees, these gaps are narrower in larger firms compared to smaller ones. The gender gap in authority among those with professional degrees is not statistically significant and the gender gap in authority among PhDs favors women in all but the largest firms, where it disappears. The results imply that gender gaps in managerial authority are not ubiquitous, but are contingent upon both educational attainment and the firms where people work.

In "A matter of degrees: Educational specialization and the gender gap in authority and returns to authority among American college-graduates," I examine whether business and economics degrees and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees are more likely to lead to jobs with authority in corporate America than bachelor's degrees in the humanities. After finding that college graduates in the private sector are more likely to be managers and supervisors, and that managers and supervisors have more authority and higher earnings, if they have business, economics, science and engineering degrees, I ask if these authority returns to degrees are equal for men and women seeking access to authority positions and for men and women who are already managers and supervisors. I find that gender differences in access to authority are mainly confined to business degrees, bachelor's degrees in economics, and bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering. Gender differences in span of control and earnings within the authority hierarchy are mostly confined to supervisors with business, economics, and engineering degrees. These results imply that women's inroads into higher education in these fields will do little to curb the gender gap in authority, if American corporate culture continues to denigrate feminized fields in the humanities, while venerating masculine prowess at managerial activities that require competence in analytical reasoning and mathematics.

In "It's all in the family: How gender differences in working hours, work experience, and family structure explain gender gaps in authority and returns to authority among American college-graduates," I examine why college-educated women are, relative to men, underrepresented in positions of authority in the workplace as managers and supervisors and why they earn less in these positions. Results from the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG) show that gender differences in working hours, work experience, and the resources imparted by a spouse's employment status explain most of the gender gap in authority and a large portion of the gender gap in financial returns to authority. Men enjoy an authority bonus from traditional family structures - that is, fathers are more likely to have authority in the workplace than non-fathers and men with less career-committed spouses earn higher salaries than men with wives who work full-time. Although motherhood does not directly affect women's workplace authority or their earnings, children exert an indirect negative effect on women's workplace authority by decreasing women's working hours. The negative effect of children on women's working hours is even larger if she has a husband who works full-time.

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