The American dream is built on the notion that the U.S. is a meritocracy. Americans believe success in life and business can be earned by anyone willing to put in the hard work necessary to achieve it, or so they say.
Thus, Americans commonly believe that those who are successful deserve to be so and those who aren’t are equally deserving of their fate – despite growing evidence that widening inequalities in income, wealth, laborand genderplay a major role in who makes it and who doesn’t.
And this very fact – that Americans believe their society is a meritocracy – is the biggest threat to equality, particularly when it comes to gender, as research by myself and others shows.
A panel on Gender, International Development and Management was hosted on October 23 at UMass Boston as part of the Academy of International Business US-Northeast conference, including panelists Banu Ozkazanc-Pan (UMass Boston College of Management), Kade Finoff (UMass Boston College of Liberal Arts, Economics Department), Cynthia Enloe (Clark University, Worcester) and Deborah Jones (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) with Alessia Contu (UMass Boston College of Management) as the moderator.
The discussion began with Alessia Contu noting that any conversation about gender lands up with an all-female panel, and stating that it is important how scholars teach gender to their students. Some excerpts follow:
(Question)Alessia Contu: What does it mean to think about gender seriously in political economy?
Banu Ozkazanc-Pan : Gender is the complex interaction between biological sex, identity and perception of gender role/gender expression. It’s not just about women! “Genderblind” does not relate to gender-neutral outcomes. It’s like when students conduct a SWOT analysis of a company, there are assumptions being made about gender in business all the time. Who’s going to benefit from a cost-effective workforce? What are the real gender consequences of those decisions? What we research, practice and teach about international management needs to include all those. Continue reading →
David Levy, Professor and Associate Dean in the College of Management at UMass Boston and Director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and Regional Competitiveness
Women held placards proclaiming “Bosses out of My Bedroom” to protest last week’s Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case, which permits privately-held corporations to exclude coverage for contraception from health insurance coverage on religious grounds. In the media, opponents of the decision saw the issue as corporate owners imposing their religious beliefs on all the employees in Hobby Lobby’s nearly 600 stores. The decision has been widely condemned by feminist and other progressive groups, who smell a theocratic agenda that represents discrimination against women (Viagra and vasectomies are covered by insurance), a threat to women’s health, and a continuation of efforts to control female sexuality. The Court itself was divided along gender lines for this and the follow up Wheaton College decision regarding exemptions for religious non-profit organizations, in which the three female judges issued a sharp dissent. For women, reproductive freedom and economic independence are closely intertwined, as Justice Ginsburg noted in her dissent: “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”
But the Hobby Lobby (HL) case is not just about corporate control over women’s work and health; it holds broader significance for corporate governance. The decision severely undermines those who seek to use corporate social responsibility (CSR) to hold business accountable and to channel the vast financial, technological, and organizational resources of business to advance social goals. The heart of the HL case turned on the technical question of whether a for-profit corporation, as a legal person, has the same rights as an individual to exercise religion under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). On the face of it, the idea of a corporation having a religion is somewhat bizarre. After all, we don’t see corporations being baptized or singing at a Bar Mitzvah ceremony. But if a corporation, as a person, does have values or religion, whose are they? A small group of owners, or the wider community?
Harvard Business School (HBS) Dean Nitin Nohria apparently made an “extraordinary public apology” at a glitzy ballroom in San Francisco for HBS’s bad behavior towards women as outlined September 2013 New York Times article “Harvard Business School Case Study: Gender Equity.” Nohria’s goal of doubling the percentage of women who appear as protagonists in Harvard Business Publishing (HBP) cases in the next five years is lackluster if not meaningless.
Apparently HBP cases account for 80% of cases studied in business schools globally. The last time I checked the online case database included 10,148 (December 2013) HBS/HBP cases. (Note: HBP also disseminates cases from similar collections such as Darden and Ivey.) Without a doubt, HBP/HBS is the thought leader and standard bearer in what I call mainstream graduate management education (MGME).
If the latest report of the US Department of Labor is right then three of the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. from 2010 to 2020 are nursing (30% growth), event planning (44% growth) and public relations (23% growth). But will increasing demand also result in decent pay? Today’s salary statistics suggest otherwise. According to CNNMoney and other sources, all three jobs yield around $50k annual pay on average, which seems fairly low if there is such a high demand. Not even to mention the long hours and physical, social and emotional stress nursing, event and public relations management often involves. But why is there such a gap between importance and attractiveness of these professional domains? What makes these dream jobs on paper often ‘sweat jobs’ in reality?