Journal Club 1: Gender Studies

Last time, I pointed out that within the Boghossian/Lindsay kerfuffle no-one was explaining how you could falsify gender studies. As I’ve read more and more of those criticisms, I’ve noticed another omission: what the heck is in a gender studies journal? The original paper only makes sense if it closely mirrors what you’d find in a relevant journal.

So let’s abuse my academic access to pop open the cover of one such journal.

Gender & Society, the official journal of Sociologists for Women in Society, is a top-ranked journal in sociology and women’s studies and publishes less than 10% of all papers submitted to it. Articles analyze gender and gendered processes in interactions, organizations, societies, and global and transnational spaces. The journal publishes empirical articles, along with reviews of books.

They also happened to be at the top of one list of gender studies journals. I’ll go with their latest edition as of this typing, volume 31 issue 3, which is dated June 2017.

The first article is a bit of a curve ball, it’s a written version of a lecture.

I challenge two common assumptions about the south. The first is the assumption that southern feminists are rare, or nonexistent, and have had little influence on developing feminist perspectives or pursuing social activism as local initiatives. The second assumption involves the concept of the Problem south and the propensity of scholars, journalists, and activists to fall back on old ideas about southern exceptionalism, and to emphasize continuities between the Old south and new south while minimizing discontinuities. in challenging these assumptions, i review the significance of intersectionality and suggest that paying attention to region and place offers an additional level of complexity and explanatory power for understanding social phenomena, including gender, sexualities, and social movements, as well as southern feminism and the Problem south.
Rushing, Wanda. “No Place for a Feminist: Intersectionality and the Problem South: SWS Presidential Address.” Gender & Society 31, no. 3 (2017): 293.
On the surface this seems like mushy-headed drivel that would be ripe for mocking… except the author relies heavily on citations to historians and key figures.
Historian Janet Allured acknowledges multiple influences shaping the twentieth-century women’s movement, but she argues that the South was underappreciated and misunderstood as a “nursery of women’s liberation in the United States,” and notes further that “Louisiana was a particularly critical incubator of the southern cradle of resistance” (Allured 2013, 390). […]
One professor published an article in The Radical Teacher about her experiences teaching feminist literature in Alabama during the 1970s, noting that “twentieth-century feminism will develop differently in the South than it does in other parts of the country” (Jones 1977, 34). Describing herself using an apparent oxymoron—“Bible Belt” feminist—she also emphasized the importance of decorum and respectability, adding that a Southern feminist can do as “she pleases as long as it is done quietly. Silent personal revolutions are possible, but overt attacks on the sacred traditional codes are dangerous” (Jones 1977, 32). […]
Many southerners have been willing to take risks, asserting bold public statements, engaging in civil disobedience, or pursuing legal remedies for discrimination. A few prominent names include Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Norma L. McCorvey (Roe v. Wade), Mildred Loving (Loving v. Virginia), Lilly Ledbetter (Ledbetter v. Goodyear; Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009), Barbara Jordan (congresswoman), Crystal Lee Sutton (the North Carolina union organizer portrayed in the film Norma Rae), Ann Richards (governor), and Wendy Davis (legislator). Many others continue subtle but powerful acts of everyday resistance, easily missed. These low-profile actions confirm that “most of the political life of subordinate groups is to be found neither in the overt collective defiance of powerholders nor in complete hegemonic compliance, but in the vast territory between these two polar opposites” (Scott 1985, 36).
Ibid. pg. 296 – 298

It also openly criticizes other scholars for missing out on something. So much for that “echo chamber.”

The next article in that issue:

This study asks how men’s and women’s careers diverge following MBA graduation from an elite university, using qualitative interview data from 74 respondents. We discover men and women follow three career pathways post-graduation: lockstep (stable employment), transitory (3 or more employers), and exit (left workforce). While similar proportions of men and women followed the lockstep pathways and launched accelerated careers, sizable gender differences emerged on the transitory pathway; men’s careers soared as women’s faltered on this path—the modal category for both. On the transitory path, men fared much better than women when moving to new organizations, suggesting that gender may become more salient when people have a shorter work history with a company. Our findings suggest that clear building blocks to promotions reduce gender bias and ambiguity in the promotion process, but multiple external moves hamper women, putting them at a clear disadvantage to men whose forward progress is less likely to be stalled by such moves.
Patterson, Sarah E., Sarah Damaske, and Christen Sheroff. “Gender and the MBA: Differences in Career Trajectories, Institutional Support, and Outcomes.” Gender & Society 31, no. 3 (June 1, 2017): 310
This one intrigued me. I know a bit about the leaky pipeline in science and engineering, but the field of business is entirely foreign to me. It appears I’m not alone:
To our knowledge, only one existing qualitative interview study has looked at women’s and men’s MBA careers—Roth’s (2006) study that demonstrated sizable gender discrimination in business. Roth focused on MBA career outcomes on Wall Street and found that gender bias in bonuses and client socialization, as well as gendered occupational segregation in different sectors on Wall Street, contributed to women’s overall lower wages. We extend Roth’s research by looking at MBAs across a wider range of business careers and by tracing work pathways in order to develop theoretical categories for these trajectories.
Ibid. pg. 311
The introduction is nicely cited, one paragraph in particular references 14 separate works. The method is OK; the researchers pulled from an alumni list and interviewed people 10-12 years after they graduated. Sample sizes are a bit small (28 women + 46 men = 74). The interviews, 1-2 hours each, were iteratively coded and re-coded by a collaborative team rather than independent investigators; this offers greater flexibility but makes it possible for researchers to “herd.” Still, the quality is sufficient to get a general feel for what’s going on, and might inspire more rigorous follow-up studies.

Many working women will experience sexual harassment at some point in their careers. While some report this harassment, many leave their jobs to escape the harassing environment. This mixed-methods study examines whether sexual harassment and subsequent career disruption affect women’s careers. Using in-depth interviews and longitudinal survey data from the Youth Development Study, we examine the effect of sexual harassment for women in the early career. We find that sexual harassment increases financial stress, largely by precipitating job change, and can significantly alter women’s career attainment.
McLaughlin, Heather, Christopher Uggen, and Amy Blackstone. “The Economic and Career Effects of Sexual Harassment on Working Women.” Gender & Society 31, no. 3 (June 1, 2017): 333–58. doi:10.1177/0891243217704631.
I know, I know. It seems silly to study whether or not a sudden career change can effect career attainment. But science is all about challenging conventional wisdom, from how the planets orbit to soothing jellyfish stings. This study fits into that history nicely.
The methodology looks solid, mixing in-person interviews with quantitative metrics and numeric models. Their coding was checked by a third party, for instance. They even did a sensitivity analysis, and double-checked one year’s results against neighbouring years. The only mystery is why they waited so long to publish; the interviews were carried out in 2002 and 2003, with all of their quantitative data coming before 2011 and the majority before 2005. I doubt the results have significantly changed since then, mind you, I just wonder what prompted the authors to revisit old datasets.

There are two more papers left to cover in that issue, but I think I’ll end it here for now. Besides, looking at a single issue of a single journal is not a fair sampling.