Tuesday, October 28, 2008

OrgTheory Spotlight: Cecilia Ridgeway

Today in OrgTheory, we highlight the work of Stanford sociologist Cecilia Ridgeway.

From her faculty biography:

Cecilia L. Ridgeway is the Lucie Stern Professor of Social Sciences in the Sociology Department at Stanford University. She is particularly interested in the role that social hierarchies in everyday social relations play in the larger processes of stratification and inequality in a society. Ongoing projects include empirical tests of status construction theory, which is a theory about the power of interactional contexts to create and spread status beliefs about social differences. Examples of this work include “How Easily Do Social Differences Become Status Distinctions? Gender Matters,” a paper currently under review, “Consensus and the Emergence of Status Beliefs (Social Forces 2006), “Creating and Spreading Status Beliefs” (American Journal of Sociology, 2000), “How Do Status Beliefs Develop? The Role of Resources and Interaction (American Sociological Review, 1998), and “The Social Construction of Status Value: Gender and Other Nominal Characteristics” (Social Forces, 1991).

Another ongoing project addresses the role of interactional processes in preserving gender inequality despite major changes in the socioeconomic organization of society. A book manuscript in preparation on this topic is tentatively titled, Framed By Gender: How Gender Inequality Persists in the Modern World. Examples of other publications on social hierarchies, status, and gender inequality include :Gender as a Group Process: Implications for the Persistence of Inequality” (2007), “Sociological Approaches to Sex Discrimination” (2007), “Motherhood as a Status Characteristic” (Journal of Social Issues, 2004), “Unpacking the Gender System: A Theoretical Perspective on Cultural Beliefs and Social Relations” (Gender & Society, 2004)“Gender, Status, and Leadership” (Journal of Social Issues, 2001), “Interaction and the Conservation of Gender Inequality” (American Sociological Review, 1997), and Gender, Interaction, and Inequality (Springer-Verlag, 1992).

Newer projects include 1) the development of a theoretical analysis of the role of social coordination and accountability in the development and use of status information, and 2) a theoretical account of the processes that bind low status members to a group.

Her work interests me greatly, and I'm trying to figure out how to integrate her research in how social differences become status distinctions into my own way of thinking about gender discrimination in the workplace. Everyone makes distinctions, but there's certain ways of acting on those distinctions that would render the behavior illegal discrimination and legally actionable. Inequality of outcomes is not per se illegal, of course, unless there is strong evidence of systemic statistical discrimination (much harder to prove nowadays, too).