Race and Sex Employment Segregation

Posted on October 16, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Kaufman, Robert L. Assessing Alternative Perspectives on Race and Sex Employment Segregation. American Sociological Review, 2002, Vol. 67 (August: 547-572).

Robert Kaufman sets out to outline what he believes to be the most influential components to employment segregation. By formulating numerous metrics and predictors, he outlined his justification theory for segregation, namely: skill deficits, worker preferences, economic and organizational structure, and stereotyping/queuing.

In order to conduct fair and marketable data, Kaufman divided segregation’s dominant perspectives. These were then evaluated according to two different models, the supply-side approach or the demand-side approach. The supply-side approach concentrates on skill-deficits between blacks and whites. “A human capital/skills deficit approach sees segregation as resulting from group differences in human capital (548)”. Skill deficits call into question, the qualification differences between races, primarily focusing on blacks and whites.

It is critical to examine the varying components that go into evaluating racial disparities. Components of human capital include education, skills acquired in the field (or relevant fields), and experience. These differences will impact the development of human capital, and if denied, will also impact the skill deficit of all races. Fortunately, recent research suggests that the gap between racial differences is slowly decreasing due to the increase in education, training, and experience.

Racial segregation, in addition to its social influences, is impacted by corporate culture and employment structure. Studies have demonstrated that as more skills are required for positions, a disparity develops between racial and gender demographics. “Studies of racial segregation find that higher general skills and training requirements increase the segregation of positions (549).” Consequentially, less racial minorities and women will be seen in upper-management and executive positions because these types of jobs require extensive experience and knowledge within their fields and industries. As long as the job training and experience is concentrated around white men, higher-level positions will and employees will enjoy the benefits of racial segregation.

However, many would argue that the gender disparities are due to women’s preference between balancing work and life. “Regarding sex segregation, a common argument is that women prefer positions that can accommodate their family responsibilities (549).” In non-managerial positions, it is assumed that women would prefer flexible work schedules in order to accommodate their family interests and responsibilities. These positions and gender differences are conditioned by assumed familial responsibilities.

Although this method may suggest inherent sex segregation, when using the sex-role socialization approach, it presents the external influences differently. The sex-role socialization approach suggests “that men and women have preferences for different types of skills and working conditions, primarily resulting from childhood or adult sex socialization (549).” This would indicate that there are inherent gender differences between positions due to societal influences from childhood. This suggests that men are predisposed to select positions that require physical or manual labor and ‘status-superior’ occupations, arguing that stereotyping occurs in the hiring process.

The second model is the demand-side approach. This method accounts for economic and organizational structures as constraints, advocating that stakeholders, including customers, can exercise discriminatory behavior. This argues that competition should eliminate discrimination, but this does not account for those preferences mentioned earlier, for white men. Fortunately, “such ‘tastes’ are more intense and salient only in firms protected from competition or with slack resources (549),” implying that as competition increases; there is an inverse reaction to discrimination. However, as inherent barriers to competition are in place, such as private institutions or organizations, gender and racial discrimination is more likely to occur because preference-selection dominates the selection process.

An additional approach to sex and gender discrimination is the race-sex stereotyping and queuing approach. This method suggests that the level of productivity is directly correlated to race and gender. This method pays more attention to their “membership in a race or sex group and less attention paid to their personal qualification (550).” For example, certain positions are valued as either ‘appropriate’ or ‘not appropriate.’ Early in this article, they mention that black women, according to this theory, are destined to be ‘pressers in laundries’ and black men as ‘garbage collectors or other sanitary services.’ This implies an inherent ranking system involving race and gender, resulting in fewer minorities in upper-management.

In conclusion, race-sex stereotyping is the largest factor in formulating desirable employment. As long as high skill levels are assigned to those who receive its benefits, there will be gender and racial segregation in management. Again, there is a greater demand for highly skilled employees, which come from additional experience and responsibilities that come with high-performing positions.

This article continues to highlight the disparate differences between the availability and placement of minorities compared to white men. Jobs that require less brain-work are generally assigned to blacks and women. Skills and experience remain key factors in marketability and market power. Unfortunately, stereotyping does occur in the workplace, denying minorities the opportunity and access to upper management. Without further developing their leadership skills, racial minorities will not be able to enter the highly competitive management market.

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