UA Sociology Brown Bag Speaker: Laurel Smith-Doerr (University of Massachusetts)

Friday, February 20th, 2015
12-1:15 pm

McClelland Hall, Room 128


“The Value of Women's Work in Science Policy: Organizational Contexts of Pay Gaps in US Science Agencies”




  Laurel Smith-Doerr
  Professor, School of Sociology 
  Director of ISSR
  University of Massachusets



While longstanding gender inequalities in science and engineering are well known, no previous research has looked at gender equity in government science policy agencies, that is, in places distributing the funding resources and regulations for scientists and engineers. In a government context, it might be expected that traditional measures of gender inequality like pay gaps and occupational sex segregation would all but disappear, yet science agencies are linked to science and engineering fields in which the literature shows persistent gender disparities. Using data on the population of federal employees in seven major science agencies from 1994-2008, this study investigates gender pay gaps in science agencies linked to traditionally masculine fields (engineering and physical sciences) and agencies in more gender neutral fields (life, environmental, and social sciences). Results show that gender pay gaps are different in the two kindsof science agencies: masculine field-based agencies overall have larger gender pay gaps, while gender neutral field based agencies overall have smaller gender pay gaps. Yet when considering the most male dominated occupations in these agencies, the opposite is found: in masculine field based agencies the gender pay gap is lowest in the most male dominated occupations (which this paper calls ‘the Marie Curie hypothesis’), while in agencies based on gender neutral fields the gender pay gap is highest in the most male dominated occupations (suggesting a gendered Matthew effect). Findings also imply that gender does not appear to be the primary driver of pay gaps at more interdisciplinary agencies. Overall, the results suggest the importance of examining variation in gendered organizational context in understanding pay gaps.


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Published Date: 

08/27/2014 - 15:01