Structural Cohorts

In my socialization class we've been considering the role of class, race, and gender in reproducing social structures, including those that aren't as equitable as we might like. An article in the New York Times magazine by Lisa Belkin entitled The Opt-Out Revolution has generated much response. My question, what effect does exiting the workplace for parenthood affect the subsequent career path? Some dismiss structural bias and presume that the killer instinct is no longer there, that one's priorities have substantively shifted, or one simply can't compete with those that now have that additional experience. I don't think a simple deficit of experience is necessarily the cause for failing to achieve prominent positions. Instead, given the importance of social networks (Stanton-Salazar 1997) in advancement, dropping from the workplace is akin to dropping from one's generational "team." Might dropping from the work place sever one's connections to one's cohort of peers, who are also making their steps forward in a rough tandem? When one re-enters, one's peers have advanced beyond reach, and one has few social/institutional attachments to the present generation of up-and-comers.

Stanton-Salazar, R. 1997. "A Social Capital Framework for Understanding the Socialization of Ethnic Minority Children and Youths." Harvard Educational Review 67:1-39.


Ported/Archived Responses

Michael Zimmer on 2003-10-30

"When one re-enters, one's peers have advanced beyond reach, and one has few social/institutional attachments to the present generation of up-and-comers."

I think this was a primary example for radical feminists' call for women to take control of their "means of production" (ala artificial reproduction) for as long as women (and only women) need to leave the workforce in order to bear children (even if only for a month) they will forever fall behind their cohorts. Check out Shulasmith Fireston's Dialectic of Sex".

Joseph Reagle on 2003-10-31

Hi Michael, on this note Hochschild's proposal is to recognize that the character of competition can be destructive, (particularly via the model of the male career), that we need to respect/appreciate the value of care and the home, without removing ourselves from community, and to support a new model of the career akin to that of the Swedes: to change the character of the male career path, including the promotion of family leave and part time employment that both women and men should take equal advantage of.

Consequently, my ironic conceptualization of feminism is that it needs to be extended to the male sphere.

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