Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Craig Westergard, Questioning the Sacrosanct: How to Reduce Discrimination and Inefficiency in Veterans' Preference Law, 19 Seattle Journal for Social Justice 39 (2020)
Veterans’ preference law grants military veterans decisive advantages when applying for government positions. While rewarding veterans and assisting their transition back to civilian life may be worthy goals, veterans’ preference has at least two major defects. First, veterans’ preference disparately affects women, LGBT persons, disabled persons, and others because of the military’s traditional exclusion of these groups. Second, veterans’ preference unnecessarily reduces the quality of the federal workforce because it prioritizes military service over merit and competition. Potential statutory and constitutional solutions have been precluded by the courts, and so these problems persist. This Note recommends that Congress modify veterans’ preference by imposing limitations on its duration and usage; in the alternative, it suggests other ways in which veterans’ preference law might be improved.
Monday, April 12, 2021
Between 1900 and 1956, women increased from a small proportion of public company stockholders in the U.S. to the majority. In fact, by the 1929 stock market crash, women stockholders outnumbered men at some of America’s largest and most influential public companies, including AT&T, General Electric, and the Pennsylvania Railroad. This Article makes an original contribution to corporate law, business history, women’s history, socio-economics, and the study of capitalism by synthesizing information from a range of historical sources to reveal a forgotten and overlooked narrative of history, the feminization of capital—the transformation of American public company stockholders from majority-male to majority-female in the first half of the twentieth century, before the rise of institutional investing obscured the gender politics of corporate control.
Corporate law scholarship has never before acknowledged that the early decades of the twentieth century, a transformational era in corporate law and theory, coincided with a major change in the gender of the stockholder class. Scholars have not considered the possibility that the sex of common stockholders, which was being tracked internally at companies, disclosed in annual reports, and publicly reported in the financial press, might have influenced business leaders’ views about corporate organization and governance. This Article considers the implications of this history for some of the most important ideas in corporate law theory, including the “separation of ownership and control,” shareholder “passivity,” stakeholderism, and board representation. It argues that early-twentieth-century gender politics helped shape foundational ideas of corporate governance theory, especially ideas concerning the role of shareholders. Outlining a research agenda where history intersects with corporate law’s most vital present-day problems, the Article lays out the evidence and invites the corporate law discipline to begin a conversation about gender, power, and the evolution of corporate law.
Friday, December 4, 2020
Jessica Lai, Patents and Gender: A Contextual Analysis, 10(3) Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property 283-305 (2020)
Patent law is considered to be an objective law, dealing with the objective subject matter of the “technical arts”. Yet, empirical studies show that patenting rates around the world are gendered. This article analyses the roots of the gender patent gap, and how this correlates to the invention and innovation processes. It shows that the gendered nature of the patent-regulated knowledge governance system forces women into traditionally male spaces and fields in order to partake in the extant patent game. Yet, when they enter those spaces and fields, they often find themselves unwelcome and subject to institutional, structural or organisational biases, which impinge upon their ability to invent, patent and commercialise.
The article re-frames the discourse around women inventors. It argues that we have to stop focusing on the “women in science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM)” narrative, because it is a distraction from the underlying problem that the Western knowledge governance system reflects the hegemonic powers at play. Instead, we need to re-think the knowledge governance system and the ecosystem it creates, in order to ensure egalitarian knowledge production and protection.
Monday, November 23, 2020
Darren Rosenblum, Diversity and the Board of Directors: A Comparative Perspective"
Draft Chapter for Elgar's Research Handbook on Comparative Corporate Governance (Afsharipour & Gelter, eds.), Forthcoming
Upon Norway’s adoption of its corporate board quota, nobody would have predicted that, within fifteen years, most of the top ten economies would follow suit. When Norway adopted its corporate board quota in 2003, it took a clear, new direction for corporate governance and for equality law. In so doing, it recognized two things: 1) the central role that the private sector plays in determining questions of equality, and 2) the responsibility of the state to ensure that the private sector would rectify entrenched discrimination. These statutes effectively feminized boards across Europe and elsewhere. This Chapter maps the divergent directions these quota efforts have taken, in both civil and common law jurisdictions. Contrasts among these efforts reveal distinct frameworks for inclusion. As social science makes sense of the efficacy of these efforts, this Chapter suggests directions that future inclusion efforts may take.
Friday, October 16, 2020
Amelia Miazad, Sex, Power, and Corporate Governance, 54 U.C. Davis L. Rev. (2020)
For decades, social scientists have warned us that sexual harassment training and compliance programs are ineffective. To mitigate the risk of sexual harassment, they insist that we must cure its root cause — power imbalances between men and women.
Gender-based power imbalances pervade our corporate governance and plague start-ups and billion-dollar companies across sectors and industries. These power imbalances start at the top, with the composition of the board and the identity of CEOs and executive management. Pay inequity and boilerplate contractual terms in employment contracts further cement these imbalances.
In response to the #MeToo movement, key stakeholders are shifting their focus from compliance to corporate culture for the first time. This influential group of stakeholders, which includes investors, employees, regulators, D&O insurance carriers, and board advisors, are asking companies to uproot gender-based power imbalances. As a result of mounting pressure, seismic corporate governance reforms are underway. Boards are becoming more gender diverse, companies are beginning to address pay inequity and abandon mandatory arbitration and non-disclosure agreements, and boards are holding CEOs to account for sexual harassment and misconduct.
While the “old boys’ club” is still thriving in corporate America, this Article is the first comprehensive account of how the power imbalances on which it depends are shifting.
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Shiu-Yik Au, Andreanne Tremblay & Leyuan You, "Times Up: Does Female Leadership Reduce Workplace Sexual Harassment?"
We examine the role of female leadership in reducing the incidence of workplace sexual harassment. We estimate the incidence rate of sexual harassment through textual analysis of employees’ job reviews, published online during the period 2011-2017. We find that firms with a higher proportion of women on the board of directors experience less sexual harassment. An increase of one female director is associated with an 18.2% decrease in the sexual harassment rate. The effect is both statistically and economically significant and is not limited to female directors as we find similar results with female CEO and executives. The mechanism for reduced sexual harassment is linked to overall improved social policies. Our results are robust to several adjustments for endogeneity concerns.
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
A legal fight against Walmart Inc. that became the largest employment class-action lawsuit in history will become a series at Netflix Inc. from actress Amy Adams and “The Big Short” director Adam McKay.
“Kings of America” will follow three women involved in the lawsuit, which went to the Supreme Court in 2011: a Walmart heiress, an executive and a saleswoman at the retail chain. Adams stars as one of the women, and McKay will direct the first episode of the series.
The case involved female employees suing Walmart for alleged gender discrimination -- including pay disparities and favoring male workers -- on behalf of potentially more than a million employees. That made it the largest lawsuit of its kind. Walmart is the biggest private employer in the U.S. and the world’s largest company based on revenue.
With billions of dollars at stake for Walmart, the Supreme Court blocked the suit from proceeding as a class action in a 5-4 vote in June 2011. The late Justice Antonin Scalia argued there was no “convincing proof of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy.”
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Douglas Branson, Gender Diversity, Diversity Fatigue, and Shifting the Focus, 87 Geo. Wash. U. L. Rev. 1061 (2019)
The women’s movement has been with us for approximately 50 years. Women are airline pilots, police officers, engineers, fire fighters, physicians, and veterinarians. By contrast, the progress to corporate senior executive positions has been paltry, in fits and starts, at best in baby steps. Ascendant males would tell you that women have made no business case for increasing the number of female executives. In response, this Article contends that the focus, exclusively upon women themselves, is all wrong. The focus should be on corporations themselves, the employers, and not exclusively on aspiring women. Beyond lip service, corporations have done little, throwing a few dollars at STEM programs that may lead to a first or second position, but not to leadership roles. Information technology empirical studies show that of the measly 4.8% of executive positions women hold, only two are held by women with STEM degrees. All of the remaining 25 female executives have law or business degrees with MBAs predominating. The tech industry attempts to crowd out women completely, by hiring males from foreign countries who enter the United States with H1-B visas that allow them to stay for six years and often permanently. It is high time for corporations themselves to undertake concrete steps of the nature with which this Article concludes.
See also Douglas Branson, The Future of Tech is Female (2018)
The Future of Tech is Female considers the paradoxes involved in women’s ascent to leadership roles, suggesting industry-wide solutions to combat gender inequality. Drawing upon 15 years of experience in the field, Douglas M. Branson traces the history of women in the information technology industry in order to identify solutions for the issues facing women today. Branson explores a variety of solutions such as mandatory quota laws for female employment, pledge programs, and limitations on the H1-B VISA program, and grapples with the challenges facing women in IT from a range of perspectives.
Branson unpacks the plethora of reasons women should hold leadership roles, both in and out of this industry, concluding with a call to reform attitudes toward women in one particular IT branch, the video and computer gaming field, a gateway to many STEM futures. An invaluable resource for anyone invested in gender equality in corporate governance, The Future of Tech is Female lays out the first steps toward a more diverse future for women in tech leadership
Monday, July 6, 2020
Caroline Criedo Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
Data is fundamental to the modern world. From economic development, to healthcare, to education and public policy, we rely on numbers to allocate resources and make crucial decisions. But because so much data fails to take into account gender, because it treats men as the default and women as atypical, bias and discrimination are baked into our systems. And women pay tremendous costs for this bias, in time, money, and often with their lives.
Celebrated feminist advocate Caroline Criado Perez investigates the shocking root cause of gender inequality and research in Invisible Women, diving into women’s lives at home, the workplace, the public square, the doctor’s office, and more. Built on hundreds of studies in the US, the UK, and around the world, and written with energy, wit, and sparkling intelligence, this is a groundbreaking, unforgettable exposé that will change the way you look at the world.
Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured, where every week the countless hours of work you do are not recognised or valued. If any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you're a woman.
Invisible Women shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap – a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives.
Award-winning campaigner and writer Caroline Criado Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the impact this has on their health and well-being. From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media, Invisible Women reveals the biased data that excludes women. In making the case for change, this powerful and provocative book will make you see the world anew. (less)
Wednesday, June 10, 2020
Naomi Cahn, June Carbone & Nancy Levit, Women, Rule-Breaking, and The Triple Bind, 87 Geo. Wash L. Rev. 1105 (2019).
Two growing literatures critique Hobbesian corporate cultures. Management analyses document the way high-stakes/zero-sum bonus systems undermine, rather than enhance, productivity as they subvert teamwork, valorize self-interested behavior, and weaken ethical standards. This literature treats negative effects of such systems, including lawless and unethical behavior, as the unintended consequences of efforts to shake up complacent institutions or replace an insular old guard with an ambitious and meritocratic new workforce. A second, darker literature terms such Hobbesian environments “masculinities contests” that select for those executives who best exemplify masculine traits such as a single-minded focus on professional success, physical strength, and the willingness to engage in no-holds-barred competition. This literature treats the rule-breaking environment that results as an incidental byproduct of the way that such cultures valorize masculine traits. Drawing on insights from criminology, psychology, and feminist theory, this Article suggests another possibility: that certain management cultures intentionally design the competitions to facilitate breaking the rules with impunity.
In a Hobbesian world, where some profit handsomely from defying convention, zero-sum competitions play a role that extends beyond valorizing alpha males. They select for leaders who will lie, shortchange their families, and break the law to get results—and do so without explicit orders that might subject upper management to accountability for the practices. In such a world, women fall behind not necessarily because of misogyny, though such environments often breed it. Instead, they lose because of a triple bind. First, women cannot prevail in such competitions unless they can outmaneuver men, credibly display greater devotion to the job, or more brazenly flout the laws. Second, they are disproportionately disliked and punished for displaying the self-centered, rule-breaking behavior of men. Third, women become less likely to seek positions because they correctly perceive that they could not thrive and are more likely than men to decide they do not wish to do so on such terms, reinforcing the male-identified character of such environments. Where these companies’ business models depend not just on the ability to upend traditional practices, but to break the law, the companies cannot address gender disparities without addressing the business model itself. The Article concludes that gender inequality is intrinsically intertwined with the evisceration of the rule of law in corporate America.
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Miriam Marcowitz-Bitton, Yotam Kaplan, Emily Michiko Morris, Unregistered Patents and Gender Equality, 43 Harvard J. Law & Gender 47 (2020)
Women do not get a fair share when it comes to patenting and are far less likely to own patents. This disparity is in part because of not only the inherent biases in science and technology and in the patent system itself, but
also because of the high costs of even applying for patents. This article therefore proposes an unconventional new regime of unregistered patent rights to relieve women and other disadvantaged inventors of the costs of
applying for registered patent rights and to help them gain greater access to patent protections. Patents are a glaring exception to the unregistered protections provided in other areas of intellectual property, which are more
egalitarian in design. By providing automatic patent rights, our proposed regime would allow for greater protection for disadvantaged innovators, in much the same way that copyright, trademark, and other forms of intellectual property currently do.
To explain our proposal, we detail the challenges facing women and other disadvantaged inventors in applying for patents as well as the fact that other intellectual property regimes do not require such applications. We also
address a number of objections that our proposal would inevitably raise. In particular we show that, because our proposed unregistered patent system would grant rights for only three years and would protect only against direct copying, these rights would be unlikely to deter incremental or complementary innovation. Such rights would also be fully subject to invalidation under a preponderance of the evidence standard.
Our proposed regime does not solve all of the issues female innovators face. Nonetheless, our proposed regime would benefit women and others by providing protection at no cost, without filing or renewal fees, and equally
importantly, by protecting even inventors with little or no knowledge of the patent system and its importance in realizing the benefits of their inventive efforts.
Friday, May 22, 2020
The unemployment numbers released on Friday confirmed what we had all anticipated: The economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is staggering, or as one research analyst at Bank of America put it to The Times, “literally off the charts.”
The scale of the crisis is unlike anything since the Great Depression. And for the first time in decades, this crisis has a predominantly nonwhite, female face.
“I think we should go ahead and call this a ‘shecession,’” said C. Nicole Mason, president and chief executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in a nod to the 2008 recession that came to be known as the “mancession” because more men were affected.
Women accounted for 55 percent of the 20.5 million jobs lost in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, raising the unemployment rate for adult women to about 15 percent from 3.1 percent in February. In comparison, the unemployment rate for adult men was 13 percent.Women of color fared worse, with unemployment rates for black women at 16.4 percent and Hispanic women at 20.2 percent.According to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center, this is the first time since 1948 that the femaleunemployment rate has reached double digits.
The April jobs represent an abrupt, disappointing reversal from a major milestone in December, when women held more payroll jobs than men for the first time in about a decade.
The biggest reason for these losses is that the industries hardest hit by the pandemic — leisure, hospitality, education and even some parts of health care — are “disproportionately nonwhite and female,” said Diane Lim, senior adviser for the Penn Wharton Budget Model, a nonpartisan research initiative.
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
June Carbone & William Black, The Problem with Predators, 43 Seattle U. L. Rev. 44 (2020)
Both corporate theory and sex discrimination law start with presumptions that CEOs seek to advance legitimate ends and design the internal organization of business enterprises to achieve such ends. Yet, a growing literature questions why CEOs and boards of directors nonetheless select for Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, and toxic masculinity, despite the downsides associated with these traits. Three scholarly literatures—economics, criminology, and gender theory—draw on advances in psychology to shed new light on the construction of seemingly dysfunctional corporate cultures. They start by questioning the assumption that CEOs—even CEOs of seemingly mainstream businesses—necessarily seek to advance “legitimate” ends. Instead, they suggest that a persistent issue is predation: the exploitation of asymmetries in information and power to the disadvantage of shareholders, creditors, customers, or employees. These literatures then explore how such CEOs may rationally choose to employ seemingly dysfunctional practices, such as “masculinity contests,” which reward employees more likely to buy into ethically dubious activities that range from predatory lending to sexual harassment. This Article maintains that questioning the presumption of legitimacy has profound and largely unexplored implications for corporate theory and anti-discrimination law. It extends the theory of “control fraud” central to white-collar criminology to a new concept of “control predation” that includes conduct that is ethically objectionable, if not necessarily illegal. This Article concludes that only by questioning the legitimacy of these practices in business terms can gender theory adequately address women’s workplace equality.
Monday, April 27, 2020
Women across the nation are experiencing a unique side effect of coronavirus: their voices being drowned out.
Mita Mallick is the head of diversity and inclusion at Unilever, an international consumer goods company. In a recent interview with the New York Times, she said she was interrupted multiple times at a weekly virtual team meeting.
“I’m interrupted, like, three times and then I try to speak again and then two other people are speaking at the same time interrupting each other,” said Mallick.
Mallick’s title of inclusion doesn’t mean anything if she can’t get a word in—and no, men are not facing similar problems. Studies show that, in meetings, men speak more often and dominate conversation. Their presence is seen as powerful and elite, while women are seen as incompetent.
Mallick’s experience is not unique—so much so that a popular term was coined to describe this phenomenon: mansplaining. “Mansplaining” describes a man oversimplifying common concepts to women in a degrading or condescending tone. Use it in a sentence? Women experience the act of mansplaining six times a week at work.
Women and mansplaining have been together formally since Rebecca Solnit’s 2008 essay, “Men Who Explain Things,” when she coined the term (after a man tried to explain her own book to her)—but men’s condescending behavior towards women, specifically to feel more dominant in social settings, has been around for decades.
Most recently, there was the slightest ounce of hope that the digital, remote workplace—forced by COVID-19 pandemic—would make the problem of mansplaining a little bit better. Perhaps the act of everyone behind a camera with buttons to push “mute” and “unmute” would civilize meetings and provide equal speaking time for all.
News flash: It didn’t.
Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown University professor of linguistics and the author of eight books on women and men in the workplace, knew that Zoom conferencing and other forms of remote working wouldn’t change the problem and probably make mansplaining and male conversation domination worse.
In person, “women often feel that they don’t want to take up more space than necessary so they’ll often be more succinct,” said Tannen.
Online platforms allow men to mansplain, interrupt and dominate meetings more—and now more than ever before, women can’t get a word in.
While being succinct automatically makes our time on video shorter, men often take women’s ideas and run with it. It’s an ownership problem too.
In her research, Tannen found that many of the inequities in meetings can be boiled down to gender differences in conversation styles and conventions. That includes speaking time, the length of pauses between speakers, the frequency of questions and the amount of overlapping talk. More often than not, men and women differ on almost every one of those aspects, Tannen said, which leads to clashes and misunderstandings.
Men don’t just talk more—they talk louder. Not surprisingly, men who speak more and louder tend to be seen with more power and as such in dominant positions. Experts believe they enjoy the opportunity to explain things to women because they perceive it makes them seem smarter and in authority.
“Whatever the motivation, women are less likely than men to have learned to blow their own horn,” according to Tannen, “and they are more likely than men to believe that if they do so, they won’t be liked.”
Friday, March 27, 2020
Confronting and Debunking the Common Reasons Given for Slow Progress for Gender Equity in Corporate Leadership
Kellye Testy, From Governess to Governance: Advancing Gender Equity in Corporate Leadership, 87 G.W. Law Rev. 1095 (2019)
Even as corporate influence on every aspect of life continues to grow, women (overall, and especially women of color) remain woefully underrepresented in corporate governance roles, particularly on boards of directors. This lack of gender diversity in the corporate boardroom is prevalent not only in more established companies but also persists — often at even higher levels — in new ventures as well. This Essay details the persistent lack of progress over more than a half century in diversifying leadership in corporate governance. This progress is especially concerning given that the benefits of diversity for sound decision-making and overall corporate welfare have been established empirically, putting into question whether those boards that fall short on gender equity are meeting their fiduciary duties of good governance. The Essay confronts and debunks the common reasons given for slow progress and outlines specific steps that corporate boards and others seeking to improve gender equity in corporate governance can deploy to make faster and more consistent progress.
This Essay is part of the George Washington Law Review's 2018 symposium, Women and Corporate Governance: A Conference Exploring the Role and Impact of Women in the Governance of Public Corporations.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Deborah Hellman, Sex, Causation, and Algorithms: Equal Protection in the Age of Machine Learning, 98 Wash.U. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2020)
U.S. constitutional law prohibits the use of sex as a proxy for other traits in most instances. For example, the Virginia Military Institute [VMI] may not use sex as a proxy for having the “will and capacity” to be a successful student. At the same time, sex-based classifications are constitutionally permissible when they track so-called “real differences” between men and women. Women and men at VMI may be subject to different training requirements, for example. Yet, it is surprisingly unclear when and why some sex-based classifications are permissible and others not. This question is especially important to examine now as the use of predictive algorithms, some of which rely on sex-based classifications, is growing increasingly common. If sex is predictive of some trait of interest, may the state – consistent with equal protection – rely on an algorithm that uses a sex-based classification?
This Article presents a new normative principle to guide the analysis. I argue that courts ought to ask why sex is a good proxy for the trait of interest. If prior injustice is likely the reason for the observed correlation, then the use of the sex classification should be presumptively prohibited. This Anti-Compounding Injustice principle both explains and justifies current doctrine better than the hodge-podge of existing rules and concepts and provides a useful lens through which to approach new cases.
Monday, March 9, 2020
CA Gender Quota for Corporate Boards is Working, as Mandates Increase and More States Consider Similar Legislation
Among the largest 3,000 largest U.S. publicly traded companies, only about one in five board members are women, according to Equilar, which tracks corporate governance data. And it says nearly one in 10 boards have no women.
In 2018, California became the first state to mandate gender diversity in boardrooms with the passage of a bill called SB 826. The measure, requires publicly traded companies based there to have at least one female board director — or face a $100,000 fine.
At the time, the bill's sponsor, State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, called it a "giant step forward for women." Multiple studies show that corporations with female directors are more profitable, Jackson noted.
If supercharging the push toward gender parity on boards was the goal, it appears to be working.
The nonprofit advocacy group 2020 Women on Boards has been tracking changes at more than 400 major California companies. Before the law, 75 firms lacked a female board member, the group found. By the middle of 2019, two-thirds of those companies had added at least one woman to their boards. The law gave companies until Dec. 31, 2019, to comply.
A report this month by the California secretary of state found that 282 publicly held corporations in the state reported compliance with the law, up from 173 in July 2019.***
TheBoardlist, a database that companies can search to find female directors, has experienced a 20% increase in inquiries — and not just in California.
"I think there was this halo effect simply because the topic has been discussed so much more in the last year or two," said Shannon Gordon, CEO of theBoardlist. "Companies are kind of coming around to the value of diversity on boards."
In January, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon turned heads when he announced that this summer, the bank will stop taking companies public in the U.S. and Europe unless they have at least one diverse board member.***
But in the year since its passage, critics have lodged a handful of lawsuits challenging California's law on grounds that it's discriminatory.
The Pacific Legal Foundation sued California in November on behalf of electronics manufacturer OSI Systems shareholder Creighton Meland, a retired corporate lawyer. The suit argues that California's gender mandate for boards is unconstitutional.
"The law violates the 14th Amendment's promise of equal treatment before the law. And it actually forces people to make decisions on the basis of sex," said Anastasia Boden, a senior attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation.
Plus, Boden says, mandating gender diversity ultimately hurts women "by relegating them to quota hires and making them seem like space fillers."
As the data trickles in on the first full year of California's law, companies are now looking ahead to complying with the second leg of the law. By the end of next year, it calls for California-based companies to have at least two female directors on five-member boards, and at least three female directors on boards with six or more members.
The law cites studies showing that having a critical mass creates an environment where women are no longer viewed as outsiders.
"There's a 30% rule. When you have a minimum of 30%, that's when you see a transformation of culture and a true transformation of how business operates," says Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, a company aimed at advancing gender equality. "But we have to start somewhere."
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
New Research Shows Bringing Up Past Injustices Against Women Alienates Men, Making Reform More Difficult
Ivona Hideg & Anne Wilson, Research: Bringing up Past Injustices Make Majority Groups Defensive, Harvard Bus. Rev.
Many organizations and institutions reference past injustices with the intention of making people more sensitive to how historic systems of oppression contribute to present-day inequalities. By drawing on social identity theory, however, we speculated that excessive focus on historical injustices can actually backfire by causing key groups to deny current discrimination and withdraw support for ongoing remediation programs.
Social identity theory posits that people derive some of their sense of identity and self-worth from their group memberships (including gender, race, religion, politics, or even sports teams), and are highly motivated to maintain and protect a positive image of their social groups. Just as an individual’s self-image can be shaken by reflecting on their own misdeeds, threats to social identity may arise when contemplating past misconduct by their group. This threat can lead to defensive behavior that diminishes or deflects perceived criticisms. As the historically-advantaged group, social identity theory predicts men will react defensively when presented with evidence of past injustices suffered by women, the disadvantaged group.
We tested these ideas through our recent research.***
These converging results suggest invoking past discrimination can threaten men’s social identity and undermine their perceptions of current levels of discrimination, consequently lowering their support for policies meant to ameliorate this situation.
What might be done to mitigate these negative effects? Must we sidestep these discussions of current groups’ shameful history, sacrificing its capacity to enrich our understanding for fear of triggering defensive backlash? Rather than simply avoiding discussions of the past, we reason that historically-advantaged groups (men, in these studies) might be more open to information about past injustices if there was a way to lessen the threat to their social identity.***
This work has important implications for policy-makers and organizations seeking to implement diversity and equity policies. Despite the intuitive appeal of using past injustices to bolster the case for such initiatives, this approach can undermine progress by threatening the social identity of key participants. As the efficacy of diversity and equity programs depends on establishing broad-based support, getting both men and women to view these policies positively should be considered an important pre-condition for success.
Thursday, February 6, 2020
Third Circuit Upholds Philadelphia Ban on Employers Asking About Salary History Against First Amendment Challenge
In a decision that could have national implications for the wage equity movement, a federal appeals court Thursday sided with the city of Philadelphia, saying it can ban employers from asking job applicants their salary history.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit partly reversed a 2018 lower court decision that said the city could not ban employers from asking about salary history, but could ban them from relying on it to set wages. The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce sued the city after the law was passed in 2017, claiming it violated the commercial-speech rights of employers.***
The 67-page unanimous opinion, representing the three-judge panel, was written by Judge Theodore McKee, who wrote that while the provision does limit employers’ speech, it is “only because that limitation prevents the tentacles of any past wage discrimination from attaching to an employee’s subsequent salary.”***
Philadelphia was the first city in the country to pass such a ban, following a statewide ban in Massachusetts. More than a dozen states and municipalities followed suit, including New Jersey.
Monday, February 3, 2020
Lara Sofia Romero, Rafael Romero, & Sim Jonathan Covington, Payday Lending Regulations and the Impact on Women of Color, Accounting & Taxation, v. 11 (1) p. 83-92
Payday loans, or small short-term loans that carry high fees, may provide a much-needed safety net for some consumers in need of quick cash for emergencies. However, data suggest that most payday loan borrowers become repeat users caught in a cycle of high-cost debt. Furthermore, empirical evidence suggests consistent overrepresentation of women of color, including many single mothers, among payday loan borrowers. Based on international human rights law, the U.S. has an obligation to remedy predatory economic practices such as a payday lending that have a disproportionately negative economic effect on women of color. Posing the issue of payday lending as a human rights issue can make an important contribution to public action on how to address the aftermath of the financial crisis and its impact on women of color.