In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gender and Work

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Gender and Work: Past, Present, and Future
  • Theoretical Perspectives
  • Intersectionality: Gender, Race, and Class Inequalities
  • Sex Segregation of Occupations and Jobs
  • Work Organization, Hiring, and Discrimination
  • Motherhood Penalties and Fatherhood Bonuses
  • Men and Masculinity at Work
  • Constructions of Gender in Global Service and Production Work
  • Overviews of Gender, Work, and Family
  • Meanings of Work and Family Across the Occupational Spectrum
  • Gender Division of Labor in Household Work
  • Care Work: Paid and Unpaid
  • Social Policies, the State, and Gender Inequality in Cross-National Perspective

Sociology Gender and Work
Amy Wharton
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0127


Gender operates at all levels of social life and is deeply embedded in how work is organized, rewarded, and experienced. The sociological study of gender and work emerged during the 1960s and 1970s, as women’s labor force participation rates rose and as the Women’s Movement began calling attention to gender inequality at home and on the job. The field has evolved over time; conceptual frameworks have expanded and empirical foci have shifted in response to economic and societal changes. Early research focused primarily on workers and sought to determine whether and how men and women differ in their work attitudes and behavior. Over time, researchers have paid more attention to the social relations of work. Studies here focus on how the structure and culture of the workplace shape men’s and women’s social interactions and behavior. A more recent stream of literature in the gender and work area views gender as embedded within work structures and organizations. In this view, gender is not just an attribute that people bring with them to the job, but is built into the workplace itself. The development of new conceptual frameworks has been accompanied by new issues and topics. For example, the rise of the highly feminized service sector prompted an interest in the distinctive characteristics of these jobs. As dual-earner families became the norm, researchers increased attention to the ways that gender shapes work-family relations. Other topics, such as those related to gender discrimination and inequality, have been of interest to gender and work scholars since the field’s emergence in the 1960s.

General Overviews

Overviews of gender and work are especially valuable for introducing the topic and conveying the range of issues that have been investigated. Padavic and Reskin 2002 is a useful starting point as it provides a concise discussion of the field and includes fairly recent US data on men’s and women’s work situations. The edited collections Powell 1999 and Goodman 2010 also aim for breadth in their coverage of gender and work. Both collections contain chapters by well-known gender and work scholars. Powell 1999 includes in-depth literature reviews of key topics, while the chapters in Goodman 2010 are excerpts from classic books and articles. Powell and Graves 2003 focuses on women and men in management, which is a narrower subject but one of considerable interest to gender and work scholars, as well as researchers in management and business. Kabeer, et al. 2008 differs from the other selections in its focus and approach. The readings in this collection examine gender inequality in Norway and Sweden, but the authors are scholars from developing countries. Viewing gender inequality in the developed world from the vantage point of those representing less-developed regions provides new insights on this topic. It also reminds us that in a global society, there is no one single perspective that can best enable us to understand gender and work.

  • Goodman, Jacqueline, ed. 2010. Global perspectives on gender and work: Readings and interpretations. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

    The readings in this edited collection on gender and work are organized into several topical areas, including historical perspectives, wage inequality, discrimination, household work, managerial and professional work, low-wage work, global perspectives, work and family, and policy.

  • Kabeer, Naila, Agneta Stark, and Edda Magnus, eds. 2008. Global perspectives on gender equality: Reversing the gaze. Routledge/UNRISD research in gender and development 3. New York: Routledge.

    This collection of readings examines gender inequality in Norway and Sweden. The contributors all have personal or professional ties to developing countries. Developing countries are often examined from the perspective of those situated in developed societies. This book “reverse[s] the gaze,” thus offering a new perspective on gender equality in a developed region of the world (p. 1).

  • Padavic, Irene, and Barbara F. Reskin. 2002. Women and men at work. 2d ed. Sociology for a New Century. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

    Padavic and Reskin provide a concisely written overview of major topics relating to women and men in the US workplace. The book will be especially helpful for those seeking an introduction to this area of research and interested in recent data on labor market trends and patterns related to gender and work.

  • Powell, Gary N., ed. 1999. Handbook of gender and work. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    This edited volume provides a comprehensive look at gender in organizations. Divided into five major parts; each of the twenty-four chapters provides an overview of research on a particular topic, such as the wage gap, gender and leadership, work and family, etc. Also discussed are methodological issues in conducting research on gender and work.

  • Powell, Gary N., and Laura M. Graves. 2003. Women and men in management. 3d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    This volume summarizes the large literature on women and men in management. The book includes discussions of gender socialization and the employment patterns of women and men. It then turns to issues affecting women and men in management, such as working in teams, leadership, and career development.

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