News & Commentary

November 30, 2014

According to the New York Times Upshot Blog, elements of the gender gap at work persist even at the highest levels of the business world. A new study of the career paths of Harvard Business School alums confirmed that over time more men than women achieve high-responsibility positions, yet the difference does not result from women choosing to scale back their work lives to accommodate their families. Instead, the researchers found that “male and female graduates had indistinguishable goals; they said they wanted meaningful, satisfying work and opportunities for career growth, as well as fulfilling personal lives.” The divergence instead came from mismatched expectations between what women hoped to achieve in their careers and family lives and what actually happened. The men generally assumed that their careers would take precedence over their spouses’, and that their spouses would shoulder more of the child care load – those expectations were exceeded. On the other hand, women believed that their careers would be equally important to their spouses’, and that they would share child care equally – those expectations were largely shown to be false. One implication of the study might be to detract from the “lean-in” model of why workplace disparities persist and call attention to structural factors such as employers that stigmatize mothers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Swiss citizens will vote today on a proposal that would cap annual immigration at 0.2% of the country’s total population. That limit would equal about 16,000 people annually, a sharp decline from the 70,000 foreigners per year the Swiss accepted over the past decade. If approved, the new measure could cause Switzerland to run afoul of an international treaty that bans immigration quotas outside of limits set by the EU. Switzerland’s cabinet, both houses of parliament, many large businesses, and all the political parties represented there have recommended that voters reject the initiative. It is being supported the Swiss Association of Ecology and Population, which says that “immigration threatens Switzerland’s natural resources and taxes its transportation and housing infrastructure.”

The New York Times covers Saudi Arabia’s push to integrate more women into its workforce over the coming years. Several top academics from the United States have consulted with the government over how to achieve this goal, which is complicated by the country’s conservative cultural attitudes towards women. As of last year, less than 11% of adult women were employed, compared to about 60% of men. The government’s plans include practical ideas such as building day care facilities near job sites, but the academics also noted the larger implications of the effort, that if more women join the workforce, overall opinions of them in Saudi society could begin to change.

There is still no update on the Northwestern football’s team unionization vote. The vote took place in April, and is pending the results of an NLRB appeal, which could be issued in the coming weeks. Yet the New York Times documented the numerous ways that college sports have changed in the months since the vote was cast: for example, NCAA governance has been overhauled, universities have pledged greater scholarship protection and better health care for players, and a federal judge has ruled that players can be paid for the use of their images.

Finally, hundreds of employees protested outside Wal-Marts across the country over the Black Friday weekend. For the third straight year, the workers renewed their calls for a $15/hour living wage and the right to form a union. Vox has a helpful explainer on the protests, the working conditions that precipitated them, and the results thus far.

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