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Through teaching, research and outreach, ILR generates and shares knowledge to solve human problems, manage and resolve conflict, establish best practices in the workplace and inform government policy.

Gender and Work

Allison Elias

Visiting Assistant Professor Allison Elias was part of a White House meeting last week about expanding opportunities for women in business.

The Council on Women and Girls and the Council of Economic Advisers hosted the event, which was attended by academics and practitioners from across the nation.

  • In conjunction with the Wednesday White House meeting, more than 45 business schools, including Cornell’s Johnson School, have committed to best practices aimed at helping women succeed in higher education and in the workforce. They include:
  • Ensuring access to business schools and business careers
  • Building a business school experience that prepares a student for the workforce of tomorrow
  • Ensuring career services that go beyond the needs of traditional students.

Elias’ research seeks to understand the ways that contested meanings of feminism shaped the nature of opportunities for women working in U.S. corporations. She was invited to the meeting because of her area of study and her engagement with Ellevate, a global women’s network.

The Council of Economic Advisers, which advises the president, provided information illustrating gender imbalances in business:

  • In 2014, only five percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies were female
  • In 2013, women held only 17 percent of Fortune 500 board seats
  • Undergraduate women are about 30 percent less likely than male undergraduates to major in business
  • While men and women in MBA programs have fairly similar earnings at graduation, after 5 years, men earn about 30 percent more than women. After 10 or more years, the gap goes to 60 percent.

Although women make up nearly half of the American workforce – up from four in 10 in 1970 – and most parents of young children work, too few businesses recognize that workers need work-life balance, meeting organizers said.

“When businesses fail to make these adjustments, workers are often left choosing jobs based on their flexibility and structure of work, rather than the job best suited to their skills,” according to an event press release issued from the White House.

Elias said she thinks the event will lead to a rich discussion in ILRLR 3040: “Women, Gender, and Capitalism in Historical Perspective,” her course that approaches gender as a constructed concept that has influenced working women in both similar and different ways.

“Because ILR’s curriculum encourages students to recognize and analyze workforce stratification, they understand the importance of intersectionality when discussing gender and work,” she said.

“Addressing issues like occupational segregation, job design, work-life balance or implicit bias must account for the experiences of women at the bottom, as well as at the top.”