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Cook-Gray Lecture: Women’s Employment Pluses

Kathleen L. McGinn, the Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, will deliver ILR’s annual Cook-Gray Lecture from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Oct. 21 in 423 King-Shaw Hall, ILR Conference Center. Due to COVID-19, the in-person event is limited to the Cornell community, but the event is free and open to the public via Zoom.

McGinn studies the role of gender and social class at work, at home and in negotiations. Her field research investigates these issues internationally—in families across 29 countries, in organizations and communities in Mexico and India, among women “firsts” and female professionals in North America, and in relation to health and welfare outcomes for young women in Zambia.

McGinn’s presentation, Cross-Generational Gains from Women’s Employment, will begin by exploring women's employment in 29 countries, and looking at the ways that mothers’ employment affects their daughters and what it suggests in terms of role modeling and social learning. From there, she will transition into her most recent paper, in which she has studied women’s employment in India over 40 years. McGinn and her coauthor, Alexandra Feldberg, identify the differential effects of women’s employment in traditional jobs (reaping limited financial resources and consistent with the gender norms), and nontraditional jobs (reaping relatively greater financial resources while challenging gender norms) on household decision-making and investments in the next generation of women.

“We still, even in the 21st century, have as part of the general discourse, that women's employment is hard on their kids,” McGill said. “But, all of the evidence points in the other direction. And, the type of employment matters. So, this starts to move to policy. One way to keep women in their place is to only provide employment that keeps women in their place. The big lesson from my research is that women's employment is not just good for women; it’s also good for the girls and women that follow. ”

The ILR annual lecture, named for deceased ILR faculty members Alice Hanson Cook and Lois Spier Gray, is organized by Pamela Tolbert, the Lois S. Gray Professor of ILR and Social Sciences, and Rosemary Batt, the Alice Hanson Cook Professor of Women and Work.

The event is held to advance the social justice and equality visions of Professors Cook and Gray.


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