Ambiguous Ideals: Expertise and Morality in an Innovation Supercluster
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CitationLey, Christy. 2018. Ambiguous Ideals: Expertise and Morality in an Innovation Supercluster. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractGender inequality in the high-status science and business professions persists, despite strong efforts to increase gender parity. Extant scholarship has increasingly focused on the cultural dimensions to workplace practices that may perpetuate gender inequality, especially the roles of the ideal worker image and cultural fit. Yet these theories cannot account for variation in the nature of gender inequality across similarly male-dominated professions. Incorporating a comparative cultural perspective, this dissertation therefore asks: how do professional cultures shape individuals’ work and career experiences across professions, and how do such cultures shape gender inequality? To address these questions, I draw on analyses of original, in-depth interviews with 94 professionals in the life sciences industry—an organizational field with core operations in science and business—and fieldwork at industry events. I argue that a profession’s level of cultural ambiguity explains variation in individuals’ work experiences and career outcomes, and attribute the disparate levels of ambiguity to a divide between the professional cultures of expertise in science and of morality in business. The valued interpersonal relationship and presentation qualities for fulfilling the science ideal are unambiguous, requiring scientists to garner cognition-based trust and convey competence. This science ideal elicits distinct feelings of fit or lack of fit, similarly distinct work experiences, and, therefore, drastic career decisions. The valued cultural qualities for achieving the business ideal are ambiguous, demanding business professionals to obtain affect-based trust and demonstrate credibility. This business ideal contributes to relatively high levels of fit and stable career trajectories, but leads to persistent challenges in the everyday work experience. The work and career effects associated with these disparate levels of ambiguity are particularly pronounced for women. Cultural beliefs about gender interact uniquely with each professional culture, causing gender inequality to manifest differently across cultural contexts.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41129124
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