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Shaping gender inequalities: critical moments and critical places

Yvonne Riano (Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland)
Katharina Limacher (Department for the Study of Religions, University of Lucerne, Lucerne, Switzerland)
André Aschwanden (Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland)
Sophie Hirsig (Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland)
Doris Wastl-Walter (Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 9 March 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

There is much scientific interest in the connection between the emergence of gender-based inequalities and key biographical transition points of couples in long-term relationships. Little empirical research is available comparing the evolution of a couple’s respective professional careers over space and time. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to filling this gap by addressing the following questions: what are the critical biographical moments when gender (in)equalities within a relationship begin to arise and consolidate? Which biographical decisions precede and follow such critical moments? How does decision making at critical moments impact the opportunities of both relationship partners in gaining equal access to paid employment?

Design/methodology/approach

These questions are addressed from the perspectives of intersectionality and economic citizenship. Biographical interviewing is used to collect the personal and professional narratives of Swiss-, bi-national and migrant couples. The case study of a Swiss-Norwegian couple illustrates typical processes by which many skilled migrant women end up absently or precariously employed.

Findings

Analysis reveals that the Scandinavian woman’s migration to Switzerland is a primary and critical moment for emerging inequality, which is then reinforced by relocation (to a small town characterized by conservative gender values) and the subsequent births of their children. It is concluded that factors of traditional gender roles, ethnicity and age intersect to create a hierarchical situation which affords the male Swiss partner more weight in terms of decision making and career advancement.

Practical implications

The paper’s findings are highly relevant to the formulation of policies regarding gender inequalities and the implementation of preventive programmes within this context.

Originality/value

Little empirical research is available comparing the evolution of a couple’s respective professional careers over space and time. The originality of this paper is to fill this research gap; to include migration as a critical moment for gender inequalities; to use an intersectional and geographical perspective that have been given scant attention in the literature; to use the original concept of economic citizenship; and to examine the case of a bi-national couple, which has so far not been examined by the literature on couple relationships.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant No. 406040_129293) in the context of the National Research Programme NRP60 on Gender Equality.

Citation

Riano, Y., Limacher, K., Aschwanden, A., Hirsig, S. and Wastl-Walter, D. (2015), "Shaping gender inequalities: critical moments and critical places", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 155-167. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-12-2013-0112

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited