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Book part
Publication date: 15 October 2020

Elizabeth H. Gorman and Fiona M. Kay

In elite professional firms, minorities are actively recruited but struggle to move upward. The authors argue that initiatives aimed at general skill development can have…

Abstract

In elite professional firms, minorities are actively recruited but struggle to move upward. The authors argue that initiatives aimed at general skill development can have unintended consequences for firm diversity. Specifically, the authors contend that approaches that win partner support through motivational significance and interpretive clarity provide a more effective avenue to skill development for minorities, who have less access than White peers to informal developmental opportunities. The authors also argue that a longer “partnership track,” which imposes a time limit on skill development, will benefit minority professionals. Using data on 601 offices of large US law firms in 1996 and 2005, the authors investigate the effects of five developmental initiatives and partnership track length on the representation of African-Americans, Latinxs, and Asian-Americans among partners. Observed effects are consistent with expectations, but patterns vary across racial-ethnic groups.

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Professional Work: Knowledge, Power and Social Inequalities
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-210-9

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Book part
Publication date: 15 October 2020

Elizabeth H. Gorman and Steven P. Vallas

Although expert knowledge has never been more important, it faces mounting challenges to its validity and authority. In this introduction, we discuss the structural…

Abstract

Although expert knowledge has never been more important, it faces mounting challenges to its validity and authority. In this introduction, we discuss the structural changes that have gripped the professions and undercut the ability of professional workers to exercise the authority they previously enjoyed. Digital technology and specialization, the erosion of autonomy within work organizations, depleted levels of income and prestige, and the rise of self-interested forms of professional practice have all worked to reduce the legitimacy of the professions, transforming the structure of professional work and its place within many advanced capitalist societies. In this context, we briefly describe the volume’s chapters and their contributions to the growing and increasingly timely body of research on professional work and expertise..

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Professional Work: Knowledge, Power and Social Inequalities
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-210-9

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Book part
Publication date: 15 October 2020

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Professional Work: Knowledge, Power and Social Inequalities
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-210-9

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Book part
Publication date: 15 October 2020

Sida Liu

Professionals often dislike dirty work, yet they accommodate or even embrace it in everyday practice. This chapter problematizes Andrew Abbott’s professional purity thesis…

Abstract

Professionals often dislike dirty work, yet they accommodate or even embrace it in everyday practice. This chapter problematizes Andrew Abbott’s professional purity thesis by examining five major forms of impurities in professional work, namely impurity in expertise, impurity in jurisdictions, impurity in clients, impurity in organizations, and impurity in politics. These impurities complicate the relationship between purity and status as some impurities may enhance professional status while others may jeopardize it, especially when the social origins of professionals are rapidly diversifying and professional work is increasingly intertwined with the logics of market and bureaucracy. Taking impurities seriously can help the sociology of professions move beyond the idealistic image of an independent, disinterested professional detached from human emotions, turf battles, client influence, and organizational or political forces and towards a more pragmatic understanding of professional work, expertise, ethics and the nature of professionalism.

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Professional Work: Knowledge, Power and Social Inequalities
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-210-9

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Book part
Publication date: 15 October 2020

Koji Chavez

Are White and Asian job applicants advantaged in access to professional jobs relative to Black and Latinx job applicants at the initial screening stage of the hiring…

Abstract

Are White and Asian job applicants advantaged in access to professional jobs relative to Black and Latinx job applicants at the initial screening stage of the hiring process? And, are the mechanisms of advantage for White applicants different than the mechanisms for Asian applicants? In this chapter, the author proposes a theoretical framework of “parallel mechanisms” of White and Asian advantage during hiring screening – that White and Asian applicants are advantaged compared to Black and Latinx applicants, but that the mechanisms of advantage subtly differ. The author focuses specifically on mechanisms related to two important factors at the hiring interface: referrals and educational attainment. The author applies the concept of parallel mechanisms to a case study of software engineering hiring at a midsized high technology firm in Silicon Valley. The author finds that at this firm, White applicants are advantaged at initial screening relative to Black and Latinx applicants due to average racial differences in applicant characteristics – namely having a referral – as well as differences in treatment by recruiters. For Asian applicants, average racial differences in possession of elite educational credentials, as well as racial differences in recruiter treatment, explain the racial disparity in callbacks. The author discusses the implications of parallel mechanisms of advantage for racial inequality in a multiracial context, and for organizational policy meant to address racial disparities during organizational hiring processes.

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Professional Work: Knowledge, Power and Social Inequalities
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-210-9

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Book part
Publication date: 15 October 2020

Jane S. VanHeuvelen

Autonomy has long been established as a critical component of professional work. Traditionally, autonomy has been examined as the extent to which an individual or a…

Abstract

Autonomy has long been established as a critical component of professional work. Traditionally, autonomy has been examined as the extent to which an individual or a professional group controls the decisions and knowledge used in their work. Yet, this framework does not capture the additional work activities that professionals are increasingly expected to perform. Therefore, this chapter argues for theoretically expanding our understanding of professional autonomy by bringing in the concept of articulation work. Using the case of healthcare organisational change, this study assesses how shifts in work practices impact autonomy. Data come from longitudinal ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews conducted at a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as it underwent significant structural changes. Findings show that professionals were forced to change articulation work strategies in response to new organisational structures. This included changes in the way professionals monitored, assessed, coordinated and collaborated around patient care. Furthermore, these shifts in articulation work held important implications for both workplace and professional autonomy, as professionals responded to changes in their work conditions.

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Professional Work: Knowledge, Power and Social Inequalities
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-210-9

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Book part
Publication date: 15 October 2020

Elisa Martínez, Laurel Smith-Doerr and Timothy Sacco

The erosion of autonomy in traditional professions has been explained by client capture – professionals increasingly work under close control of powerful corporate…

Abstract

The erosion of autonomy in traditional professions has been explained by client capture – professionals increasingly work under close control of powerful corporate clients. However, research is missing on how knowledge workers in rapidly rising knowledge professions of the twenty-first century experience and respond to the risk of client capture. Evaluation is one such exploding field. This study examines the narratives of professional evaluators to understand how they navigate their mandate to deliver independent assessments of complex social programs under the threat of client capture. Data come from 29 interviews with evaluators of 65 interdisciplinary graduate training projects funded by the US National Science Foundation in the first two years of the program (2015–2016). Evidence of client capture is found in how evaluators discuss scope creep with limited resources, being asked to misrepresent their findings, and burying of evaluation reports. The authors also find evidence of evaluators navigating client capture by rationing their labor, using state-based rules to mediate demands, drawing on professional expertise, and generating savvy emotional labor. But this study argues the client capture concept obscures the dynamics of knowledge production, in which evaluators shape scientific programs in innovative ways. This study sheds new light on the context in which inequalities operate in this emerging profession, and how the structure of knowledge work may generate novel pathways of professional influence where work conditions might otherwise rule against it.

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Professional Work: Knowledge, Power and Social Inequalities
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-210-9

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Book part
Publication date: 15 October 2020

Elizabeth Klainot-Hess

Over the past several decades, there has been a growth in nonstandard professional work. One area where this can be seen is the academy, where tenure-track positions are…

Abstract

Over the past several decades, there has been a growth in nonstandard professional work. One area where this can be seen is the academy, where tenure-track positions are being replaced by non-tenure-track (NTT) positions such as adjuncts and lecturers. Studies of nonstandard professional workers have found significant variation in job satisfaction, and this is also true for NTT faculty. Why is job satisfaction among NTT faculty so variable, and how can we understand it? Drawing on in-depth interviews with one hundred NTT faculty at two large public research universities, the author argues that NTT faculty vary in two important ways: the role of the income from their NTT job in their family and their pathway to the NTT position. The author develops a typology of NTT faculty based on these two dimensions and argues that these two dimensions intersect in important ways that affect the job satisfaction and job experiences of NTT faculty. The only group of NTT faculty that experiences high job satisfaction are those who prefer a NTT position over a tenure-track one, and who do not rely on the income from this job as the primary source of income for their family. This research has implications for understanding the job satisfaction of other nonstandard professional workers, who may vary in similar ways.

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Professional Work: Knowledge, Power and Social Inequalities
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-210-9

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Book part
Publication date: 15 October 2020

Martha Crowley, Julianne Payne and Earl Kennedy

Labor process research has documented a shift in the nature of control – from techniques that aim to limit worker discretion to consent-oriented controls that are believed…

Abstract

Labor process research has documented a shift in the nature of control – from techniques that aim to limit worker discretion to consent-oriented controls that are believed to generate greater effort by increasing intrinsic rewards or bonding employees to managers and/or the firm. Over the past several decades, however, growing pressure to increase profits has prompted firms to adopt cost-cutting strategies that have eroded job security, relationships with management and commitment to organizational goals. This study investigates how a changing labor process and rising job insecurity shape workers’ orientations toward work, managers and the firm, and in turn influence workplace behavior. Analyses of content-coded data on 212 work groups confirms that discretion-limiting controls (supervision, technology and rules) are associated with more negative orientations and/or reductions in effort (with variations across distinct forms of control), while investment in workers’ human capital (but not involvement of workers in decision-making) has the reverse effect – ­generating more positive orientations toward work, managers and the firm, and (in turn) promoting discretionary work effort and limiting covert effort restriction. Implications of insecurity are more complex. Both layoffs and temporary employment reduce commitment to the organization, but layoffs generate conflict with management without reducing effort, whereas temporary employment limits effort without producing conflict. We illuminate underlying processes with evidence from the qualitative case studies.

Details

Professional Work: Knowledge, Power and Social Inequalities
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-210-9

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Book part
Publication date: 15 October 2020

Sabina Pultz and Ofer Sharone

Drawing on in-depth interviews and observations in Denmark and the United States, this chapter compares discourses and experiences of young unemployed professionals…

Abstract

Drawing on in-depth interviews and observations in Denmark and the United States, this chapter compares discourses and experiences of young unemployed professionals engaged in networking. Common across both sites is the kind of emotional labor perceived to be required for effective networking, with workers frequently drawing on romantic dating as a key metaphor. However, engagement in such emotional labor is more intense and pervasive for American jobseekers, while Danish jobseekers express greater concern about potential exploitation of the other party, corruption, and pressure to conform to norms of marketability. The chapter discusses possible links among networking experiences, hiring practices and political-economic contexts in the United States and Denmark.

Details

Professional Work: Knowledge, Power and Social Inequalities
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-210-9

Keywords

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