Unequal to the Task: Task Segregation As a Mechanism of Inequality for Women at Work

Woman and ManGender inequality studies have long focused on identifying the material disparities between men and women in the workforce, including researching the gender wage gap. But gender inequality in the workforce extends beyond differences in earnings and promotional opportunities–women also experience inequality in more subjective forms, such as through task segregation, which ultimately impacts job quality. In their article, “Task Segregation as a Mechanism for Within-Job Inequality: Women and Men of Transportation Security Administration,” published online by Administrative Service Quarterly, Curtis Chan and Michel Anteby explore a case study of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees, which found that female employees were disproportionately assigned the undesirable task of patting-down airline customers. The authors go on to explore the negative impact of task segregation on the female TSA employees.

The abstract:

In this article, we examine a case of task segregation—when a group of workers is disproportionately allocated, relative to other groups, to spend more time on specific tasks in a given job—and argue that such segregation is a potential mechanism for generating within-job ASQ_v60n4_Dec2015_cover.inddinequality in the quality of a job. When performing those tasks is undesirable, this allocation has unfavorable implications for that group’s experienced job quality. We articulate the processes by which task segregation can lead to workplace inequality in job quality through an inductive, interview-based case study of airport security-screening workers in a unit of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at a large urban airport. Female workers were disproportionately allocated to the pat-down task, the manual screening of travelers for prohibited items. Our findings suggest that this segregation led to overall poorer job quality outcomes for women. Task segregation overexposed female workers to processes of physical exertion, emotional labor, and relational strain, giving rise to work intensity, emotional exhaustion, and lack of coping resources. Task segregation also seemed to disproportionately expose female workers to managerial sanctions for taking recuperative time off and a narrowing of their skill set that may have contributed to worse promotion chances, pay, satisfaction, and turnover rates for women. We conclude with a theoretical model of how task segregation can act as a mechanism for generating within-job inequality in job quality.

You can read “Task Segregation as a Mechanism for Within-Job Inequality: Women and Men of Transportation Security Administration,” from Administrative Service Quarterly by clicking here. Want to be notified of all the latest research like this from Administrative Service Quarterly? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

This entry was posted in Emotion, Employee Satisfaction, Employees, Gender Issues, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , by Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, SAGE Publishing. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, SAGE Publishing

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 1500 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC, and Melburne, our publishing program includes more than 1000 journals and over 900 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.

One thought on “Unequal to the Task: Task Segregation As a Mechanism of Inequality for Women at Work

  1. Pingback: Unequal to the Task: Task Segregation As a Mechanism of Inequality for Women at Work | DHS News

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