Gender Inequality

Year Awarded: 2015

This Initiative is actively conducting research.

[  Weatherhead Initiative on Gender Inequality Website  ]

The mission of the Weatherhead Initiative on Gender Inequality is to shed light on the cultural, social, economic, and political forces that maintain and break down gender inequalities in postindustrial societies.

The team's research examines the dramatic changes in men’s and women’s work and family roles in Europe, North America, and East Asia from the viewpoint of multiple disciplines. Funded by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Initiative Research Cluster grant, the Initiative is headed by a core faculty research team that represents both comparative expertise as well as deep single-country expertise. The three-year program of research activities will capitalize on synergies in the research of faculty, leading to the initiation of new research collaborations and an intergenerational community of students, junior faculty, and senior faculty focused on the dynamics of gender inequality in postindustrial societies. The research cluster will be attuned to both issues of “private gains” and “public benefits.” That is, they will explore gender equity within households and firms as well as the broader economic and public benefits that can accrue from having both men’s and women’s voices represented in corporate and public policy decisions.

The main question motivating the Initiative is: Why are some societies experiencing more rapid movement towards gender equality than others? Since the programming revolves around three institutional realms—labor markets and employment; households and families; and public policy—they have specific questions that inform each of these three pillars of research:

Labor Markets and Employment

  • What role do employers play in leveling the playing field for equally-educated men and women?
  • What are the economic and productivity implications for countries that are only partially utilizing the labor of high-human capital women?

Households and Families

  • Why, in some societies, are changes in men’s and women’s roles seemingly producing greater disruption in family formation (marriage and childbearing) and in family stability (divorce) than in others?
  • How will households and the state share the increasing care burden being generated by aging populations?

Public Policy

  • What role do public policies such as parental leave and high-quality public childcare play in supporting parents and workers and facilitating the dual-earner/dual-career model that scholars and policy makers increasingly view as the most viable model for the twenty-first century?
  • How do changes in the welfare state affect the well-being of men and women?

The planned activities include holding workshops for undergraduate thesis writers interested in issues of gender inequality; sponsoring workshops on research projects spearheaded by graduate students; and organizing workshops featuring the Initiative's own faculty as well as outside speakers.

Principal Investigators

Jason Beckfield

Executive Committee; Faculty Associate. Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Harvard University.

Iris Bohnet

Professor of Public Policy; Director, Women and Public Policy Program, Harvard Kennedy School.

Mary C. Brinton

Faculty Associate. Reischauer Institute Professor of Sociology; Chair, Department of Sociology, Harvard University.

Claudia Goldin

Henry Lee Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, Harvard University.

Alexandra Killewald

John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Sociology, Harvard University.

Kathleen McGinn

Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School.

See also: Initiatives