With the rise of the #MeToo movement following dozens of high-profile cases of sexual harassment and assault by professional men against women colleagues, gender equality has become a popular topic of discussion and a policy goal. Among the many topics under consideration is the persistent gender wage gap and how to close it. Most of the conversation of equal pay between men and women revolves around such issues as family leave policies, the undervaluing of feminine jobs, and gendered approaches to salary negotiation, among others. And almost all of the discussion concerns adult women during their peak earning years. But are there other factors that we must consider to fully understand why women continue to earn less than men despite earning bachelors and even some graduate degrees at higher rates? Does an explanation perhaps reside before women even go to college? In her timely and intriguing book, The Cost of Being a Girl: Working Teens and the Origins of the Gender Wage Gap
(Temple University Press, 2017), sociologist Yasemin Besen-Cassino
considers the first jobs that women have, as teenagers, and how their work conditions and treatment by employers help shape their self-understandings as workers and approach to being a worker. Focusing on people who work as babysitters and in retail, she shows how girls learn to accept such inequities as having to work extra hours for no pay and to have their work regarded as naturally “caring,” and therefore not something worth compensating. Through an innovative mixed-methods approach, Besen-Cassino goes a long way toward revealing how the seeds for the gender wage gap get sown.
Richard E. Ocejo is associate professor of sociology at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is the author of Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy
(Princeton University Press, 2017), about the transformation of low-status occupations into cool, cultural taste-making jobs (cocktail bartenders, craft distillers, upscale men’s barbers, and whole animal butchers), and of Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City
(Princeton University Press, 2014), about growth policies, nightlife, and conflict in gentrified neighborhoods. His work has appeared in such journals as City & Community
the European Journal of Cultural Studies. He is also the editor of Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork
(Routledge, 2012), a co-Book Editor at City & Community
, and serves on the editorial boards of the journals Metropolitics
, Work and Occupations, and the Journal for Undergraduate Ethnography.