Persistence Is Cultural: Professional Socialization and the Reproduction of Sex Segregation

Publication Abstract

Seron, Carroll, Susan S. Silbey, Erin A. Cech, and Brian Rubineau. 2016. "Persistence Is Cultural: Professional Socialization and the Reproduction of Sex Segregation." Work and Occupations, 43(2): 178-214.

Why does sex segregation in professional occupations persist? Arguing that the cultures and practices of professional socialization serve to perpetuate this segregation, the authors examine the case of engineering. Using interview and diary entry data following students from college entry to graduation, the authors show how socialization leads women to develop less confidence that they will "fit" into the culture of engineering. The authors identify three processes that produce these cultural mismatches: orientation to engineering at college entry, initiation rituals in coursework and team projects, and anticipatory socialization during internships and summer jobs. Informal interactions with peers and everyday sexism in teams and internships are particularly salient building blocks of segregation.


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