Telling Stories About Women and Work: Judicial Interpretations of Sex Segregation on the Job in Title VII Cases Raising the Lack of Interest Argument
95 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2007
Decades after Title VII prohibited sex discrimination in employment, most women continue to work in low-paying, low-status, traditionally female jobs. Employers have avoided liability for sex segregation by arguing that women lack interest in the more highly rewarded jobs done by men. This analysis of Title VII cases addressing the lack of interest argument shows that courts have failed to recognize the role of labor markets and firms in shaping women's work aspirations. Courts attribute sex segregation either to women's choice or to employer coercion. Both these explanations, however, incorrectly assume that women form stable preferences for jobs of a certain sex type before they ever begin working. Sociological research reveals that, like men, women develop their job preferences instead in response to changing structural and cultural features of work organizations. This Article draws on sociological research to propose a new way of understanding sex segregation that will enable courts and policymakers to fulfill title VII's unrealized promise to working women and men.
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