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Engineering Inequality: Informal Coaching, Glass Walls, and Social Closure in Silicon Valley

journal contribution
posted on 2024-04-16, 22:20 authored by Sigrid Luhr

Despite the rise of women’s labor force participation over the last 60 years, the technology industry remains highly segregated by gender. Engineers often think of their work as purely technical. Yet this study highlights the importance of social relationships for career advancement. Drawing on interviews with tech workers, I trace the unequal career trajectories of men and women. I find that men without computer science or engineering degrees are informally coached to learn technical skills from their coworkers and transition from non-technical to technical roles. Women, however, are excluded from these coaching opportunities and steered out of technical roles, effectively barring them from some of the most lucrative positions in the tech industry. These findings highlight new social closure mechanisms that reproduce gender equality and question whether the educational pipeline can adequately explain women's underrepresentation in technical roles.

Funding

Dissertation Completion Fellowship (2018)

2019 Soroptimist Founder Region Fellowship | Funder: Soroptomist International

2018 Institute for Research on Labor and Employment Research Grant

History

Citation

Luhr, S. (2024). Engineering Inequality: Informal Coaching, Glass Walls, and Social Closure in Silicon Valley. American Journal of Sociology, 129(5), 1409-1446. https://doi.org/10.1086/729506

Publisher

University of Chicago Press

Language

  • en

issn

0002-9602

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