Inequality in America Initiative Workshop Series: Work, Family, and Opportunity


Friday, November 30, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


William James Hall 601, 33 Kirkland St


Hosted by Sasha Killewald, Harvard Sociology Dept, and Larry Katz, Harvard Economics Dept, and featuring 

Kathleen McGinn, Harvard Business School

Gina Schouten, Harvard Philosopy Department

A light lunch will be provided.


KATHLEEN MCGINN: The  problem  of  women  at  work.  The passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting employers from discriminating on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion, greatly expanded women's employment opportunities. Fifty-five years later, the #metoo movement exposed what women had realized long before: gender discrimination in employment continues unchecked in many settings. We ask what has changed and what has not in the decades between Title VII and #metoo. Our study is designed to trace society’s  understandings of "the problem of women at work" in the US through archival news articles published in the US from 1963 through 2018. Using popular press articles about women’s employment, we apply Natural Language Processing to assess shared understandings of women's employment and individual, organizational and societal responses to the increasing presence of women in the workplace. 

GINA SCHOUTEN: My talk will be drawn from my forthcoming book Liberalism, Neutrality, and the Gendered Division of Labor. The project of the book is to give a normative argument that a certain set of family support policies--namely, those that explicitly undertake to promote gender egalitarian uptake of family support--is consistent with a plausible neutrality constraint on legitimate political intervention. In a diverse, liberal democratic society, citizens will reasonably disagree about what justice demands. In an unjust society that aspires to become just, they will be unequally burdened by the political reforms necessary for that pursuit. This disagreement and unequal burdening seem to bear on the steps that such a society may permissibly take to bring about change. This book considers the moral constraints on political intervention to bring about change, given that citizens reasonably disagree about what constitutes change for the better, and given that they will be unequally burdened by the political steps we take to pursue it. I work out and defend a view about those constraints that is drawn from a commitment to state neutrality. I examine that constraint by applying it to the gendered division of labor. It is a book, then, about liberal neutrality, about the gendered division of labor, and, mostly, about a question that lies at their intersection: May we take political action to eradicate the gendered division of labor without violating the constraints on intrusive political action that liberal neutrality imposes? I argue that we may, and that within that affirmative answer there are lessons to be learned about the gendered division of labor and the theory that I use to assess it. I hope that my discussion will provide some illustration of what the disciplinary resources of philosophy can contribute to conversations about work, gender, and opportunity. 

Future dates include:

  • Friday, February 1
  • Friday, March 1
  • Friday, March 29
  • (Additional Date TBD)