NEW DATE Seminar | Can Law Mitigate the Motherhood / Leave Taker Penalty? | KT Albiston (University of California Berkeley | Sociology and Law)

Dr. KT Albiston, University of California Berkeley School of Law
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 - 11:30am to 1:00pm
UMass Amherst | 919 Thompson Hall
Mothers and parents who take family leave are hired less often, promoted less often and paid less than other workers because of gendered stereotypes about work and family. Can family leave laws mitigate the effects of these stereotypes? In this free public seminar, Dr. Catherine (KT) Albiston argues that family leave laws communicate a social consensus that penalizing caregiving is morally wrong, and that this expressive effect of law can mitigate negative outcomes for mothers and leave takers. She evaluates this argument using an experimental design that varies the policy environment across three conditions–no policy, family leave law or organizational leave policy–while holding workers’ performance constant. When there is no policy, leave takers of both genders receive less pay, and mothers and leave takers are seen as less committed, competent and likable than other workers. Introducing family leave laws eliminates these biases, even for mothers who did not take leave. Organizational policies produced mixed outcomes. We conclude that even weakly enforced family leave laws that have little deterrent effect nevertheless may reduce gender inequality through their expressive effects. These expressive effects not only mitigate pay and promotion penalties but also overcome negative stereotypes about the competence and commitment of mothers and leave takers.

Catherine (KT) Albiston is Professor of Law and Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.  Her research focuses on the relationship between law and social change, especially how social institutions interact with law to affect broader systems of power and inequality.  Her current empirical research addresses rights mobilization and family and medical leave, workplace bias against mothers and caretakers, and the role of public interest law organizations in democracy and civil society.  Her book, Institutional Inequality and the Mobilization of the Family and Medical Leave Act:  Rights on Leave, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2010.  She is active in the Law and Society Association, American Sociological Association, and the newly formed Work and Family Researchers Network.  Before joining the Berkeley faculty, she was an attorney at the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco representing low wage workers in employment cases, and then joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin Law School where she also held affiliate appointments in Sociology and Women’s Studies. 

This event is sponsored by the ISSR Scholars Program, promoting successful research and grants development for social science faculty across the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dr. Albiston visits UMass to collaborate with ISSR Scholar Kathryne Young. This public talk is co-sponsored with the Department of Sociology at UMass Amherst.