Erin A. Cech
Current Research

A central puzzle underlies my research: why are some forms of inequality so resilient in the United States, despite the rise and dissemination of legal and cultural mandates for equality over the last half-century?  I address this puzzle by investigating cultural mechanisms of inequality reproduction, particularly cultural beliefs and practices (e.g. meritocracy, passion and self-expression, scientific excellence, the ideal worker norm) that seem objective and benign but can serve as powerful forces reproducing inequality.  I attend most closely to institutional- and individual-level cultural processes related to gender and sexuality, and, secondarily, to racial/ethnic inequality.

I investigate cultural mechanisms of inequality reproduction in three substantive areas: (1) inequality in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions, (2) cultures of work, and (3) popular cultural beliefs about inequality.  My work draws on theoretical scholarship in cultural sociology and science and technology studies and uses both quantitative and qualitative methods. Below are ongoing research projects in these three areas:

  • Inequality in STEM
    • Professional cultures and gendered professional identities
    • Experiences of LGBTQ engineers and scientists (STEM Inclusion Study)
    • Schemas of scientific excellence and disadvantage among women, minority and LGBT STEM faculty
    • Native American students' experiences in science and engineering

  • Cultures of Work
    • The role of the Passion Principle (the elevation of self-expression and the central guiding principle in career selection) in the reproduction of occupational inequalities.
    • Self-expression and occupational sex segregation
    • Workplace inequality among LGBT employees
    • The consequences of flexibility stigma
    • Family plans and occupational sex segregation

  • Cultural Beliefs about Inequality
    • Cultural schemas of inequality and reproduction of social disadvantage
    • Recognition of glass ceilings and chilly workplace climates
    • Adolescents' concern for inequality

External Research Support

National Science Foundation (PI)  
ERC Core Research: “Collaborative Research: A Study of Interactional, Organizational and Professional Mechanisms of Disadvantage in the Underrepresented and Marginalized STEM Workforce.” PI at Temple University:  Tom Waidzunas (Awarded Sept 2015) -- $932,628

National Science Foundation (PI) 
GSE Grant: “
The Price of Parenting in STEM: Explaining Career Paths and Pay Consequences of Parenthood among Science and Engineering Professionals.” Co-PI: Mary Blair-Loy. (Awarded Sept 2015) -- $396,639

National Science Foundation (Co-PI)
EAGER Grant: “EAGER: Promoting LGBTQ Equality in Engineering through Virtual Communities of Practice.” PI: Stephanie Farrell (Awarded July 2015) -- $299,998

National Science Foundation (Co-PI)
PAID-Research Grant: “Divergent Trajectories: A Longitudinal Study of Organizational and Departmental Factors Leading to Gender and Race Differences in STEM Faculty Advancement, Pay, and Prestige.” PI: Mary Blair-Loy (Awarded Sept 2011) -- $554,231

National Science Foundation (Co-PI)
Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, Sociology Program “Individual Beliefs and Occupational Sex Segregation.” (Awarded May 2010) -- $6,796

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Gender News Articles written for Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford:

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