Why are some people more likely than others to recognize hostile or unfair interactions in local environments such as their workplaces? We argue that awareness of chilly climates is not simply a tally of instances of discrimination but an interpretive process framed by cultural schemas of inequality, deeply held cultural accounts of broad ascriptive group differences. We contend that schemas of inequality frame the way individuals interpret their day-to-day work environments, sharpening or distorting their ability to recognize unfair circumstances therein. To investigate the relationship between these cultural schemas and recognition of chilliness, we analyze survey data from a theoretically useful case of academic science and engineering (STEM) faculty. When accounting for patterns of under-representation in STEM generally, roughly half of respondents rely on meritocratic schemas, while half use schemas emphasizing structural barriers. Yet even net of demographics and personal experiences of marginalization at work, those using meritocratic schemas are less likely than those using structural schemas to recognize chilly departmental climates and chilly professional cultures. Our focus pivots analytical attention beyond individuals’ experiences of disadvantage toward the cultural schemas that shape whether co-workers, both dominant and non-dominant, recognize chilly interactions in their work environments that disadvantage women and minorities.
American Journal of Cultural Sociology – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 14, 2016