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“It is complicated!” With Tyler Gallagher & Jacqueline Coyle-Shapiro

It is complicated! A number of reasons have been put forward that go beyond outright gender discrimination to include workplace flexibility and employer expectations. Because organizations still value long inflexible hours, women bear the brunt of this as they tend to take responsibility for the bulk of childcare which reduces their ability to match the […]

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It is complicated! A number of reasons have been put forward that go beyond outright gender discrimination to include workplace flexibility and employer expectations. Because organizations still value long inflexible hours, women bear the brunt of this as they tend to take responsibility for the bulk of childcare which reduces their ability to match the working hours of men. Employers interpret fathers as more committed and stable as a result of their parental responsibilities and reward them with higher pay (Budig, 2014) whereas women receive a motherhood penalty (Budig, 2014) as employers are likely to interpret motherhood as lending itself to less work and more distraction. The female penalty continues with organizations providing women with less access to challenging work, powerful sponsors thus hampering the opportunity for women to demonstrate their organizational worth.


I had the pleasure to interview Jacqueline Coyle-Shapiro. Jacqueline is a Professor in Organizational Behaviour in the Department of Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where she completed her Ph.D. in 1996. Her prior leadership positions include serving as Chair of the Academy’s OB Division 2014–15, Head of the Employment Relations and Organizational Behaviour Group at the LSE from 2010–2013 and Senior Editor at the Journal of Organizational Behaviour from 2007–2012. She has held a number of visiting positions in the United States, Australia, France, and Ireland, and she has taught in Singapore, Colombia, Norway, Germany, and Portugal.

She has co-edited two special issues of journals and two books on the employee-organization relationship: The Employment Relationship: Examining Psychological and Contextual Perspectives (2004) and The Employee-Organization Relationship: Applications for the 21st Century (2012). Her research interests include employment relationships, psychological contracts, social exchange theory, and organizational citizenship behavior. She has been published in such journals as the Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology and Journal of Organizational Behavior. Her current work examines ideological currency and calling as well as employee-organization relationships and health. Within AOM, she has served on a number of Awards Committees (such as the Terry Book Award and the OB Division’s Cummings Scholarly Achievement Award), AOM Second Conference Taskforce, Cross-Divisional Roundtable Committee, and, more recently, the Division and Interest Group Relations Committee. She has participated in a number of Junior Faculty Workshops and Doctoral Consortiums for several Divisions (ODC, OB, and HR).


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

I quickly realized everyone, even the so-called industry leaders, start their careers from humble beginnings. I learned this shortly after joining the Academy of Management (AOM) in 1998, which is one of the world’s largest professional associations for scholars of management and organizations with over 20,000 academic scholar members who collectively publish research. The research informs important business, workplace and organizational topics that help the world’s organizations operate smarter, more equitably and more productively. Over 22 years later, I currently serve as President of the association.

Joining AOM in 1998, I’ll never forget how senior scholar members who were big names in their fields were humble, nice human beings. In the late 1990s, I presented a paper at an AOM conference and before I presented my paper, the prior presenter made a comment to the audience and said “Denise, I would be interested to hear your views.” I thought, “no, it couldn’t be, no way would she be attending my small presentation.” And so, I eliminated that possibility, calmed my nerves and delivered that presentation.

After the presentation, there was a tap on my shoulder.

Professor Denise Rousseau, the current Heinz III Chair in Organizational Behavior and Public Policy of Heinz College and Tepper School of Business at the Carnegie Mellon University, surprisingly sat through my session. She very kindly made positive comments. That innocent encounter reinforced how humility and thoughtfulness are core attributes for all to endear, even those who may have reached the top of a profession. One never knows the impact a small gesture can have on another’s life or career.

From that point onward, I discovered that these big name scholars or industry leaders in academia were human too, and were nice, helpful, cooperative and genuine people interested in pushing and advancing knowledge forward. I strived to emulate that disposition moving forward. Being nice pays off. I promise.

Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

At my very first academy in 1998, two years after receiving my PhD, I was a relative unknown at the conference. I attended a session that featured globally recognized scholars. There was an opportunity for a Q&A, and I thought, “I’ll go for it and ask a question.”

Despite being nervous, I asked a question. Then, Professor Rob Folger, a leading scholar in organizational justice at the University of Central Florida approached me afterwards and started a conversation. In reflecting upon this and with the benefit of hindsight, that conversation would ultimately open significant doors to my career. Professor Folger introduced me to other prominent scholars that became trusted peers, friends and mentors.

Despite battling nerves, taking the small risk to simply ask a question to an eminent scholar became an important point early in my career. It is a perfect example that for anyone to grow in their career, especially women, risk taking is essential. A risk can be as small as just asking a question. I am eternally grateful to the mentors in my life who took small actions that made a great difference in my career.

Some of the biggest lessons I learned: take risks and commit acts of kindness and generosity, which are critical for leaders to help others. The little things absolutely do matter today more than ever.

Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. Even in 2019, women still earn about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Can you explain three of the main factors that are causing the wage gap?

It is complicated! A number of reasons have been put forward that go beyond outright gender discrimination to include workplace flexibility and employer expectations. Because organizations still value long inflexible hours, women bear the brunt of this as they tend to take responsibility for the bulk of childcare which reduces their ability to match the working hours of men. Employers interpret fathers as more committed and stable as a result of their parental responsibilities and reward them with higher pay (Budig, 2014) whereas women receive a motherhood penalty (Budig, 2014) as employers are likely to interpret motherhood as lending itself to less work and more distraction. The female penalty continues with organizations providing women with less access to challenging work, powerful sponsors thus hampering the opportunity for women to demonstrate their organizational worth.

Can you share with our readers what your work is doing to help close the gender wage gap?

If the above paints organizations in a pessimistic light from a woman’s vantage point, let me go a little way to counterbalancing this using the research findings of Leslie et al. (2017) Academy of Management Journal. This research, titled “Why and When Does the Gender Gap Reverse? Diversity Goals and the Pay Premium for High Potential Women,” uncovers the female “premium” which challenges the prevailing assumption that all women are uniformly disadvantaged — when does this happen?

When women have perceived diversity value, they have great potential.

Organizations that value diversity have more pluralistic views of what success means and this provides an advantage to high potential women who are given a pay premium in order to prevent talented women from leaving and hampering the organization’s achievement of diversity goals.

At the Academy of Management, my research and all of our 20,000 scholar authors have contributed various research insights that help organizations and workplaces achieve greater gender equality and workplace diversity. Through that research, with notable examples being “Three Recipes for Success for Female CEOs” or “Why and When Does the Gender Gap Reverse? Diversity Goals and the Pay Premium for High Potential Women”, we’re able to influence and inform global organizations to improve their internal efforts for workplace gender equality.

Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the gender wage gap. Please share a story or example for each.

I can give one or two key things: as a whole, society and organizations alike need to more fully embrace individual differences and recognize that individual contributions come in a variety of forms. Diversity in perspectives is needed for optimal decision-making and when judging or evaluating how men and women contribute to organizational goals.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would aim to inspire a global movement centered on individuals daily committing acts of courage, gratefulness and generosity on micro-levels — a small action can make a huge difference. Much like my anecdotes with Professor Rousseau and Folger, when we act out of kindness, generosity and for the greater good, the impact can transform individual’s lives, neighborhoods, communities, cities and so on.

A good analogy for this potential movement’s impact: what is the difference between water at 211 degrees and 212 degrees? There is only one-degree difference between the two temperatures. But once water reaches the boiling point of 212 degrees, it has a huge number of uses that it does not have at 211 degrees.

One degree of separation can have a massive impact, just like one physical act of kindness can have a long-lasting ripple effect.

Much like a butterfly flapping its wings in Australia can create a tsunami across the world; these analogies illustrate that one never knows what domino effect is produced from every day, common actions. In trying times, it is important for us all to band together, help one another and lend a helping hand.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It is quite simple — “gratitude goes a long way.” I learned this from my father. He is the most grateful person that I know. Being able to demonstrate gratefulness even for small things will improve one’s disposition, life outlook and general perspective.

Being grateful has helped my career, from the opportunity to teach tomorrow’s leaders to learn from the best scholars in the world at the Academy of Management and to publish research that helps the world’s organizations improve.

It is important to be grateful for small moments in one’s career too — like where when Prof. Rousseau or Prof. Folger said hi, asked a question or introduced me to new peers. Those little moments can help define a career or a life.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

This may surprise you. The person would be the legendary Swedish tennis player, Bjorn Borg. Not only because I believe he was the greatest tennis player ever, but his on court behavior and etiquette emanated a cool, thoughtful energy that helped him conquer and succeed in intense situations. In those tightest of situations, he managed to provide the right frame of mind to proceed with very calm and collected tennis. That demeanor and excellence in stressful conditions can be instructive to anyone in any life situation. Above all, I am a massive tennis fan. He epitomized focused and winning behavior on the tennis court. Dinner with him would be an honor!

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