Mary Blair-Loy

Center For Research on Gender in the Professions, Founding Director

Mary Blair-Loy has a B.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and an M.Div. from Harvard University. She uses multiple methods to study gender, the economy, work, and family. Much scholarship in these areas posits people as making individually strategic trade-offs between work and family obligations. Although valid in certain circumstances, these assumptions distort the analysis of institutions that are imbued with moral connotations experienced as externally binding and often conflicting. In contrast, Blair-Loy explicitly analyzes broadly shared, cultural models of a worthwhile life, such as the work devotion schema and the family devotion schema. These cultural schemas help shape workplace and family structures. They frame certain decisions as morally and emotionally compelling, while defining others as off-limits. The work devotion schema renders professional life meaningful, justifies spending little time on family care, and reinforces gender inequality in the labor market. 

Her award-winning book, Competing Devotions: Career and Family among Women Executives (2003, Harvard), focused on these issues for executive women, while a new study addresses these issues among executive men. Recent research extends this framework beyond business elites to call center workers (with Amy Wharton and Sarah Chivers) and to professionals in science and technology (with Erin Cech).  Further, she analyzes the institutionalization of corporate work-family policies (with Amy Wharton) and organizational ideologies (with Wharton and Jerry Goodstein).  In an edited ANNALS collection, Blair-Loy and colleagues argue that cultural sociology thrives when it is engaged with empirical research on social inequalities and other concrete problems.

Curriculum Vitae

M. Blair-Loy. 2003. Competing Devotions: Career and Family among Women Executives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Received the 2005 William J. Goode Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s Family Section).

M. Blair-Loy. 2010. "Moral Dimensions of the Work-Family Nexus." Pp. 439-453 in Handbook of the Sociology of Morality, edited by S. Hitlin and S. Vaisey. New York: Springer Science+Business Media.

Cech, Erin A. & Mary Blair-Loy. 2010. “Perceiving Glass Ceilings? Meritocratic versus Structural Explanations of Gender Inequality among Women in Science and Technology." Social Problems 57: 371-397.

M. Blair-Loy. 2009. “Work Without End? Scheduling Flexibility and Work-to-Family Conflict among Stockbrokers.” Work and Occupations 36: 279-317.

Amy S. Wharton, Sarah Chivers, and M. Blair-Loy.  2008.  "Use of Formal and Informal Work-Family Policies on the Digital Assembly Line." Work and Occupations 35: 327-350.

Amy S. Wharton and Mary Blair-Loy. 2006. “Long Work Hours and Family Life: A Cross-National Study of Employees’ Concerns.” Journal of Family Issues 27: 415-436

M. Blair-Loy and Gretchen DeHart. 2003. "Family and Career Trajectories among African American Female Attorneys.”Journal of Family Issues 24: 908-933. (Reprinted in P. J. Dubeck, ed. Workplace/Women’s Place, 3rd edition.  2006, Roxbury Publishing Company.)

M. Blair-Loy and Amy S. Wharton. 2002. “Employees’ Use of Family-Responsive Policies and the Workplace Social Context.” Social Forces 80: 813-845.

M. Blair-Loy. 1999. "Career Patterns of Executive Women in Finance: An Optimal Matching Analysis." American Journal of Sociology 104:1346-97. 

Other Articles & Chapters