Postdoctoral research fellow Jo H. Kim, Ph.D., recently joined the staff of the Wellesley Centers for Women. Her project, Experiencing
Globalization: The Construction of Gender and Ethnicity in the Transnational Corporation (TNCs)Workplace, focuses on Korean immigrant women workers’ experiences of globalization in the workplace.
Kim examined the gendered work practices in Korean TNCs in the United States and the women’s responses to them as the subject of her dissertation. She is now addressing the specific features of the workplace that form practice and identity in particular ways. According to Kim, “the workplace and its particular features are a powerful agent in constructing ideologies, practices, and identity around gender. Because the globalizing workplace includes a division of labor that is defined by ethnicity and gender, the women workers in Korean TNCs cognitively construct gendered practices through ethnicity. Moreover, they use their own ethnicity to explain their responses to the gendered practices.
This ethnic construction has a strong implication for understanding inequality in the workplace because it reinforces and reproduces work practices and work structure.”
After many interviews with women workers in Korean TNCs in the United States, Kim found that the Korean women, regardless of their position in management or support positions, often interpret sexist work practices in ethnic terms, saying, “It’s the Korean way.” Moreover, the women explain their responses to the gendered practices in two ways. They explain their acts of resistance as a function of their “Americanization,” while explaining their acts of accommodation as a function of their “Koreanization.” This ethnic construction of gendered practices, Kim points out, facilitates and perpetuates the gender stratification in the workplace. “Because work and identity are central features of the modern life,” Kim stated “this study enriches our understanding of the globalization process and how tt configures many dimensions of identity.”