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The Department of Sociology Fall 2023 Colloquium Series Presents: Dr. Megan Neely

On Monday, October 30, 2023, the Sociology Colloquium Series will feature Dr. Megan Neely. Dr. Neely is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Organization at Copenhagen Business School and a faculty affiliate of Stanford University’s Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab. She studied workplace and economic inequality through the lens of gender, race, and social class. Her current research investigates how gender, race, and social class influence access to earnings and capital in some of the wealthiest industries in the United States. Her recent book, Hedged Out: Inequality and Insecurity on Wall Street (2022, University of California Press), presents an insider’s look at the inner workings of the notoriously rich and secretive U.S. hedge fund industry. Her first book, Divested: Inequality in the Age of Finance (2020, Oxford University Press) with Ken-Hou Lin, demonstrates why widening inequality in the United States cannot be understood without examining the rise of big finance. Previously, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research from 2017-2020. In 2017, she graduated with a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Colloquia Title and Topic:

"The Wager: Gender, Race and Value in High-Wage Service Sector Work"

Scholars have long established that race, class, and gender, as systems of inequality, influence whose labor is valued and devalued. The focus has largely been on the devaluation of care work gender-typed as women’s work and how this work is racialized. In contrast, I investigate another side of these inequalities often omitted from the analytical focus: How and why is high-wage service sector work, composed of mostly elite white men, so highly valued? I conducted 122 in-depth interviews and field observations of hedge fund, venture capital, and technology startup firms. I identify how organizational, interactional, and cultural processes, specifically those that delineate income and wealth, designate the work of these elites as of high worth. I find that the social interactions that set wages, bonuses, and equity reflect speculative, financial cultural logics that are distinct in each of these three fields, shaping how inequality is embedded within each type of firm. The processes through which earnings and capital are distributed in these fields are based on racialized, gendered, and classed assumptions about risk, value, and worth. I call the process of speculating on earnings and equity the “wager” to capture how elites in finance and tech view their earnings as consistent with the logic of accumulation of financial markets.