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Cecilia Ridgeway Award Statement


The 2009 Jessie Bernard Award winner is Stanford University’s Lucie Stern Professor of Social Sciences Cecilia Ridgeway.

Ridgeway is a path-breaking social psychologist whose scholarship enhances "our understanding of gender inequality as much as, or more than, anyone else during the last half of the 20th century" Linda Molm notes in her nomination letter.

Ridgeway’s scholarship has been published in all the top sociology journals and in every significant handbook and important edited collection in the fields of social psychology and gender. The significance of her scholarship was recognized by ASA’s Social Psychology Section, which awarded her the 2004 Cooley-Mead Award, the section’s highest honor.

Ridgeway’s theoretical and empirical research has been front and center in sociology and psychology. She was asked to contribute the lead theoretical article in two special issues of the psychology journal The Journal of Social Issues, which demonstrates the broad reach of her scholarship. Her research on status construction theory powerfully explains how a nominal characteristic like gender acquires status value and thus reproduces inequality. Her effort to link micro-processes and macro-structures has transformed scholarly thinking by illuminating how interactional processes preserve gender hierarchies.

Her 1992 book Gender, Interaction, and Inequality, a now classic study in the status characteristic tradition,offers a comprehensive explication of this innovative research. Ridgeway’s subsequent research further demonstrates that status processes in collective groups are fundamentally collaborative, rather than a contest of dominance, for both women and men. In another line of research, she examines the relation between status processes in collective groups and socio-emotional behavior. A related dimension of her extensive research portfolio expands expectation states theory to incorporate emotions and nonverbal behavior and their role in perpetuating gender inequality.

Commenting on the applied nature of her important work, Molm praised Ridgeway’s ability to explain, in accessible terms, "the changing status of women in America, the persistence of gender inequality in work settings, and the implications of gender for leadership. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of her work is that she never loses sight of the larger impact of her scholarly work and its ultimate importance for helping us to understand gender inequality in society: what creates it, what maintains it, why it persists despite major changes in the socioeconomic organization of society, and what must be done to undermine the interactional forces that feed gender inequality."

Ridgeway effectively demonstrates what feminist scholars consistently argue for, namely, the "incorporation of gender into a general understanding of social process in a multi-level formulation that incorporates interactional, group, and societal level phenomena" Lynn Smith-Lovin writes. Judith Howard emphasizes that Ridgeway "is one of the very few sociologists working today who has effectively operationalized the frequent call for use of multiple levels of analysis and multiple methods of research. Through both experimental and field-based research, she has pushed the horizons of understanding about small group processes, processes through which status is created and enacted, and brings these to bear on questions of stratification."

Ridgeway has produced important eloquent theoretical and experimental research while also mentoring students and junior faculty and performing exemplary professional service. She has served on editorial boards of three sociological journals, as editor of several special issues, and as editor of Social Psychology Quarterly. She has also served as Chair of ASA’s Sections on Social Psychology, Sex and Gender, and Sociology of Emotions. In addition, she was elected president of the Pacific Sociological Association.

Furthermore, Ridgeway has been a tireless advocate for institutional policies to promote gender equality, always linking this effort with her scholarship. For example, one aspect of her research on gender and group processes emphasizes the significance of legitimation for women leaders. One of her many contributions is the development of a theory that maps the conditions through which women can acquire the necessary legitimation to be effective leaders.

In sum, as nominator Joey Sprague concludes, "In her longstanding commitment to ending gender inequality, in the substantive contribution her work makes to actually helping to do that, and in the way she interpersonally supports women who are more junior than she, Cecilia Ridgeway exemplifies the legacy of Jessie Bernard."