American Sociological Association

Christine L. Williams

Christine Williams, University of Texas-Austin (co-recipient)

The Jessie Bernard Award committee is pleased also to recognize Professor Christine L. Williams for a career marked by innovative insights into gender and sexuality at work. The author of seven books and more than 50 articles, Williams focuses her research on gender, race, and class inequality in the workplace, contributing such foundational concepts as “the glass escalator.” Williams’s writing reflects her capacity to extend knowledge at the leading edge of scholarship—for example, when she investigates how new ways of organizing precarious work revise and retrench gender and other inequalities. Her research reveals her willingness to challenge established thinking in our discipline, such as when she explores connections between psychoanalysis and sociology, an interest that animates her continual attention to ambivalence and the nuances of power, desire, and gender/sexuality at work.

Empirically rich, often vivid and even poignant, Williams’s scholarship is also aimed at resolving core theoretical problems, starting with her early research. Her 1995 book, Still a Man’s World: Men Who Do “Women’s Work,” established that the experience of being a “token” worked differently for men in women’s occupations than it did for women in men’s occupations. Later work, particularly Inside Toyland: Working, Shopping, and Social Inequality (2006), considered low-wage retail workers in toy stores and demonstrated the interplay of race, gender, and class in shaping both their struggle with employers and their experience with customers. A 2013 Gender & Society article, “The Glass Escalator, Revisited: Gender Inequality in Neoliberal Times,” revisits and revises her own conceptual contributions.

Williams is well known for her research on sexual harassment in a variety of workplaces, and she has been fearless in exploring the meanings and experience of sexuality at work and its interplay with inequality, pleasure, and the law. Thanks to publications Williams co-authored with Patti Giuffre and Kirsten Dellinger as well as her single-authored pieces, we understand more about when people recognize and name harassment, how and when consensual sexual relations in the workplace differ from harassment, and how cultural contexts varying by organization can shape the way people define harassing behaviors.

A fluent writer and editor known for her clear and decisive prose, Williams has had many of her books and articles excerpted and reprinted in anthologies, and she has served on many editorial boards, including as the editor of Gender & Society from 2003-2006. Williams has chaired more than 20 dissertation committees and is widely celebrated for her extensive guidance of sociology’s newest leaders, which has included co-authoring many manuscripts with students, providing junior scholars significant professional opportunities, and championing first-time authors. In 2013 she received the Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) Feminist Mentoring Award in recognition of this work. In recent years, Williams has been a leader in the effort to ensure sociology not be deployed to, as she puts it, “diminish the civil rights and legitimacy of LGBTQ partners and their families,” as in her research on the ambiguities of gay-friendly workplaces. She has also served in numerous elected positions in the ASA and SWS, and in recognition of her career accomplishments in research on gender, Williams received the Distinguished Feminist Lecturer award from SWS in 2012.

Williams’ publications, awards, commitment to students, and terms in elected office point to the success of the insistence she shares with Jessie Bernard—that feminism be central to sociological inquiry.

The Jessie Bernard Award Committee (Lynn Sharon Chancer, Philip N. Cohen, Jessica Fields, Debra Renee Kaufman, Pamela Paxton, Bandana Purkayastha, Viviana Zelizer, and Maxine Baca Zinn,) extends its warmest congratulations to Professors Chow and Williams.