Professional and Biographic Information

Submitted by Eunmi Mun on Saturday, 11/14/2015, at 10:08 AM


Ph.D., Harvard University (2011)
M.A., Seoul National University (2004)
B.A., Seoul National University (2002)

Research Interests

: gender and organizations, law and organizations, organization theory, labor market institutions, work and employment in East Asia

My research tries to answer why gender inequality in the workplace persists, a long lasting question among sociologists interested in inequality. I am particularly interested in understanding organizational mechanisms through which gender inequality is produced and maintained. I am currently pursuing three streams of research in the fields of gender and organizations.

1. Organizational Resistance to Legal Pressures: The EEO Law in Japan

Various gender equality laws have been diffused across postindustrial societies in the second half of the 20th century, but progresses those societies have made are uneven. In an attempt to understand the cause of the unevenness, particularly in workplaces, I examine how organizations respond to gender equality laws and what the consequences are. While the Japanese government passed the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Law in 1985, the incorporation of female labor into the workplace has been very slow. The gender wage gap is one of the largest among OECD countries, the proportion of women in managerial positions is only 10%, and women’s quit rate at childbirth is close to 60% in Japan. I complied a longitudinal data for more than 1,000 large Japanese companies, using a rich but underutilized dataset on workforce composition and various HR practices, covering the entire 24-year period following the passage of the EEO law in 1985 through 2009. Analyzing the data, I show that HR managers blocked the implementation of the EEO law, because they perceived the law as a challenge to their professional knowledge, a knowledge built on a theory of the efficiency of internal labor markets (ILMs). This led Japanese HR managers to construct a symboloic measure that complied with the letter of the law, but substantively reproduced the sex segregation the law was designed to combat.

2. Organizational Implementation of Work-Family Policies: Parental Leave Policies in Japan

Developing an organizational approach to gender inequality, I investigate how practices intended to facilitate women’s labor market participation and career advancement are implemented within organizations. Analyzing panel data of large Japanese companies, I examine female employees’ use of parental leave policies, and argue that externally imposed policies require internal legitimacy in order for employees to utilize them, and propose the importance of the organizational gender climate and firms’ accountability for leave policies in facilitating the use of leave policies. In addition, in order to further examine the policy implementation process, I conducted a follow-up research to examine how managers of large corporations perceive their role in solving social issues, from work-life imbalance to low fertility. In the case of Japan, work-family policies have been developed by the state in order to facilitate women’s simultaneous labor force participation and childbearing. Analyzing my interviews with HR managers in 25 large Japanese companies, I show how managers’ evaluation of female employees who take leave is conditioned by dominant cultural norms of the ideal worker and the devoted mother.

3. Global CSR Standards and Workplace Gender Diversity

My third research stream broadens the scope of external pressures from country-level legal pressures to global normative pressures. In the last decade, there has been an increased global pressure for corporate social responsibility (CSR), which advocates the role of corporations in solving social issues. In order to examine local organizations’ adoption and implementation of global CSR standards and their impacts, I compiled a longitudinal data on 800 large Japanese companies between 2001 and 2009, and conducted extensive fieldwork in Japan including interviews with CSR managers at large Japanese companies. Analyzing the data, I examine how global CSR standards reshape Japanese companies’ employment practices toward women, and how the process is facilitated by key local professionals, especially CSR experts within major Japanese companies. These local professionals have actively redefined global CSR standards and, in doing so, have promoted gender diversity as a strategic CSR issue by which Japanese firms can appeal to foreign investors, although most foreign investors are indifferent to the issue of workplace gender diversity.

Selected Publications

Mun, Eunmi. Forthcoming. “Negative Compliance as an Organizational Response to Legal Pressures: The Case of Japanese Equal Employment Opportunity Law.” Social Forces

Brinton, Mary C. and Eunmi Mun. Forthcoming. “Between State and Family: Managers’ Implementation and Evaluation of Parental Leave Policies in Japan.” Socio-Economic Review.

Mun, Eunmi and Mary C. Brinton. 2015. “Workplace Matters: The Use of Parental Leave Policies in Japan.” Work and Occupations 42(3):335-369.

Mun, Eunmi. 2010. “Sex Typing of Jobs in Hiring: Evidence from Japan.” Social Forces 88(5):1999-2026.


Teaching Interests

I enjoy teaching about how social and economic institutions vary across countries and what individuals' work and family lives look like in different institutioal contexts. I offer two survey courses on this topic. The Economy, Society, and Change in East Asia class discusses the historical development of critical institutional arrangements in the three East Asian countries, and analyzes the relation of contemporary social issues to particular aspects of the social institutions, such as labor disputes, gender disparity, youth unemployment, and low fertility. In the Gender and Work class, I highlight the gendered lives and their cross-national variation. Women tend to have work and family lives different from men, regardless of insitutional contexts, but the size and type of gender differences vary across the contexts. The Gender and Work class discusses how gender gaps in economic attainment are produced and reproduced in workplaces, and under what institutional contexts, the gaps increase or decrease. 

I also offer seminar courses that discuss the emergence of different capitalist systems, focusing particularly on the ascent of liberal economic ideology in recent decades and the conflict bewteen the liberal and non-liberal economic ideologies. In the Asian Capitalism class, I introduce the cases of Japan, China, and India, in order to illuminate the differences of economic principles between the Anglo-American model rooted from the liberal economic ideology and an actually existing
capitalist system in Asia. The Financial Crisese and the Future of Democracy class investigates into the political processes through which the liberal economic ideology became a dominant ideology. I plan to offer more seminar courses that will provide students with a concrete picture of globalization in the neoliberal age and help them analyze themselves and their immediate social world in relationship to the broader society.

Classes Taught

  • Economy, Society, and Change in East Asia
  • Gender and Work
  • Asian Capitalism: Historical and Contemporary Views
  • Financial Crises and the Future of Democracy
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