Associate Professor & Director of Undergraudate Studies
Erin A. Cech is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Associate Professor by courtesy in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Cech joined the University of Michigan in 2016. Before coming to UM, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University and was on faculty at Rice University. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego and undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering and Sociology from Montana State University.
Cech's research examines cultural mechanisms of inequality reproduction--specifically, how inequality is reproduced through processes that are not overtly discriminatory or coercive, but rather those that are built into seemingly innocuous cultural beliefs and practices. She investigates this puzzle through three avenues of research. First, she uses quantitative and qualitative approaches to examine inequality in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions--specifically, the recruitment and retention of women, LGBT, and under-represented racial/ethnic minority students and practitioners and the role of professional cultures in this inequality. Second, Cech examines how cultural definitions of “good work” and “good workers” can anchor inequality in the workforce. For example, she examines the role of the “passion principle” in the reproduction of occupational inequalities: how seemingly voluntary and self-expressive career decisions help reproduce processes like occupational sex segregation. Finally, she studies how cultural understandings of the extent and origin of inequality help to uphold unequal social structures. Cech’s research is funded by multiple grants from the National Science Foundation. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Time, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Forbes, Chronicle of Higher Education and the news sections of Science and Nature.
In 2021, Cech received the Henry Russel Award, "the University of Michigan's highest honor for faculty at the early to mid-career stages of their career, conferred annually to faculty members who have demonstrated an extraordinary record of accomplishment in scholarly research and/or creativity, as well as an excellent record of contributions as a teacher."
Cech's first book, The Trouble with Passion: How Searching for Fulfilment at Work Fosters Inequality (University of California Press) was published Nov 2021 and is available in the US and internationally from the outlets listed here:
--Named one of Financial Times' Best Business Books of 2021
Her second book, Misconceiving Merit: Paradoxes of Excellence and Devotion in Academic Science and Engineering (University of Chicago Press), written with Mary Blair-Loy, was published June 2022 and is available here:
Selected Publications (see Website for complete list)
Cech, Erin A. (2022). “The Intersectional Privilege of White Able-Bodied Heterosexual Men in STEM.” Science Advances. Vol. 8(24): abo1558.
Cech, Erin A. and Sofia Hiltner. (2022). "Unsettled Employment, Reshuffled Priorities? Career Prioritization among College-Educated Workers Facing Employment Instability during COVID-19." Socius. January 2022.
Cech, Erin A. and Tom J. Waidzunas. (2021). “Systemic Inequalities for LGBTQ Professionals in STEM.” Science Advances. Vol.7(3)eabe0933.
Cech, Erin A. and William R. Rothwell. (2020). “LGBT Workplace Inequality in the Federal Workforce: Intersectional Processes, Organizational Contexts, and Turnover Considerations." Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 73(1): 25-60.
Cech, Erin A. and Mary Blair-Loy. (2019). "The changing career trajectories of new parents in STEM" Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116 (10) 4182-4187.
Cech, Erin A., Jessi L. Smith and Anneke Metz. (2019). “Cultural Processes of Ethnoracial Disadvantage for Native American College Students.” Social Forces. 98(1): 355-380.
Cech, Erin A. and William R. Rothwell. (2019). “LGBTQ Inequality in Engineering Education.” Journal of Engineering Education.
Cech, Erin A., Mary Blair-Loy, and Laura E. Rogers. (2018). “Recognizing Chilliness: How Schemas of Inequality Shape Views of Culture and Climate in Work Environments.” American Journal of Cultural Sociology. Vol. 6(1): 125-160.
Cech, Erin A. and Lindsey Trimble O'Connor. (2018). " 'Like Second-Hand Smoke: The Toxic Effect of Workplace Flexibility Bias for Workers' Health." Community, Work & Family. Vol. 20(5): 543-572.
Cech, Erin A. (2017). “Rugged Meritocratists: The Role of Overt Bias and the Meritocratic Ideology in Trump Supporters’ Opposition to Social Justice Efforts.” Socius. Vol. 3:1-20.
Cech, Erin A., Anneke Metz, Jessi L. Smith, and Karen deVries. (2017). “Epistemological Dominance and Social Inequality: Experiences of Native American Science, Engineering, and Health Students.” Science, Technology & Human Values. Vol. 42(5):743-774.
Cech, Erin A. (2017). “What Fosters Concern for Inequality among American Adolescents?” Social Science Research. Vol. 61(1): 160-180.
Cech, Erin A. (2016). “Mechanism or Myth? Family Plans and the Reproduction of Occupational Gender Segregation.” Gender & Society. Vol. 30(2): 265-88.
Cech, Erin A. and Mary Blair-Loy. (2014). “Consequences of Flexibility Stigma among Academic Scientists and Engineers.” Work and Occupations. Vol. 41(1):86-110.
Cech, Erin A. (2014). “Culture of Disengagement in Engineering Education?” Science, Technology & Human Values. Vol. 39 (1): 34-63.
-Invited Nature comment on culture of disengagement research
Cech, Erin A. (2013). “The Self-Expressive Edge of Occupational Sex Segregation.” American Journal of Sociology. Vol. 119(3):747-89
Cech, Erin A. (2013). “Ideological Wage Gaps? The Technical/Social Dualism and the Gender Wage Gap in Engineering.” Social Forces. Vol. 91(4): 1147-1182.
Cech, Erin A. and Tom J. Waidzunas. (2011). “Navigating the Heteronormativity of Engineering: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Students.” Engineering Studies, Vol. 3(1): 1-24.
Cech, Erin, Brian Rubineau, Susan Silbey, and Carroll Seron. (2011). “Professional Role Confidence and Gendered Persistence in Engineering.” American Sociological Review, Vol.76(5): 641-66.
Cech, Erin A. and Mary Blair-Loy. (2010). “Perceiving Glass Ceilings? Meritocratic versus Structural Explanations of Gender Inequality among Women in Science and Technology.” Social Problems, Vol. 57(3): 371-397.