Michela Musto is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia. Her work investigates the contexts in which education reproduces social inequality, including academically tracked classrooms, youth sports and other extracurricular activities, and collegiate athletics.
Areas of Specialization:
Gender, Race & Ethnicity, Education, Children & Youth, Social Inequality, Qualitative & Mixed Methodologies
Boys Will Be Boys (Book Project)
Girls outperform boys in most areas of education, including grades, high school graduation rates, and college enrollment and completion rates. Despite girls’ achievements, girls and boys as young as six perceive boys as more intelligent – a pattern that persists through high school, college, and the workforce. Men – especially White men – also are overrepresented in jobs and occupations where “natural” intelligence is considered integral to one’s success. This includes the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM], leadership positions in politics, and CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies. What accounts for the uneven character of gender inequality, where boys are perceived as more exceptional and thus better suited for fields that prioritize “natural” intelligence and leadership capabilities? How does race intersect with gender in school contexts to shape young people’s perceptions of their academic capabilities and subsequent career interests?
Musto’s in-progress book manuscript, tentatively titled Boys Will Be Boys, examines the social construction of exceptionalism in early adolescence. This project, which is under advance contract with the University of Chicago Press, draws on two and a half years of longitudinal ethnography and 196 interviews conducted with sixth- through eighth-grade students and teachers at a racially- and socioeconomically-diverse middle school in Southern California.
With its longitudinal and intersectional approach, Boys Will Be Boys reveals how academic tracking, school disciplinary processes, and educators’ pedagogical practices placed girls and boys from different racial and socioeconomic groups on different academic trajectories. It also reveals how students’ gendered and racialized perceptions of their academic capabilities legitimized this hierarchical sorting process. Over the course of sixth- through eighth-grades, students gradually learned to perceive affluent, White boys as the most exceptional ones in the school – not only in comparison to girls, but also in comparison to Asian American and Latinx boys.
Michela’s other projects examine girls’ and women’s advancement into the historically male-dominated fields of sport and STEM. Her work has been published in American Sociological Review, Gender & Society, Sociology of Sport Journal, Communication & Sport, and Education Policy Analysis Archive. She is also the co-author of Child’s Play, an edited volume published with Rutgers University Press that takes inequality in youth sports as its subject of inquiry. In addition to receiving funding from the National Science Foundation, the American Association for University Women, and the Haynes Foundation, Michela’s work has received awards from the American Sociological Association Sex & Gender and Children & Youth Sections.
Michela Musto. 2019. “Brilliant or Bad: The Gendered Social Construction of Exceptionalism in Early Adolescence.” American Sociological Review 84(3): 369 – 93.
Michela Musto, Cheryl Cooky, and Michael A. Messner. 2017. “‘From Fizzle to Sizzle!’ Televised Sports News and the Production of Gender-Bland Sexism.” Gender & Society 31(5): 573 – 96.
Michela Musto and PJ McGann. 2016. “Strike a Pose! The Femininity Effect in Collegiate Women’s Sport.” Sociology of Sport Journal 33(2): 101 – 12.
Cheryl Cooky, Michael A. Messner, and Michela Musto. 2015. “‘It’s Dude Time’: A Quarter Century of Missing Women in Televised Sports News and Highlights Shows.” Communication and Sport 3(3): 261 – 87.
Michela Musto. 2014. “Athletes in the Pool, Girls and Boys on Deck: The Contextual Construction of Gender in Co-Ed Youth Swimming.” Gender & Society 28(3): 359 – 80.
Michael A. Messner and Michela Musto. 2014. “For the Sociology of Sport: Where Are the Kids?” Sociology of Sport Journal 31(1): 102 – 22.