Brenda Parker’s article emphazises a critique of Richard Florida’s Creative Class discourse. Florida’s theory is centred on the belief that human knowledge is the main requirement in order for cities to be successful in modern society. He argues that diversity and creativity are the drivers of innovation and regional and national growth (Florida, 2003, p.3). Parker’s argues that Florida overlooks several aspects in this theory particularly labor market segmentation as it relates to race and gender. “I suggest that the Creative Class discourse forwards a seemingly soft, contemporary version of hegemonic masculinity.” (Parker, 2008, p. 202).
The main goal of the article argues that the Creative Class traditional characteristics facilitate unequal gender and racial relations. She highlights the women minorities and wage inequalities in many ‘creative careers’ as well as the tensions among care giving and work (Parker, 2008, p.203). She argues that Florida’s theory allow men to thrive in society through the “creative professional” aspect, while women are undervalued. She highlights the inequality between work and home and ‘creative’ and ‘service’ work. According to Parker, Florida’s creative discourse attracts an elite population which reproduces such gender and racial relations (Parker, 2008, p.222).
Richard Florida developed a theory based on a Creative Class.” His theory relates to many creative cities in the world today. Is this a perfectly constructed theory that defines modern day society? The answer to that is no because it fails to account for many important aspects of inequality that exists in today’s society. Brenda Parker’s article argues that Florida overlooks important issues of race and gender in his theory of the creative class. Parker argues that Florida’s simplified theory reproduces raced and gender inequalities in the city (Parker, 2008, p.204). At first glance, Florida’s theory creates a positive image to the reader. It appears to be a relevant theory to successful global cities in modern day society. There is a creative core and a super creative core in which diversity is claimed to be important (Parker, 2008, p.203). These creative and knowledge people are perceived as having the potential to change cities into successful ones as they are drivers of economic growth. Parker dissects this theory and illustrates how this simplistic view requires further analysis on issues of race and gender.
The article provides a detailed analysis of labour segmentation in creative cities. It mainly highlights the intersection of gender and race as it relates to the distribution of jobs in the ‘creative class’ society. The dominance of a masculine figure is prevalent in Florida’s theory. According to Parker, women face significant barriers to entry, remain marginalized and operate within a society centred on masculine norms (Parker, 2008, p.203). The idea is that a creative worker is required to work long hours in order to be successful while sacrificing family life. Florida ignores the workers who aim to maintain a work life balance and maintain a family. He overlooks the fact that not every individual has the same values and beliefs. The “second shift” of women is often referred to as care work. It is clear that Florida devalues the importance of this job. “Households and social reproduction are not presented as sites of creativity or as placed where social relations and identity negotiations take place.” (Parker, 2008, p.210).
Florida segregates the workforce and narrows the meaning of a creative professional worker. There seems to be no opportunity for success for women who value family life. A high percentage of the women who do work are in the lower paying service class jobs. The issue of race is also an important factor which explains the labour market segmentation. As Parker (2008, p.216) explains in her statistical research, the poverty rates for black households are higher in creative cities and there is a large gap between the earnings of white and black households. Despite the desire to drive economic growth with creative workers, Florida fails to address the continuous problem of racism in the labour market. The perception that his theory encourages diversity is therefore questionable. The social construction of employment skills as it relates to gender and race are highlighted in Parker’s article. “A normative, northern, elite, white male is most unambiguously at the heart of Florida’s idealized Creative Class.” (Parker, 2008, p.208). The creative class promotes job skills that are based on a typical masculine figure.
Masculine norms based on long hours of working as well as the hard, demanding nature of work dominates the best jobs in these cities (Parker, 2008, p.209). Therefore, it is evident that the successful jobs are dominated by men while the care work performed by women receives no recognition. As Parker (2008, p.225) states, the creative class erases reproductive and caring activities, labelling them as uncreative, and spatializing them apart from production and consumption. Many of the employed women in today’s society are in underpaid, service class jobs with little opportunity for advancement. In global cities, resident workers are women of colour, native and immigrant status (Ehrenreich & Hochschild, 2002, p.258). This is also evident in Parker’s article as statistics show the unequal earnings between female minorities as compared to male. Even though the gap seems narrower than in previous years, it is still significant enough and needs to be addressed.
As resources are shifted from services such as education and health care, women and families suffer negatively (Nagar et al., 2002). This shift results in an increase in poverty for these women among other consequences. Many women have shifted to subsistence food production, informal work, emigration, and prostitution (Ehrenreich & Hochschild, 2002, p.266). One of the major problems arising from this is illegal trafficking in cities. “Prostitution and migrant labour are increasingly popular ways to make a living.” (Ehrenreich & Hochschild, 2002, p.265). Women are exploited in such industries by illegal gangs and government institutions that promote these activities as a major source of revenue.
Despite several strong arguments presented by Parker, there are a few weaknesses. Parker emphasises inequality in the creative class mainly through women inequality. With the exception of a few minor arguments, she fails to signify how racial inequality is also a major problem. The main argument for racial inequality is the statistical representation of the super creative core. Labour segmentation involves more than simply gender inequality and Parker fails to address this.
It is clear that Florida’s creative class theory needs to be reassessed. The labour segmentation aspects such as racial and gender inequality is an evident problem that exists within the theory. The significant disadvantage and devaluation women face in the workforce in comparison to men requires further analysis. The attempt to encourage diversity in creative cities is not enough to solve the inequality problem. An analysis of this paper alerts the reader to be aware of labour segmentation and the social construction of employment as it relates to race and gender bias. It is important to note and understand how these inequalities are still significant in today’s society despite efforts to reduce them. Further research which can encourage and promote creative workers while minimising inequality should be done. The problem will always be evident but if it can be minimised in creative cities, they will be more attractive.
Ehrenreich, B., & Hochschild, A.R., (2002). Global Woman. Parker, B. (2008). Emerald Book Chapter. In J.N. DeSena (Ed.), Research in Urban Sociology, Volume 9 (pp.201-232). Sassen, S. (2007). A Sociology of Globalization.