Visualizing Toxicity within the UC Workforce: A Fight against Race, Gender, and Income Inequalities

Seyoung, Oh. 2018. “Visualizing Toxicity within the UC Workforce: A Fight against Race, Gender, and Income Inequalities” In California at Risk, a class project for “Ethnographic Methods,” Anthropology 215a University of California Irvine, Fall 2018.


California at Risk

California at Risk is a collaborative project to understand “late industrial” California through examination of ways interlaced scales (local to transnational and atmospheric) and systems (sociocultural, technical, eco-atmospheric, etc) together produce risks, vulnerabilities and governance challenges. The project launched Fall 2018 in association with a graduate seminar, “Ethnographic Methods,”  taught in the University of California Irvine’s Department of Anthropology. Students were assigned to build PECE essays that present a preliminary project design and set of research materials ready for comment and possible use by other researchers. Each essay is focused on a particular problem,  presenting research questions and material through which we can work to understand the problem in intersectional, late industrial terms.  Working collectively, the project advances UCI Anthro’s commitment to our local context.


The project investigates how UC schools are currently producing race, gender, and income inequality within the workforce. This project involves participant observation and interview as its qualitative research methods, and analyzes the core hazards through relevant literature, news, videos, technical reports, statistics, and other sources of visual documents such as diagram, graph, and photography. The research outcomes will contribute to the public understanding of the significance of this problem and hopes to suggest resolutions to alleviate these toxicities prevalent in UCs so that the campuses might transform into more desirable working environments for social mobility.

California at Risk Question

Which historical events, sociocultural practices, or political discourse in contemporary California aggravate the issues of UC’s toxic communities and their injuries?

What intersecting systems and scales over the last few decades have been exacerbating and perpetuating a wide range of abuse among vulnerable workers of color rather offering them ladders to the middle class within the UC workforce?

Income and Racial Disparities between the UC Workforce Segments

My first visualization indicates a distinct income disparity among three different workforce segments at UC schools: managers and senior executives (red), all other non-academic staff (orange), and service workers (blue). Especially, the data presents a clear distinction between the average monthly pay of UC’s highest-paid (red) and lowest-paid workers (blue) under the UC system.

The second graph represents racial demographics of different workforce segments on UC campuses. The graph highlights a clear disparity in that while a majority of AFSCME service workers are comprised of people of color, they are underrepresented in high paying jobs such as managers and senior executives.

Race Inequalities within the UC Workforce

This histogram illustrates inequalities in average starting pay rate by race among all AFSCME workers on UC campuses and in UC medical centers (AFSCME is the UC’s biggest employment union of service workers). Almost every job type has their higher and lower paying titles. For instance, a lead custodian gets more pay than a senior custodian. While many Whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders (APIs) are often positioned under high paying titles and therefore receive higher salary, overall Blacks and Latinos at UC schools earn less income since they are often hired into lower paying positions.

Gender Disparities within the UC Workforce

This bar graph gives an overview of the AFSCME service workers’ different average starting pay by both race and gender. It shows that there is an overall gender income inequality in that, regardless of race, man receive higher pay than woman. It also demonstrates that different income disparities exist among different races. The graph emphasizes the huge difference in starting pay between white male and black female employees.