Gender inequalities in the workplace: the effects of organizational structures, processes, practices, and decision makers’ sexism

Gender inequality in organizations is a complex phenomenon that can be seen in organizational structures, processes, and practices. For women, some of the most harmful gender inequalities are enacted within human resources (HRs) practices. This is because HR practices (i.e., policies, decision-making, and their enactment) affect the hiring, training, pay, and promotion of women. We propose a model of gender discrimination in HR that emphasizes the reciprocal nature of gender inequalities within organizations. We suggest that gender discrimination in HR-related decision-making and in the enactment of HR practices stems from gender inequalities in broader organizational structures, processes, and practices. This includes leadership, structure, strategy, culture, organizational climate, as well as HR policies. In addition, organizational decision makers’ levels of sexism can affect their likelihood of making gender-biased HR-related decisions and/or behaving in a sexist manner while enacting HR practices. Importantly, institutional discrimination in organizational structures, processes, and practices play a pre-eminent role because not only do they affect HR practices, they also provide a socializing context for organizational decision makers’ levels of hostile and benevolent sexism. Although we portray gender inequality as a self-reinforcing system that can perpetuate discrimination, important levers for reducing discrimination are identified.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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