Gender Inequality and Workplace Organizations: Understanding Reproduction and Change

  • Alexandra KalevEmail author
  • Gal Deutsch
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


The modern workplace is a pivotal arena for shaping societal gender inequalities. This chapter reviews theory and research on gender inequality in workplace organizations. We first provide a quick historical overview of the role of gender in the modern division of labor and present data on intersectional patterns of gender inequality in labor force participation, as well as horizontal and vertical occupational sex segregation. We then discuss prevailing theoretical explanations for these inequalities, moving from individual-level theories to structural and organizational explanations. This is followed by a review of empirical evidence on gender inequality at work, beginning with studies exploring the cultural, relational and structural mechanisms for reproducing gender inequality in organizations and moving to discussing research on mechanisms for reducing inequality. We argue that more theory and research ought to be focused on the remediation of inequality and discuss two directions: the first is an institutional theory of remediation, examining the ways in which institutional environments and actors can weaken gendered organization; and the second is a political theory focusing on the means and conditions for women to act as agents of organizational change. We conclude with suggestions for future research and theory development.


Gender Organizations Inequality Remediation Diversity Intersectionality 


  1. Abendroth, A. K., Melzer, S., Kalev, A., & Tomaskovic-Devey, D. (2017). Women at work: Women’s access to power and the gender earnings gap. ILR Review, 70(1), 190–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abraham, M. (2017). Pay formalization revisited: Considering the effects of manager gender and discretion on closing the gender wage gap. Academy of Management Journal, 60(1), 29–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Acker, J. (1990). Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A theory of gendered organizations. Gender & Society, 4, 139–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Acker, J. (2006). Inequality regimes: Gender, class, and race in organizations. Gender & Society, 20, 441–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barbulescu, R., & Bidwell, M. (2013). Do women choose different jobs from men? Mechanisms of application segregation in the market for managerial workers. Organization Science, 24(3), 737–756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baron, J. N. (1984). Organizational perspectives on stratification. Annual Review of Sociology, 10(1), 37–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baron, J. N., Hannan, M. T., Hsu, G., & Koçak, Ö. (2007). In the company of women: Gender inequality and the logic of bureaucracy in start-up firms. Work and Occupations, 34(1), 35–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bell, E. L. E., & Nkomo, S. M. (2001). Our separate ways: Black and white women and the struggle for professional identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  9. Blau, F. D., & Kahn, L. M. (2016). The gender wage gap: Extent, trends, and explanations. National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  10. Cohen, P. N., & Huffman, M. L. (2007). Working for the woman? Female managers and the gender wage gap. American Sociological Review, 72(5), 681–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Correll, S. J., Benard, S., & Paik, I. (2007). Getting a job: Is there a motherhood penalty? American Journal of Sociology, 112(5), 1297–1339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Den Hond, F., & De, Bakker F. G. A. (2007). Ideologically motivated activism: How activist groups influence corporate social change activities. Academy of Management Review, 32(3), 901–924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Deutsch, G. (2017). Organizational structures, demography and gender inequality in non-profit organization. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the ASA. Montreal (August 12–15, 2017).Google Scholar
  14. Dobbin, F. (2009). Inventing equal opportunity. N.J.: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dobbin, F., Kim, S., & Kalev, A. (2011). You can’t always get what you need: Organizational determinants of diversity programs. American Sociological Review, 76(3), 386–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dobbin, F., Schrage, D., & Kalev, A. (2015). Rage against the iron cage: The varied effects of bureaucratic personnel reforms on diversity. American Sociological Review, 80(5), 1014–1044.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Doering, L., & Thébaud, S. (2017). The effects of gendered occupational roles on men’s and women’s workplace authority: Evidence from microfinance. American Sociological Review, 82(3), 542–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dwyer, R. E. (2013). The care economy? Gender, economic restructuring, and job polarization in the us labor market. American Sociological Review, 78(3), 390–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Eagly, A. H., Karau, S. J., & Makhijani, M. G. (1995). Gender and the effectiveness of leaders: a metaanalysis. Psychological bulletin, 117(1), 125.Google Scholar
  20. Edelman, L. B. (2016). Working law: Courts, corporations, and symbolic civil rights. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  21. Ely, R. J. (1995). The power in demography: Women’s social constructions of gender identity at work. Academy of Management Review, 38(3), 589–634.Google Scholar
  22. Ely, R. J., & Meyerson, D. E. (2000). Theories of gender in organizations: A new approach to organizational analysis and change. Research in Organizational Behavior, 22, 103–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. England, P. (2010). The gender revolution: Uneven and stalled. Gender & Society, 24(2), 149–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. England, P., Bearak, J., Budig, M. J., & Hodges, M. J. (2016). Do highly paid, highly skilled women experience the largest motherhood penalty? American Sociological Review, 81(6), 1161–1189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gorman, E. H. (2005). Gender stereotypes, same-gender preferences, and organizational variation in the hiring of women: Evidence from law firms. American Sociological Review, 70, 702–728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hewlett, S. A. (1986). A lesser life: The myth of women’s liberation in America. NY: William Morrow.Google Scholar
  27. Hirsh, E., & Lyons, C. J. (2010). Perceiving discrimination on the job: Legal consciousness, workplace context, and the construction of race discrimination. Law & Society Review, 44, 269–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Huffman, M. L., Cohen, P. N., & Pearlman, J. (2010). Engendering change: Organizational dynamics and workplace gender desegregation, 1975–2005. Administrative Science Quarterly, 55(2), 255–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kalev, A. (2009). Cracking the glass cages? Restructuring and ascriptive inequality at work. American Journal of Sociology, 114(6), 1591–1643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kalev, A. (2014). How you downsize is who you downsize: Biased formalization, accountability, and managerial diversity. American Sociological Review, 79(1), 109–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kalev, A., Dobbin, F., & Kelly, E. (2006). Best practices or best guesses? Assessing the efficacy of corporate affirmative action and diversity policies. American Sociological Review, 71(4), 589–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kandiyoti, D. (1988). Bargaining with patriarchy. Gender & Society, 2(3), 274–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kanter, R. M. (1977). Men and women of the corporation. New York: Basic books.Google Scholar
  34. Kelly, E. L., Moen, P., & Tranby, E. (2011). Changing workplaces to reduce work-family conflict: Schedule control in a white-collar organization. American Sociological Review, 76(2), 265–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kmec, J. A. (2005). Setting occupational sex segregation in motion: Demand-side explanations of sex traditional employment. Work and Occupations, 32(3), 322–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lewin-Epstein, N., Kalev, A., Marantz, E., & Slonim, S. (2015). Integration of Arab Israeli pharmacists into the labor market. Policy Research. Taub Center.Google Scholar
  37. McGuire, G. M. (2000). Gender, race, ethnicity, and networks: The factors affecting the status of employees’ network members. Work and Occupations, 27(4), 501–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McLaughlin, H., Uggen, C., & Blackstone, A. (2012). Sexual harassment, workplace authority, and the paradox of power. American Sociological Review, 77(4), 625–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McLaughlin, H., Uggen, C., & Blackstone, A. (2017). The economic and career effects of sexual harassment on working women. Gender & Society, 31(3), 333–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Moss, P., & Tilly, C. (2001). Stories employers tell: Race, skill, and hiring in America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  41. Nafus, D. (2011). ‘Patches don’t have gender’: What is not open in open source software. New Media & Society, 14(4), 669–683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ollilainen, M., & Rothschild, J. (2001). Can self-managing teams be truly cross-functional? Gender barriers to a “new” division of labor. Research in the Sociology of Work, 10, 141–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ozbilgin, M. F., Beauregard, T. A., Tatli, A., & Bell, M. P. (2011). Work-Life, diversity and intersectionality: A critical review and research agenda. International Journal Management Reviews, 13(2), 177–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Padavic, I., & Reskin, B. (2002). Women and men at work. California: Pine Forge Press.Google Scholar
  45. Perlow, L. A. (1998). Boundary control: The social ordering of work and family time in a high-tech corporation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 43(2), 328–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Plankey-Videla, N. (2005). Gendered contradictions: Managers and women workers in self-managed teams. In: Worker participation: Current research and future trends (pp 85–116). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
  47. Reskin, B., & McBrier, D. B. (2000). Why not ascription? Organization employment of male and female managers. American Sociological Review, 65, 210–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ridgeway, C. L., & Smith-Lovin, L. (1999). The gender system and interaction. Annual Review of Sociology, 25(1), 191–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rivera, L. A., & Tilcsik, A. (2016). Class advantage, commitment penalty: The gendered effect of social class signals in an elite labor market. American Sociological Review, 81(6), 1097–1131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Roscigno, V. (2007). The face of discrimiantion: How race and gender impact work and home lives. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  51. Roth, L. M. (2004). Bringing clients back in: Homophily preferences and inequality on Wall Street. The Sociological Quarterly, 45(4), 613–635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Scarborough, W. J. (2017). The [human resource management] revolution will not be televised: The rise and feminization of human resource management and labor force equity. Social Currents, 1–14.Google Scholar
  53. Smith-Doerr. L. (2004). Women’s work: Gender equality vs. hierarchy in the life sciences. Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder.Google Scholar
  54. Spalter-Roth, R., & Deitch, C. (1999). “I don’t feel right sized; I feel out-of-work sized” Gender, Race, Ethnicity, and the Unequal Costs of Displacement. Work and Occupations, 26(4), 446–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Stainback, K., & Tomaskovic-Devey, D. (2012). Documenting desegregation: Racial and gender segregation in private sector employment since the Civil Rights Act. Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  56. Stainback, K., Tomaskovic-Devey, D., & Skaggs, S. (2010). Organizational approaches to inequality: Inertia, relative power, and environments. Annual Review of Sociology, 36, 225–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stone, P. (2007). Opting out?: Why women really quit careers and head home. University of California PressGoogle Scholar
  58. Tomaskovic-Devey, D. (1993). Gender & racial inequality at work: The sources and consequences of job segregation. New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  59. US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2003). Women of color: Their employment in the private sector. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  60. Williams, J. (2000). Unbending gender: Why family and work conflict and what to do about it. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Williams, J. (2006). One sick child away from being fired: When “opting out” is not an option. Available Accessed July 17, 2017.
  62. Williams, C. L., Muller, C., & Kilanski, K. (2012). Gendered organizations in the new economy. Gender & Society, 26(4), 549–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wilson, G., Roscigno, V. J., & Huffman, M. (2015). Racial income inequality and public sector privatization. Social Problems, 62(2), 163–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

Personalised recommendations