Sub-theme 71: The Impact of Organizational Practices on Workplace Diversity and Inequality

Emilio J. Castilla
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
Isabel Fernandez-Mateo
London Business School, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

At the core of seminal research in organization studies lays the fundamental premise that organizations play a key role in generating and sustaining inequality in the workplace (see, for instance, Kanter 1977; Baron and Bielby 1980; Reskin and McBrier 2000; for more recent reviews of such work, see, e.g., Bidwell, Briscoe, Fernandez-Mateo, and Sterling 2013; Tolbert and Castilla 2016; and Amis, Mair and Munir 2020).
In this important line of research, many studies have showed that women and racial minorities obtain lower quality and paid jobs, through processes of job search, recruitment, hiring, promotion, and termination (Petersen and Saporta 2004; Fernandez-Mateo and King 2011; Pager and Pedulla 2015; Reskin and Roos 2019). Empirical work has found that gender and racial disparities in the workplace remain even after the adoption of diversity programs problem-solving team and job-training arrangements, merit-based pay practices, and other work policies (Kalev, Dobbin, and Kelly 2006; Castilla and Benard 2010). Inequality persists even when women and minorities advance to managerial positions (; Srivastava & Sherman 2015; Abraham 2017). Many studies have examined how structural factors internal to organizations, such as organizational size and tenure, hierarchical structure, the design/use of job categories, the assignment of tasks, and the choice of job flexibility further affect inequality (Beckman and Phillips 2005; Cohen and Broschak 2013; Chan and Anteby 2016; Cobb and Stevens 2017). In the end, the distribution of resources, power and opportunities in society cannot be fully understood without paying attention to the role that organizations and their practices play in shaping key individual work outcomes.
The purpose of our sub-theme is to bring together a group of researchers who share a concern for advancing our knowledge about the impact of organizational practices on workplace diversity and inequality. In particular, our goal is to discuss innovative research that sheds new light on surprising theoretical mechanisms that explain how organizational practices affect key employment outcomes – such as assignment to jobs, wages, promotions, career advancement, training opportunities, diversity programs, etc. Because the nature of organizations and their boundaries are changing so rapidly, talking about “organizational practices” may not be the ideal way of thinking about these issues anymore.
Thus, we also would like to explore the blurring of organizational boundaries, values, and procedures, the recent patterns of employee mobility, the increasing use of “market-driven” employment practices and the use of data analytics and technology in the employment domain. Our goal is to examine how these developments shape new forms of economic and social inequality. This topic is not only relevant for the advancement of organizational theory and research, but it also has practical implications for employees, managers, communities, and society as a whole.
We are open to learning from multiple theoretical perspectives, ranging from purely structural or incentive-based accounts of inequality to cognitive and identity-based perspectives on how differential opportunities and inequitable treatment may emerge within organizations.
Some of the topics we would like to discuss include (but are not limited to):

  • How do recruitment and selection, training and development, as well as reward systems within traditional and non-traditional organizations affect individuals’ careers in the workplace?

  • How do emergent information and other types of technologies (such as online platforms, algorithms, machine learning, predictive analytics, etc.) shape screening, hiring, task/job allocation and hence individual workplace outcomes?

  • How do new organizational forms and employment arrangements (temporary and contingent work, intermediaries, network-based firms, etc.) influence the distribution of power in labor markets and in turn workplace inequality?

  • What are the (un)intended consequences of old and new organizational practices and routines, as they advantage some individuals or groups while constraining opportunities for others inside and outside work organizations?

  • How recent unprecedented events in societies all over the world are also affecting organizational processes and outcomes concerning workplace inequality and diversity?

  • How do organizations respond and adapt to the future of work?

  • How can organizational practices be designed and implemented to mitigate workplace inequality and increase diversity?

We welcome a broad array of methodologies, from qualitative or quantitative analysis to simulations and experimental approaches. We are also interested in studies across industries and markets, as long as they share a concern for the role of organizational practices in understanding workplace inequality.
By learning from different theoretical and empirical approaches, we believe attendees to this sub-theme will substantially enrich their research agendas within the broad topic of organizations, diversity, and inequality.


  • 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.
  • Amis, J. M., Mair, J., & Muir K. A. (2020). The organizational reproduction of inequality. Academy of Management Annals, 14(1): 195-230.
  • Baron, J. N., & Bielby, W. T. (1980). Bringing the firms back in: Stratification, segmentation and the organization of work. American Sociological Review 45: 737–65.
  • Bidwell, M., Briscoe, F., Fernandez-Mateo, I., & Sterling, A. (2013). The employment relationship and inequality: How and why changes in employment practices are reshaping rewards in organizations. Academy of Management Annals, 7: 61-121.
  • Beckman, C. M., & Phillips, D. J. (2005). Interorganizational determinants of promotion: Client leadership and the attainment of women attorneys. American Sociological Review, 70(4), 678-701.
  • Cappelli, P. (1999). Career jobs are dead. California Management Review, 42(1), 146-167.
  • Castilla, E. J., & Benard, S. (2010). The paradox of meritocracy in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 55(4), 543-676.
  • Chan, C. K., & Anteby, M. (2016). Task segregation as a mechanism for within-job inequality. Administrative Science Quarterly, 61(2): 184-216.
  • Cobb, J. A., & Lin, K.-H. (2017). Growing apart: The changing firm-size wage premium and its inequality consequences. Organization Science, 28(3): 429-446.
  • Cohen, L. E., & Broschak, J. P. (2013). Whose jobs are these? The impact of the proportion of female managers on the number of new management jobs filled by women versus men. Administrative Science Quarterly, 58(4), 509-541.
  • Fernandez-Mateo, Isabel, and Zella King. "Anticipatory sorting and gender segregation in temporary employment." Management Science 57, no. 6 (2011): 989-1008.
  • Kanter, R. M. (1977). Men and Women of the Corporation. New York: Basic Books.
  • 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.
  • Pager, D., & Pedulla, D. S. 2015. Race, self-selection, and the job search process. American Journal of Sociology, 120: 1005-1054.
  • Petersen, T., & Saporta, I. (2004). The opportunity structure for discrimination. American Journal of Sociology, 109(4), 852-901.
  • Reskin, B. F., & McBrier, D. B. (2000). Why not ascription? Organizations' employment of male and female managers. American Sociological Review, 210-233.
  • Reskin, B. F., & Roos, P. A. (2009). Job queues, gender queues: Explaining women's inroads into male occupations. Temple University Press.
  • Srivastava, S. B., & Sherman, E. L. (2015). Agents of change or cogs in the machine? Reexamining the influence of female managers on the gender wage gap. American Journal of Sociology 120(6): 1778–1808.
  • Tolbert, P. & Castilla, E. J. (2016). Editorial essay: Introduction to a special issue on inequality in the workplace (“what works?”). ILR Review 70(1): 1-13.
Emilio J. Castilla is Professor of Management at the Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, USA. He is a faculty member at the Work and Organization Studies Group, Institute for Work and Employment Research (IWER), and the Economic Sociology Program at MIT. Emilio’s research focuses on the areas of organizations, social networks, and workplace inequality, with special emphasis on the sociological aspects of work and employment.
Isabel Fernandez-Mateo is Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School, United Kingdom. Her work focuses on how relationships influence labor market outcomes, particularly in hiring, job transitions and career advancement. Isabel is currently doing research on the organizational and social barriers that prevent women’s access to top management positions.