Gender and Organization Science: Introduction to a Virtual Special Issue

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Gendered processes and outcomes are pervasive in organizational life. They shape how individuals perceive their career prospects, which types of opportunities they pursue, how they get work done within organizations, and how they balance this work with the rest of their life. Organizations themselves also shape and are shaped by gender dynamics, from the ways they design jobs and performance evaluation systems to the assumptions managers make about individuals’ preferences and motivations. This virtual special issue collects together 14 papers published in Organization Science that challenge common understandings about the sources of gender differences in career outcomes, the effects of balancing work–life obligations, and the ways that gender dynamics play out in teams and organizations. An important insight that emerges from a comparison of these studies is that demand effects are often confused for supply effects. What looks like a supply problem—we think that women choose not to aspire to top positions or to jobs in top paying fields—might actually be a demand problem—organizations or jobs look unappealing to women because of past histories of not hiring or promoting women into leadership roles or of making work–life balance appear to be impossible. These studies suggest that essentialist explanations that attribute gendered outcomes to inherent characteristics or choices of women might be too simplistic or inaccurate. Instead, future research would benefit from examining the complex interactions between supply-side and demand-side drivers of gender inequality.

In this first virtual special issue for Organization Science, we take stock of research on gender and organizations published in the journal, deriving key themes and using our analysis as a jumping off point for future research. In the era of #MeToo, new pay equity and transparency laws in many countries, and explicit focus on women on boards, now seems to be a ripe moment to take stock of the insights from the journal and propose some ways forward.

A first observation is that Organization Science has not published many papers focused on gender dynamics in organizations. Of the more than 1,640 papers published since the journal’s founding in 1990 until the end of 2017, only 38 could be counted as squarely focused on gender. We developed this list by searching both Organization Science’s journal portal at INFORMS and the Web of Science for any paper with keywords “gender,” “women,” “masculinity,” or “diversity.” We then sorted these by hand to determine which had a primary focus on gender in organizations. Though this number seems small,1 a more positive sign of increased interest by authors and editors in seeing this kind of work appear in the journal is that a large majority of these articles has been published since 2010. This virtual special issue includes a selection of 14 of these published articles that we assessed best captured the main sets of ideas encompassed in the work.

A second observation is that the studies that do appear in the journal offer some surprising insights that buck up against conventional wisdom. The papers collected here use a wide variety of methods—from experiments, to surveys, to network analysis, to interviews, to ethnography, to simulations—to challenge common understandings about the sources of gender differences in career outcomes, the effects of balancing work–life obligations, and the ways that gender dynamics play out in teams and organizations. In this introduction, we will highlight some of these findings and then explore cross-cutting themes that can inspire future scholars.

Gendered Outcomes

We organized the papers according to different sets of outcomes that are shaped by gender dynamics. The 14 papers collected here focus in large part on career choices and outcomes such as application to jobs, evaluation, promotion, and pay. A second concern is work–life conflicts, though this theme also runs through the research on career choices and outcomes. A third focus is on internal workplace dynamics such as teamwork and intraorganizational relationships.

Career Outcomes

A number of the studies provide insight into how implicitly gendered organizational and contextual structures, practices, and behaviors can have differential outcomes for men and women’s careers. These can be conceptualized as demand-side factors that pertain to employers’ actions, in contrast to supply-side factors that refer to individuals’ choices and behavior. Gibson and Lawrence (2010) took on myths about the female “aspiration gap,” which has been argued to be a supply-side explanation for why we see fewer women in leadership. Using detailed data collected from one organization, they were able to look at women’s and men’s career referents, that is, the people they look up to or aspire to be. Countering received wisdom that women have lower aspirations because they benchmark against other women who are more likely to be in lower level jobs, the authors found that even when women compare themselves with higher-level executives (male or female), their aspirations are lower than men’s who engage in similar comparisons. This is possibly the case because women see this level of achievement as a less probable goal. These findings suggest that it is not that women have intrinsically lower levels of career aspirations than men, but that their experiences with gender inequality in organizations leads them to have lower expectations about their potential for success.

McGinn and Milkman (2013) explored these questions in a different way by looking at the demographic match with work-group superiors and peers on the likelihood of leaving a job or getting promoted. Using data from a large law firm, they found that a higher proportion of female superiors in a work group decreased the likelihood that female lawyers would exit the firm and increased their likelihood of promotion, whereas for male lawyers, a higher proportion of male superiors in a work group did not make a difference in either form of mobility. Their interviews suggest that the senior effects for women came from providing feedback, key assignments necessary for advancement, and advocacy in the promotion process. However, because there were few senior women, the junior women had few opportunities to garner this support. Much as in Gibson and Lawrence’s (2010) study, McGinn and Milkman found that “junior professionals identified demographically similar seniors as role models and looked to their representation in the senior ranks of their workgroup to predict whether people like themselves could succeed at the firm” (p. 1057).

Similarly, Barbulescu and Bidwell (2013) looked at the kinds of jobs to which equally qualified women and men apply. Using data from job searches of MBA students, they find that—as stereotypes might imply—women are more likely to apply to general management positions and less likely to apply to finance and consulting jobs. Although women seem to be no less likely to receive job offers in any of these fields, they apply at lower rates to the more traditionally masculinized jobs. The authors found that the differences can be explained by their lower identification with stereotypically masculine jobs and also by their lower expectations that they will receive an offer. Thus, it is women’s expectations of the lack of inclusiveness of certain jobs that leads them to look elsewhere, thus reinforcing job segregation by gender. Connecting to the discussion below on work–life balance, Barbulescu and Bidwell also found that women anticipate that such balance will be harder to achieve in finance and consulting, thus making those jobs less appealing.

A question arises as to what organizations can do to change some of these gendered outcomes—either through recruiting of employees or evaluations and promotions of employees once they are hired. Rubineau and Fernandez (2015) studied how recruiting outcomes are shaped by practices organizations use to elicit applications. Taking on concerns that “best practice” recruiting techniques using employee referrals might simply reproduce existing job segregation by gender, they build a simulation model to show that this occurs only in certain contexts. They find that network recruitment, by itself, more commonly desegregates rather than segregates. Importantly, they highlight that network recruitment results in increased gender job segregation only when it interacts with other supply-side mechanisms (such as applicants self-sorting into jobs) and demand-side mechanisms (such as gender-biased referral rates by other employees). The interplay between supply and demand factors is thus a key driver of gendered outcomes—in this case job segregation.

Castilla (2015) examined the role that the adoption of pay transparency and accountability might play in improving the equality of pay and promotion outcomes. Using archival data on performance-based reward decisions of nearly 9,000 employees in one firm, he found that the gap in rewards for women (as well as ethnic minorities and non–U.S.-born employees) diminished after such procedures were introduced. Implementing accountability and transparency forced managers to account for the fairness of their decisions and made pay disparities visible so they would be easier to correct. These findings point to the important role of organizational practices in increasing procedural justice as a way to reduce gender inequality.

Interestingly, Belliveau (2012) identified an unexpected way that a system of procedural justice could be subverted. She examined the organizational dynamics that can lead to pay discrepancies for women. In two negotiation experiments, she found that managers who were given the opportunity to provide some kind of “social account”—an explanation, justification, or apology—to the employee for lower pay, paid women less than men. Managers also held the seemingly benevolent assumption that accounts that increased impressions of procedural justice or acknowledged unfair treatment would be more valuable to women (in essence, they would serve as a substitute for monetary pay). Interestingly, this perception that procedural justice and apologies matter more to women flies in the face of actual evidence that there are no gender differences in how these are actually valued. Belliveau concluded that these false perceptions lead organizations and policy makers toward “fix the women” solutions rather than efforts to change organizational practices. Indeed, the very opportunity to offer justifications around procedural justice may reinforce gender bias by reducing self-monitoring and heightening the confidence in the legitimacy of what end up being biased decisions.

Work–Life Conflicts

Several of the studies provide a new perspective on work–life conflicts, specifically highlighting either how the organizational context can shape a person’s ability to manage those conflicts or how achieving balance depends on not just individual actions but also on family participation in sharing household responsibilities.

Martin (1990) was an early and fascinating entry on gender in Organization Science. It focused on the ways in which organizations construct images of work–life balance. This paper was unusual in its empirical approach in that it took a brief statement by a chief executive officer (CEO) about how his organization accommodated a key female manager’s childbirth and maternity leave as a jumping off point for theorizing about the ways that corporate narratives to “help women” suppress gender conflict. Using feminist deconstructions and imagined reconstructions of the CEO statement, Martin’s analysis highlighted the unintended consequences of “well-intentioned” corporate actions, which actually reinforce job segregation and the view that the woman’s primary role is in the private (family) sphere. Martin also showed how the corporate language reinforces the (false) dichotomies of work and family (public and private), concluding, “Instead of asking how women might fit into existing organizational structures, this paper asks how structures will have to be changed—radically—if woman and children are to be genuinely helped” (p. 356).

Barbulescu and Bidwell (2013), as mentioned above, found that female MBA candidates apply to finance and consulting jobs at lower rates than men because of the anticipated lack of work–life balance. This is driven also by the fact that they anticipate that they will be the ones in their households to bear the larger burden of childcare and managing the household. This finding is echoed and expanded upon in Reid’s (2015) study of men’s and women’s efforts to balance work and life obligations in a consulting firm where the “ideal worker” was highly devoted to work. Using performance evaluations, turnover data, and information from more than 100 interviews, Reid found that, although both men and women found ways to meet obligations outside of work (e.g., attending a kid’s soccer game), men were much more likely to find ways of covering their deviation from the ideal worker norm. The ability to conform to the ideal worker norm—or to pass as if you did—was rewarded at the firm: these workers were seen as the stars. When people (mainly women) revealed their nonideal activities (those that made people seem less dedicated to work), they were penalized by receiving lower performance evaluations and not getting promoted when they expected to be. Reid shows that work–life conflict is not only experienced by women, but women are more likely to be penalized because they do not hide the ways that they work to accommodate the conflict.

Organizations’ efforts to help people manage this work–life conflict may not always be successful, according to Rothbard et al. (2005). Using a survey of 460 employees, they found that people differ in whether they want separation or integration of work and life. Some policies, such as flex-time, are more effective for separators, and others, such as on-site daycare, are better for integrators. Organizational constraints in terms of what policies they offer may force workers into less-preferred strategies for resolving work–life conflict. Further, the match between these preferences for how to resolve work–life conflict and organizational policies can affect employees’ satisfaction with and commitment to their jobs.

The consequences of work–life conflict can also spill from organizations to the personal domain. Byrne and Barling (2017) looked at another feature of work–life conflict, that of status dynamics within (heterosexual) couples. As women gain access to higher-status jobs, this can lead to marriage instability when the male spouse has a lower-status job (this is the idea of the “Oscar Curse,” whereby female actresses who win Oscars are more prone to divorce afterward). Using surveys of more than 200 women, as well as information on spousal dyads, they showed that a woman’s higher status only leads to marital problems due to either female or male dissatisfaction in certain circumstances. If the male partner does not provide what they term “instrumental support,” meaning tangible help in managing the household so that the woman can focus on work responsibilities, then marital dissolution is more likely. These studies thus illustrate the complex interactions between organizational practices and the broader social context in exacerbating or mitigating work–life conflicts.

Role of Context in Teams and Organizations

Another series of studies shows how gender dynamics that affect choices and outcomes in teams and organizations are shaped by the context in which they operate. A particularly important contextual factor is the degree to which women achieve a critical mass in high-status roles. Duguid et al. (2012) introduced a “value threat” model in which workers’ concerns about whether they are valued in their workgroups will shape their willingness to support similar others in processes such as personnel decisions. In this theoretical paper, they argue that value threat occurs when people want to be seen as valuable members of a group but worry that others will not see them that way. Importantly, value threat stems from the organizational context, because it is about perceived external appraisals rather than internal self-appraisals. People are more likely to experience value threat when they are low-status minorities (women and racial minorities) in higher-status work groups (where the characteristics of women and minorities are not perceived to be valued). In such circumstances, they may choose not to advocate for demographically similar others because they believe that doing so would reduce their status as valued members of the group. In other words, women and minorities may be seen as “queen bees,” unwilling to help others like them, when in fact that behavior has the organizational context at its origin. Where organizations are not inclusive, women and minorities are more likely to experience value threat.

Williams and Polman (2014) examined the degree to which people act with interpersonal sensitivity in team settings (otherwise known as “people skills”), often a precursor for productive and innovative outcomes. In a study of more than 200 management consultants, they found that having women on teams led to increases in sensitivity not just toward or by women but also toward and by men, and this extended to sensitivity accorded to male clients of the consulting firm. They found that this effect was most prominent when the women on the team had low power and therefore conformed to a stereotype or social category of “women” in corporate settings. The direction of the effect was the opposite for men. When men had high power, people acted with more sensitivity, perhaps because people have been socialized to be more cautious around men with more status or power. The conclusion: organizational context matters for behavior. Overall, they find little difference between men and women’s baseline willingness to act with sensitivity, but acting with sensitivity changed depending on the makeup of teams.

Relatedly, Brands et al. (2015) also examined how context shapes perceptions of men and women, thus determining leadership effectiveness. Using experiments and survey data, they showed that when advice networks within teams are perceived to be centralized around one or a few individuals, women are perceived as less charismatic. This is because such centralized networks are perceived to be masculine, and thus women experience a mismatch between expectations of leadership and their own gender. By contrast, when teams are more cohesively connected across individuals (a more “feminine” team formation), women are perceived as more charismatic than men. Charisma is important for leadership outcomes and effectiveness. Traditional leadership theory has posited that the benefits of charisma go to men, but the study of Brands et al. finds that charisma is context dependent, whereby women can have advantages when they match with the context.

These results are echoed by Cardador’s (2017) findings that women promoted to management in engineering settings are seen as lower status rather than higher status in a context that values technical over managerial roles. This inverted role hierarchy ended up reinforcing sex segregation in the high-tech space. On the basis of qualitative data from 61 interviews with male and female engineers in a variety of firms, she showed that, although organizations were well-intentioned in promoting women into management roles, these efforts had unintended consequences for women, including making them feel less like “real” engineers and increasing their work–life conflict. It also reinforced cultural stereotypes about women’s suitability for engineering work. The analysis suggests that as organizations push to place more women into managerial roles, those roles become perceived as more feminized, where “caring” and “communication” are seen as the important qualities for management, whereas “technical experience” remains the key for engineering roles.

As our discussion of the papers included in this special issue suggests, gendered processes and outcomes are pervasive in organizational life. They shape how individuals perceive their career prospects, which types of opportunities they pursue, how they get work done within organizations, and how they balance this work with the rest of their life. Organizations themselves also shape and are shaped by gender dynamics, from the ways they design jobs and performance evaluation systems, to the assumptions managers make about individuals’ preferences and motivations. In the next section, we explore some cross-cutting insights that emerge from this research.

Cross-Cutting Insights: Beyond Gender Essentialism

In examining the three sets of outcomes above, we see that they are positioned as being driven by either supply-side factors (e.g., women’s choices to apply for some jobs versus others) or demand-side factors (e.g., managers’ decisions on pay). Yet, what becomes obvious from a close read of these papers is that supply and demand are not really independent. In particular, what often looks like a supply problem—we think that women simply choose not to aspire to top jobs or to jobs in top-paying fields—might actually be a demand problem—organizations have done a good job of making themselves look unappealing to women because of past histories of not hiring or promoting women into leadership roles or of making work–life balance seem to be impossible. Similarly, other research has shown that women who expect selection processes to be biased against them may be less likely to put themselves forward as candidates (Fernandez-Mateo and Fernandez 2016).

These mechanisms suggest that any essentialist explanations that attribute gendered outcomes to inherent characteristics or choices of women might be misplaced. The supply (women’s choices and actions) is affected by the demand, where demand can be understood as deriving both from the decisions of evaluators, employers, or other audiences and also from the social context and interactions within those contexts. It is not that women have intrinsically low confidence, it is that jobs are masculinized, and therefore women have a low probability of getting them (Barbulescu and Bidwell 2013). It is not that women are not charismatic leaders, it is that they only seem charismatic in less centralized, less hierarchical work groups (Brands et al. 2015). And, so on.

Several papers in this virtual special issue emphasize that social comparisons are a particularly important aspect of the social context; they produce gendered behavior by shaping norms and expectations. Women compare themselves with other women when assessing their likelihood of career success (Gibson and Lawrence 2010). Managers compare women with other women when determining individuals’ expectations for pay and performance (Belliveau 2012). Coworkers pay attention to each other’s expectations when deciding to demonstrate sensitive behavior (Williams and Polman 2014). Social comparisons are thus a crucial mechanism through which demand-side and supply-side choices interact with each other.

These studies also point out that when we see certain features or behaviors of men and women, it does not necessarily have to do with their genders but instead with their minority or majority status. Female lawyers are more likely to leave their jobs than their male colleagues, but this occurs much less when they have a critical mass of senior female colleagues (McGinn and Milkman 2013). Women (and minorities) may not support others like them, but this occurs when organizations make it too threatening to do so (Duguid et al. 2012). As we know from research elsewhere, people in minority status tend to be uncertain about whether they belong (Walton and Cohen 2007), and this belonging uncertainty can contribute to what seem to be supply side–driven decisions to drop out or choose not to apply in the first place (Brands and Fernandez-Mateo 2017). Other papers in Organization Science offer findings consistent with these ideas—for example, Merluzzi’s (2017) study of informal work groups, in which she showed that difficult work relationships between women occur more often when there are few women in the organizational context. Jeppesen and Lakhani (2010) show how open innovation processes facilitate the inclusion and success of (marginalized) female scientists in problem solving, and Dimitriadis et al. (2017) show that gendered beliefs in communities shape a new venture’s choices about commercialization paths. This research also highlights the role that context plays in producing gendered outcomes such as innovation and strategic choice.

The insights drawn from the papers included here have important implications for practice. Most policy recommendations tend to be either focused on demand (e.g., increasing organizational accountability and transparency to reduce bias) or supply (e.g., telling women to be less risk averse). What the papers in this virtual special issue suggest is that effective interventions must consider both. We do need demand-side interventions, but we also need to consider how demand-side interventions will shape women’s choices and outcomes. It is true that accountability and transparency can reduce biases (Castilla 2015), whereas lack of formalization does precisely the opposite, as other research also published in Organization Science has shown (Elvira and Graham 2002). However, we also have to be thoughtful about how those procedures can be subverted by gendered assumptions about who values such procedural justice (Belliveau 2012).

These findings echo evidence elsewhere, showing that practices aimed to foster meritocracy can unintentionally penalize minorities because managers’ biases may operate more freely when they believe the organizational culture is a fair one (Castilla and Benard 2010). Organizations can reduce gender bias in hiring, but if they do not change their practices to make them more attractive to women, women might not apply at all (Barbulescu and Bidwell 2013). Organizations can put in place formal accommodations for work–life balance, but if there are different social and organizational sanctions to women and men in taking advantage of these, then the outcomes will remain gendered (Reid 2015). We can train women to adopt more charismatic displays of leadership, but these will not help if women are not placed in work contexts in which this charisma can be effective (Brands et al. 2015). Thus, for those focused on “fixing the women” through training or networking, there are important lessons about the limits to this approach. The papers presented here belie the individualistic solutions for achieving gender equality. Organizations also need to “lean in,” not just the individual women within them.

Future Research Directions and Principles

The research on gender and organizations covered here points toward a new set of inquiries and some principles for pursuing them. First, it is important to note that corporations, consulting firms, nongovernmental organizations, and policy makers are paying increasing attention to gender issues. McKinsey’s study (Woetzel et al. 2015) that global gross domestic product would be increased by $12 trillion if women were included more effectively in the economy is endlessly cited. The Canadian federal government has just launched its first budget based on gender analysis. The United Kingdom government now requires companies with 250 or more employees to publish yearly statistics on the average pay gap between their male and female employees. Governments around the world are now mandating quotas for women on the boards of directors of publicly traded companies. In concert with the increasing attention to gender issues among practitioners, scholars have the opportunity to frame the conversation according to rigorous research insights. Indeed, it is incumbent upon researchers to do this because many of the recommended policies and practices are based on the kinds of gender essentialist thinking that is undermined by the studies presented here and elsewhere (Wood and Eagly 2002, Correll 2004).

One research opportunity that clearly emerges from the studies included here is the exploration of the ways in which supply-side and demand-side effects interact. As an example, much is made among both practitioners and academics about the pipeline problem associated with women in leadership, women on boards of directors, or women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). One question that could usefully be explored is why does this perception exist? And what produces both the perception and any real pipeline gaps? Organizations tend to use the weak pipeline as a justification for why they have not made more progress, but they tend not to look into the ways that their practices might actually be producing the pipeline problem. Researchers have begun to identify the ways that organizations make themselves unattractive for women (thus reducing their pipeline). This was evident in Barbulescu and Bidwell’s (2013) paper on MBA job applications but also an implication of studies such as Reid’s (2015) study on work–life balance or Cardador’s (2017) study on the devaluation of women in engineering management roles. There is much potential for organizational scholars to push thinking on these issues. In doing so, they could benefit from closer links to broader research examining the role of social context in women’s occupational choices—for example, the evidence of Seron et al. (2016) that professional socialization reduces women willingness to pursue engineering jobs. A common thread in this literature is that minorities’ perceptions of belonging strongly shape their decisions to pursue opportunities in a given context (Rattan et al. 2018). There is much work to do to understand better how organizations can shape their practices so as to foster women’s (and other minorities’) perceptions that they will be treated as valued members of the group.

Another observation that comes from a review of this research on gender and organizations is that the focus has tended to be on theorizing about women; but male is a gender too, and the field of organization studies has focused less on masculinity (and, it should be noted, even less on transgender and gender-nonbinary people at work). Scholars such as Reid (2015) have taken this challenge head on, showing how work–life balance is not just a problem for women, though the organizational effects of approaches to dealing with the conflict do vary by gender. As examples, Williams and Polman (2014) and Brands et al. (2015) also show us how perceptions of both men’s and women’s management skills differ, and when men (or women) are advantaged and disadvantaged. However, a direct focus on masculinity may provide more insights about the mechanisms that keep men from taking advantage of parental leave, or that (even unintentionally) keep them from supporting efforts to achieve equality (see, for example, McDonald et al. 2018 on how male top managers provide less help to colleagues when females and minorities are appointed to leadership roles because it reduces their identification with the organization).

Finally, although we could not include all of these papers in the virtual special issue, many of the earlier studies on gender and organizations, much like Martin’s (1990) examination of work–life conflict, used explicitly feminist theorizing to examine the ways that gender and power interacted in organizations. Meyerson’s (1998) study of how people experience stress and burnout or Meyerson’s and Scully’s (1995) introduction of the concept of “tempered radicals” point to the ways that gendered power structures can shape individual experience and action in organizations. Such feminist readings are less readily apparent in more recent articles in Organization Science, but they offer an intriguing pathway for explaining why gendered outcomes are so sticky despite many organizations’ efforts to address them. Today’s scholarship in gender and organizations may benefit from revisiting these ideas, to more holistically explain and test solutions for the persistence of gender inequality in organizations.

One caution for researchers is that we also tend to impose our own biases on the findings as we consider the potential mechanisms driving the effects we observe. For example, it is quite easy to default to explanations that women are more risk averse than men in the face of findings that women put themselves up for jobs or entrepreneurial opportunities less frequently than men. However, research has established that there is little intrinsic difference between men and women on this account (Nelson 2014), and the effects are likely due more to the contexts in which men and women operate. Factors like minority status (Brands and Fernandez-Mateo 2017) and different reactions to men’s and women’s choices (as in Reid’s 2015 study of work–life balance) may produce behaviors that look like risk aversion but in fact are due to the different payoffs to men and women for taking action (see also Fine 2017).

Similarly, it is incumbent upon researchers to be mindful of how our findings may be interpreted by practitioners and policy makers, because the same evidence may call for different solutions, depending on how it is framed. In this regard, language matters. For example, take the widely used term “queen bee syndrome,” often used to refer to women who have advanced to leadership positions and actively undermine female colleagues and subordinates. First, the term itself is gendered, because there is no equivalent one for men who refuse to help other male colleagues. Second, the popular press tends to use it as an essentialist label, suggesting that women’s competitive behavior toward other women is an intrinsic female characteristic (Cooper 2016). Yet research has shown that, if such behavior happens at all, it is mainly driven by the unique structural constraints that women face within male-dominated organizations. Indeed, tokenism and other demand-side practices may make even high-achieving women feel that they are not highly valued members of the group, which in turn may affect their relationships with other female peers. As Duguid et al. (2012) argue, the organizational context is paramount to understanding when negative work interactions among women (and other minorities) may arise (see also Duguid 2011). Minority status makes people feel to be undervalued members of the group, and hence less likely to engage in positive interactions with other minority status people. The implications for practice and public discourse are thus very different depending on the mechanisms generating the observed effects—and how we talk about them.

Organization Science has always had a unique position among management journals as one open to creative theories and methods. Our goal with this virtual special issue is to encourage further research in the area, and more importantly, to bring creative approaches to understanding mechanisms of discrimination and finding real solutions that organizations could implement.


1 This translates to 2.3% of all papers published. For comparison, in this same time period (1990–2017), the Academy of Management Journal published 78 papers on gender out of 1,529 total (5.1%), and Administrative Science Quarterly published 35 papers on gender out of 482 total (7.2%).


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Isabel Fernandez-Mateo is the Adecco Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School. She received her PhD in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research interests include the role of relationships on economic outcomes and the study of gender inequality in the labor market, with an emphasis on the organizational and social barriers that prevent women’s access to senior level roles.

Sarah Kaplan is Distinguished Professor and Director at the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. She received her PhD in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research has focused on innovation and organizational change in a wide array of settings, most recently focusing on the goal of achieving gender equality. She is a Senior Editor at Organization Science.

This article appears in INFORMS Analytics Collections Vol. 13: Diversity & Inclusion: Analytics for Social Impact.

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