Gender and Workforce Diversity

Topics: Gender, Sexism, Gender role Pages: 20 (6858 words) Published: October 28, 2010
Sex Roles, Vol. 45, Nos. 5/6, September 2001 ( C 2002)

Gender and Diversity in Organizations: Past, Present, and Future Directions Audrey J. Murrell1
University of Pittsburgh

Erika Hayes James
University of Virginia

This introduction reviews some of the key issues that have been studied by researchers focused on gender and diversity in organizations. Issues such as discrimination, affirmative action, barriers to career advancement, and sexual harassment at work are discussed. Although the study of gender and diversity in organizations has expanded in the last decade, key areas of research are still underrepresented. Issues for future research in this area are discussed.

OVERVIEW The issues of gender and diversity in organizations are inextricably linked. Researchers, practitioners, and even laypersons have known for decades that women and racial minorities constitute a growing percentage of the labor force. More importantly, this growth exists at all levels of the organizational hierarchy. That said, however, groups that represent a statistical or social minority, or both continue to face challenges in U.S. organizations. A variety of factors have been shown to influence work-related outcomes for women and people of color, including overall corporate climate, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, occupational segregation, and exclusion from mentoring opportunities. Although issues facing diversity in organizational careers are complex enough to fill several volumes, this 1 To

whom correspondence should be addressed at Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh, 312 Mervis Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15260; e-mail: 243 0360-0025/01/0900-0243/0


2002 Plenum Publishing Corporation


Murrell and James

special issue includes a diverse range of empirical and theoretical work that examines many of the issues facing women, people of color, and yes, even White men, in today’s organizations. The goal of this issue is to highlight some of the ways in which the nature of organizations have changed over the past decade and review the unique implications of these changes for the future. In addition, some of the key strategies for enhancing career opportunities for diverse organizations of the future are part of our focus.

EXAMINING THE PAST One of the most widely studied areas that examines the barriers to women’s career advancement are the consequences of discrimination in the workplace. The most well-known illustrations of discrimination in the workplace are captured by the concept of the glass ceiling, which defines the invisible barrier that prevents many women and minorities from advancing into senior and executive management positions within organizations (Hede, 1994; Morrison, White, & Van Velsor, 1987). A number of studies have explored discrimination at work across factors such as job type, organization size and composition, and industry and target group involved. A study by the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission (1995) reported lower representation of women and minorities in occupations with high status, executive level positions, and board of directors. In addition, studies show that women experience barriers at all levels not only at the top (Marlow, Marlow, & Arnold, 1995), and these barriers significantly retard a woman’s career advancement and detract from her performance in the profession. Work by a nonprofit organization known as Catalyst has devoted substantial attention to the issue of women’s advancement in organizations. Examples of differential treatment within organizations are one of the most widely cited reasons why women fail to advance to levels of authority and visibility within organizations (Catalyst, 1998). Misconceptions and negative attitudes that have been shown to derail the careers and success of women in the workplace also have a clear and negative impact on members of other racial and ethnic groups. Research shows that women...

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