Meritocracy a myth? A multilevel perspective of how social inequality accumulates through work

Hans van Dijk*, Dorien Kooij, Maria Karanika-Murray, Ans De Vos, Bertolt Meyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Work plays a crucial role in rising social inequalities, which refer to unequal opportunities and rewards for different social groups. Whereas the conventional view of workplaces as meritocracies suggests that work is a conduit for social equality, we unveil the ways in which workplaces contribute to the accumulation of social inequality. In our cumulative social inequality in workplaces (CSI-W) model, we outline how initial differences in opportunities and rewards shape performance and/or subsequent opportunities and rewards, such that those who receive more initial opportunities and rewards tend to receive even more over time. These cumulative social inequality dynamics take place via nine different mechanisms spanning four different levels (individual, dyadic, network, and organizational). The CSI-W indicates that the mechanisms interact, such that the social inequality dynamics in workplaces tend to (a) exacerbate social inequalities over time, (b) legitimate social inequalities over time, and (c) manifest themselves through everyday occurrences and behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-269
JournalOrganizational Psychology Review
Volume10
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • BIAS
  • DIVERSITY
  • GENDER
  • LIFE
  • ORGANIZATIONS
  • PATH DEPENDENCE
  • POWER
  • PSYCHOLOGY
  • STRENGTH
  • TALENT MANAGEMENT
  • dynamics
  • inclusion
  • meritocracy
  • multilevel
  • social inequality
  • workplaces

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