How the Myth of Meritocracy has Perpetuated Gender Inequality in Academia


16475971566_45a46cd589_zDespite claims to award university appointments based on meritocracy alone, gender inequality continues to impact the number of women in leadership positions at universities. In theory, meritocracy should be a fair policy to follow when considering candidates for a leadership position. However, the recent Journal of Management article, “Meritocracies or Masculinities? The Differential Allocation of Named Professorships by Gender in the Academy” from authors Len J. Treviño, Luis R. Gomez-Mejia, David B. Balkin, and Franklin G. Mixon Jr., suggests that meritocracy is part of the problem that allows the glass ceiling to persist in academia. The abstract for the article:

This study analyzes differential appointments by gender to the rank of named professorship based on a sample of 511 management professors. This sample JOM 41(3)_Covers.inddrepresents approximately 90% of our original survey sample of faculty at Tier 1 American research universities, with 10 or more years of experience since receiving their PhD, and whose contact information we could obtain online. Contrary to the tenets of the meritocratic evaluation model, we find that, after controlling for research performance and other factors, women are less likely to be awarded named professorships, particularly when the endowed chair is awarded to an internal candidate. Furthermore, we find that women derive lower returns from their scholarly achievements when it comes to appointments to endowed chairs. Our study suggests that a masculine-gendered environment dominates management departments, leading to shifting standards when it comes to the highest senior appointments in academe.

An excerpt from the article explains why the authors chose to focus on management professors in particular:

We focus on management professors for several reasons. First, doing so allows us to control for differences across academic fields in citation rates, frequency of publications, labor markets, endowed chair opportunities, and available resources. Second, the Academy of Management, the major academic association in the field, has over 19,000 members, and it represents a key faculty constituency within colleges of business. Third, presumably business students (particularly at the graduate level) are preparing themselves for leadership positions in corporate America and/or the pursuit of an academic career and endowed faculty serve as an exemplar to them. Last, at a more philosophical level, most of the research and teaching dealing with diversity, discrimination, and equal employment opportunity legislation within business schools occurs in management departments, suggesting that faculty therein should be more sensitive and informed about issues concerning gender inequality.

You can read “Meritocracies or Masculinities? The Differential Allocation of Named Professorships by Gender in the Academy” from Journal of Management free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know about the latest research from Journal of ManagementClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Event image attributed to Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan (CC)


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