22 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2010 Last revised: 30 Apr 2013
Date Written: April 13, 2010
Numerous studies have examined patterns of gender inequality in organizational advancement, with some showing results indicative of “glass ceilings,” where gender disparities are strong at the upper reaches of the organization, while others suggest “sticky floors,” where the gender differences in advancement occur at the lower levels of the organization. These studies, however, have been less clear on the mechanisms that produce these descriptive patterns. With few exceptions, extant studies have focused on internal promotion practices and have not addressed the extent to which these patterns might reflect gender differences in external recruitment and hiring into the organization. We construct queues consisting of both external and internal candidates - the set of candidates under consideration - for over 2,200 job openings during a 27-month period for a large retail bank. We find that women are more likely than men to be hired, and that this pattern holds for jobs up and down the organizational hierarchy. The applicant pools are themselves gendered, however, with women comprising a lower percentage of the applicant pools for high-level jobs, but a greater proportion of the pools for lower-level jobs. Since women are more likely than men to advance from each applicant pool to hire at all levels of the hierarchy, the apparent “glass ceiling” observed among job incumbents is not due to gendered screening practices. Instead, the roots of gender inequality in this firm lie in the initial sorting of applicants into queues.
Keywords: Glass ceiling, labor markets, labor queues, job sex segregation, gender inequality, wage inequality, stratification, hiring processes, employer screening
JEL Classification: J00, J10, J16, J24, J38, J60, J63, J70, J71, M12, M51
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Fernandez, Roberto M. and Abraham, Mabel, From Metaphors to Mechanisms: Gender Sorting in(to) an Organizational Hierarchy (April 13, 2010). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 4779-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1589012 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1589012