• Christina Keinert-Kisin
Part of the CSR, Sustainability, Ethics & Governance book series (CSEG)


Women remain underrepresented numerically in leadership positions of both private and public organizations to this day. At the same time, this inertia “at the top” continues to receive much public attention. Differences in career achievements between men and women are, depending often on ideological conviction of the assessor, attributed to discrimination by superiors and organizations, or to women’s personal choices along the career path. In recent years, quota solutions have been proposed by a number of European political actors. In some countries, they were implemented to bring about change from the outside of organizations. While the efficacy of these measures to affect change for women in leadership cannot yet be assessed, resistance against quota solutions—especially amongst business representatives—is strong. Quota are often presented as an infringement of meritocracy in the competition over top jobs. Resistance to quota solutions appears to—at least in part—stem from scepticism toward the persistence of discrimination. Classical economic thought is, on a fundamental level, sceptical toward the (sustainable) existence of discrimination. If discrimination can be defined as non-consideration of qualified candidates for improper—less than rational—reasons, strictly economic rationale would imply discriminating employers were to suffer competitive disadvantage, at least in the long run. Employers utilizing the best available talent without discrimination would have to outperform (irrational) discriminators on the market. Over time, discriminating employers would thus have to modify their behaviour or risk being defeated on the market by more rationally acting employers. This perspective does not consider widespread social biases and their impact on behaviour. Pre-conceived notions attached to gender—associations of men with rationality and of women overall with emotionality, for example—hold the potential to constrain rationality in personnel decisions by individual decision-makers within organizations on a systematic level. Knowledge from the social sciences, applied to organizational contexts, is able to enrich a discourse and increase understanding of organizational context conditions that may foster (gender) discrimination.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Keinert-Kisin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ViennaViennaAustria

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