Participatory Bureaucracy: Addressing Gender Inequality in Worker Cooperatives

Worker cooperatives – firms owned and governed by their workers – have experimented with organizational structure in aid of greater equality. Gender theorists and cooperativists have argued that bureaucracy produces inequality, but bureaucracy has also demonstrably reduced organizational inequality. By unpacking “bureaucracy,” both discrete and mutually reinforcing effects of authority and organizational formalization are revealed. Using a comparative study of two highly formalized worker cooperatives, the inequality effects of formalized hierarchical and distributed management are identified: while formalization of managerial bureaucracy amplifies biases and intensifies inequality regimes, formalized but distributed participatory bureaucracy mutes and transforms biases and creates more egalitarian outcomes.

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Joan S. M. Meyers (2022). Participatory Bureaucracy: Addressing Gender Inequality in Worker Cooperatives, Journal of Entrepreneurial and Organizational Diversity, 11(1): 23-54. DOI: