The meritocracy mirage: Joanne Lockwood unveils bias in recruitment practices

Embracing diversity isn’t about lowering the bar; it’s about expanding our concept of success. Our job isn’t just about spotting the best candidate–it’s about recognizing and fostering potential in all its forms.

Joanne Lockwood
Founder & CEO of SEE Change Happen Ltd


Over the years, I’ve frequently crossed paths with ‘meritocracy.’ It’s a term often presented as the solution to unfairness, the secret to an equitable world. In terms of DE&I hiring, meritocracy often appears more like an illusion than an achievable reality. 

I’m not here to disparage the concept of meritocracy. Rather, I challenge our tendency to overlook systemic and societal disparities, particularly in recruitment. As much as we encourage diversity, equity, and inclusivity in our hiring practices, are we truly achieving our objectives? 

Here are my thoughts on hiring bias and the myth of meritocracy in recruitment. 

Identifying the reality of pay gaps and workplace barriers

Let’s stop and pause for one moment; if meritocracy truly ruled, then wouldn’t everyone get equal pay, regardless of background, gender, race, or disability? 

Yet, the pay gaps we see every day tell a vastly different tale. People in the UK from working-class backgrounds or from a low socio-economic status are taking home 24% less annually than their wealthier counterparts doing the same jobs. 

But wait, there’s more. We’ve got the infamous ‘glass ceiling’ barring women from reaching top positions, not to mention the gender pay gap, with women in the UK still earning about 15.4% less than men as of 2022. Then there’s the ‘concrete ceiling’ for people of color, an even tougher barrier to shatter. 

And let’s not forget the ‘broken rung’ on the corporate ladder, a barrier often faced by women and minorities trying to make that first crucial step up to manager. Disabled individuals aren’t having an easier time either; they’re battling the ‘sticky floor’ of limited upward mobility and a pay gap of 12.2%

And just when you think you’ve heard it all, there’s the ‘glass cliff’ phenomenon. Women leaders from minority groups finally get to break through the glass ceiling, only to find themselves in precarious leadership positions during times of crisis, increasing the chance of a fall.

Each of these realities is a harsh wake-up call, exposing the cracks in our cozy notion of meritocracy. 

So, who’s benefiting from this comforting myth? Often, it’s those who already got a leg-up from the system. The myth of meritocracy can feed a cycle of privilege, propping up a status quo that hands the benefits to a chosen few while leaving others in the dust.

Embracing recruitment change through awareness, introspection, and action

So, what’s the game plan for busting the meritocracy mirage? I believe it starts with awareness, a bit of introspection, and rolling up our sleeves for some real action. I’m forever nudging organizations to challenge systemic barriers, root out biases, and truly embrace inclusive hiring practices.

Consider the tech industry as an example. The shortage of a diverse talent pipeline is often trotted out as an excuse for homogeneous hiring. But anonymized applications can debunk this narrative, exposing the blind spots of so-called meritocracy and the unconscious bias lurking beneath.

To wrap this up, I’ve got a call to action for everyone who recruits: we’re in a unique position to spark real change. Embracing diversity isn’t about lowering the bar; it’s about expanding our concept of success.

The time’s ripe for us to challenge the meritocracy myth and push for genuine fairness in our hiring practices. Our job isn’t just about spotting the best candidate–it’s about recognizing and fostering potential in all its forms. 

So, let’s step up to the plate, challenge the glass ceilings, fix the broken rungs, and shatter those concrete barriers. Because that’s what a true meritocracy should look like!

Drop a comment to let me know what you think.


Joanne Lockwood

Discover the transformative power of empathy, understanding, and inclusivity with Joanne Lockwood. By connecting with her, you’ll create a thriving, empowering environment where everyone can excel. Expect to be inspired and guided toward fostering a truly inclusive culture within your organization. As you embark on this journey, Joanne’s passion and expertise will unlock your organization’s full potential, making a profound impact on both individual and collective success.

Don’t hesitate – contact Joanne today to embark on your journey towards a truly inclusive workplace. Let her passion and expertise be your guiding light in creating meaningful change.