Meritocracy, the idea that perseverance and hard work brings success, is a blind,unrealistic belief that is seen to be a false hope in America. This is not to say that one should not work hard: you cannot achieve anything through laziness. However, certain aspects of American society and legislation reveal the faults in relying on meritocracy. For example, a study from 2015 reveals that women were typically paid 80% of what men were (Miller). This number continues to decrease for women of color and minorities. Emilio J. Castilla from MIT’s Sloan School of Management conducted a study of about 9,000 employees from one company. Castilla found that women, ethnic minorities, and non-U.S.-born employees holding the same positions and receiving the same performance score as white men were rewarded with smaller compensation. This exemplifies the myth of meritocracy because equal work brings unequal results. One could argue that if those earning lesser wages could work harder to earn the same amount, but this is just plain ignorance. Working harder to earn the same as someone doing less is backwards logic and does not solve the real issue at hand. Ask yourself this: how can we promise our youth that hard works pays off when some of them will not achieve the same level of success as their peers? Obstacles for success should not be based on things that are out of our control. Being a woman, a minority, or a non-U.S.-born citizen does not affect one’s ability to work, so it should not hinder one’s ability to succeed. The wage gap is not the only fault in meritocracy, legislation such as the travel ban ordered by President Trump is a clear counterpoint. Adults and children hoping to experience new opportunities in America, the land of the free, are prohibited access to this country and the prosperity it could bring. Similarly, someone growing up in poverty may not have access to resources because of their upbringing. These are things out of one’s control. This is not fair, this is not right, and this is not what America was founded on. So really, meritocracy in America today says, as long as you work hard you will be successful, except you, because you’re a women. Except you, because you’re Latino. Except you, because you’re from Iran.
The hope that meritocracy is a valid belief is encouraging, but as of today it is simply naive. With this unequal playing field, we cannot push the idea of meritocracy without correcting its existing faults. With our current issues surrounding the achievability of success, it gives people a false sense of confidence that covers up the inaccuracy of this belief. We, the future of America, should continue to work hard. However, we should not be oblivious to the faults in our country such as the wage gap and the travel ban. We need to work hard, but first we need to work hard to correct these mistakes in order to truly be a country that exemplifies meritocracy.
Miller, Kevin. The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (Spring 2017). N.p.: American Association of U Women, n.d. Print.