Despite the term being coined in the early 1990s, heteronormativity is a longstanding and enduring hierarchical social system that identifies heterosexuality as the standard sexuality and normalizes gender-specific behaviors and roles for men, women, and transgender and non-binary individuals. As a system, it defines and enforces beliefs and practices about what is ‘normal’ in everyday life. Although there are many factors that shape heteronormative beliefs and attitudes, religion, the government, education, and workplaces are the principal macro-level factors that normalize and institutionalize heteronormative beliefs and attitudes. These institutions contribute an outsize influence on the perpetuation of heteronormativity in society because these institutions create and inculcate the norms and standards of what are and are not acceptable values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors in our society. As such, in order to create effective interventions to eliminate the negative outcomes of heteronormativity, particular attention should be paid to each of these institutions. Parents, relatives, and other adults contribute to the normalization and institutionalization of heteronormativity at the individual- or micro-level. Although some people benefit from the system of heteronormativity (mainly heterosexual cisgender conforming men), much of the research on heteronormativity focuses on the negative outcomes. Heteronormativity is responsible for a host of pernicious outcomes such as lower self-esteem, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment, and greater rates of suicide ideation, verbal and physical abuse, and workplace mistreatment and discrimination. Future research should investigate identify effective micro- and macro-level interventions that could mitigate or eliminate the negative effects of heteronormativity.
The concept of aversive racism has had a significant impact on theory, research, and practice devoted to better understanding bias, discrimination, and persistent disparities based on social identity group such as race, gender, social class, and so on. Originally developed to better explain subtle forms of bias toward racial and minoritized groups, this concept has been extended to understand the impact of disparities in a range of diverse settings, such as intergroup relations, health outcomes, fairness in employment setting, intergroup conflict, educational outcomes, racial bias in policing, experiences of stress and mental health issues, and persistent economic disparities. A core facet of the aversive framework paradigm is that because of human biases that are deeply rooted within a historical context and reinforced by ongoing societal ideologies, unintentional and subtle forms of discrimination emerge and persist. Given that these subtle forms of bias and discrimination exist within otherwise well-intentioned individuals, strategies to eliminate them require understanding the complexity of the aversive racism phenomenon in order to develop effective social interventions. This article reviews the foundation, research, and impact of this important body of work. In addition, the concept of aversive racism is discussed in connection to emerging research on microaggressions and unconscious (implicit) bias in order to create a more integrated framework that can shape future research and applications. Lastly, practical implications for organizations and future directions are explored, such as using social identity as a theoretical lens, including global perspectives on intergroup bias and leveraging emerging work on intersectionality, as useful perspectives to extend the aversive racism framework. Setting a future agenda for research and practice related to aversive racism is key to greater understanding of how to reduce intergroup bias and discrimination through interventions that cut across traditional academic and discipline boundaries as one approach to create meaningful and long-lasting social impact.
Intersectionality is a critical framework that provides us with the mindset and language for examining interconnections and interdependencies between social categories and systems. Intersectionality is relevant for researchers and for practitioners because it enhances analytical sophistication and offers theoretical explanations of the ways in which heterogeneous members of specific groups (such as women) might experience the workplace differently depending on their ethnicity, sexual orientation, and/or class and other social locations. Sensitivity to such differences enhances insight into issues of social justice and inequality in organizations and other institutions, thus maximizing the chance of social change. The concept of intersectional locations emerged from the racialized experiences of minority ethnic women in the United States. Intersectional thinking has gained increased prominence in business and management studies, particularly in critical organization studies. A predominant focus in this field is on individual subjectivities at intersectional locations (such as examining the occupational identities of minority ethnic women). This emphasis on individuals’ experiences and within-group differences has been described variously as “content specialization” or an “intracategorical approach.” An alternate focus in business and management studies is on highlighting systematic dynamics of power. This encompasses a focus on “systemic intersectionality” and an “intercategorical approach.” Here, scholars examine multiple between-group differences, charting shifting configurations of inequality along various dimensions. As a critical theory, intersectionality conceptualizes knowledge as situated, contextual, relational, and reflective of political and economic power. Intersectionality tends to be associated with qualitative research methods due to the central role of giving voice, elicited through focus groups, narrative interviews, action research, and observations. Intersectionality is also utilized as a methodological tool for conducting qualitative research, such as by researchers adopting an intersectional reflexivity mindset. Intersectionality is also increasingly associated with quantitative and statistical methods, which contribute to intersectionality by helping us understand and interpret the individual, combined (additive or multiplicative) effects of various categories (privileged and disadvantaged) in a given context. Future considerations for intersectionality theory and practice include managing its broad applicability while attending to its sociopolitical and emancipatory aims, and theoretically advancing understanding of the simultaneous forces of privilege and penalty in the workplace.
Lynn R. Offermann and Kira Foley
Women have historically been underrepresented in leadership positions across private and public organizations around the globe. Gender inequality and gender discrimination remain very real challenges for women workers in general, and especially so for women striving for leadership positions. Yet organizational research suggests that female leaders may bring a unique constellation of leadership-related traits, attributes, and behaviors to the workplace that may provide advantages to their organizations. Specific cultural and organizational work contexts may facilitate or inhibit a female leadership advantage. Reaping the benefits of female leadership relies on an organization’s ability to combat the numerous barriers female leaders face that male leaders often do not, including gender-based discrimination, implicit bias, and unfair performance evaluations. Despite these challenges, the literature suggests that a reasoned consideration of the positive aspects of women’s leadership is not only warranted but is instructive for organizations hoping to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce.
Nasima M. H. Carrim
With an increase in the number of diverse groups of individuals (including ethnic minorities) entering organizations, managing diversity in the 21st-century workplace has become imperative. The workplace provides employees with opportunities to work interactively with others in diverse situations and to express their identities, including ethnic identity. Despite Western-based organizations’ adoption of strategies such as affirmative action in an effort to integrate diverse employees into their workplaces, members of ethnic minority groups may still experience great difficulties in obtaining instrumental and social support in these organizations. While some minorities may not outwardly manifest their ethnicity, in the majority of cases, ethnic identity forms a core identity of many individuals and employees do not leave this identity at the doorstep of the organization. In some countries, ethnic minorities have refused to assimilate into the majority workplace culture, and have maintained strong ethnic identities. By outwardly expressing their identities, ethnic minority employees face discrimination, stereotyping and micro-aggressive behaviors within the workplace, and in the majority of cases are relegated to dead-end lower level posts and face barriers to their career advancement. Also, having strong ethnic identities results in a conflict between minorities ethnic identities and the workplace culture. This is especially apparent in terms of religious beliefs and values. Embracing ethnic identity of migrants into organizational cultures is especially challenging for organizations these days, as many immigrants are highly skilled professionals that enter western corporations. They experience discrimination and not receiving support in order to advance their careers.
Isabel Boni-Le Goff and Nicky Le Feuvre
Professions or professional occupations have been studied through a large number of empirical and theoretical lenses over the last decades: as potential substitutes for organizations and markets, as protected labor markets, and as the site of the subjective experiences and socialization processes of their members. Combining a sociological and a gender perspective, a growing number of studies have shed new light on the growth and dynamics of professional occupations since the mid-20th century. They show how the massive entry of women into the upper reaches of Western labor markets has played a major role in the expansion and reconfiguration of the professions. However, by studying the barriers to women’s access to once exclusively masculine environments, scholars tend to show that the feminization processes coexist with persistent inequalities in income, promotion opportunities, career patterns, and access to leadership positions, popularized by the metaphor of the “glass ceiling” effect. These contradicting trends—numerical feminization and the persistence of gender inequalities—have inspired a large range of empirical research projects and conceptual innovations. This article distinguishes three ways of framing the gendered dynamics of professional and managerial occupations. A first way of framing the issue adopts a resolutely structural perspective, presenting feminization as a process that ultimately leads to the crystallization of traditional gender inequalities, thus confronting women with the risk of deprofessionalization or dequalification. Some of these studies observe variations in the rhythms and patterns of feminization across occupations. They reveal complex processes whereby the overall increase in women’s education levels comes with the persistence of gender-differentiated choices of study and occupation. Rhythms and patterns of feminization may also differ within a given occupation, from one specialty to another and from one type of organization to another, depending on the internal hierarchy of the occupation. Very significant gaps may also be observed according to employment status: wage labor or self-employment, for example. A second way of framing the question adopts an organizational-level perspective; showing, for example, that a “glass ceiling” systematically hampers women’s career progression in all sectors of the labor market. These studies explore the combination of direct and indirect discriminatory processes—from the persistence of “old boys’ networks” to the legitimation of certain gendered body images of professionalism—within different organizational and professional contexts. In the face of such resistance, women’s career progression is particularly slow and arduous, both due to the prevailing symbolic norms of leadership models and due to the collective strategies of closure by male professionals at the organizational level. Finally, a third way of framing the issue adopts a more holistic perspective, with a stronger focus on the agency of women within the occupational context and on the societal implications of changes to the gender composition of the professions. These studies insist on the potential or real changes that women may bring to the professional ethos and to the occupation-specific “rules of the game” in previously male-dominated bastions. Interested in the undoing of conventional norms of masculinity and fathering as well as of femininity and mothering, this third perspective explores a potential shift to more egalitarian gender arrangements at the organizational, interpersonal, and societal levels.
Ellen Ernst Kossek and Kyung-Hee Lee
Work-family and work-life conflict are forms of inter-role conflict that occur when the energy, time, or behavioral demands of the work role conflicts with family or personal life roles. Work-family conflict is a specific form of work-life conflict. Work-family conflict is of growing importance in society as it has important consequences for work, non-work, and personal outcomes such as productivity, turnover, family well-being, health, and stress. Work-family conflict relates to critical employment, family, and personal life outcomes. These include work outcomes (e.g., job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and turnover), family outcomes (e.g., marital satisfaction and family satisfaction), and personal outcomes related to physical health (e.g., physical symptoms, eating and exercise behaviors), and psychological health (e.g., stress and depressive symptoms, life satisfaction). Many different theoretical perspectives are used to understand work-life conflict: starting with role theory, and more recently conservation of resources, job demands and resources, and life course theories. Many methodological challenges are holding back the advancement of work-family conflict research. These include (1) construct overlap between work-family conflict and work-life conflict, and work-life balance measures; (2) measurement issues related to directionality and operationalization; and (3) a lack of longitudinal and multilevel studies. Future research should include studies to (1) advance construct development on linkages between different forms of work-family and work-life conflict; (2) improve methodological modeling to better delineate work-family conflict mechanisms; (3) foster increased variation in samples; (4) develop resiliency interventions that fit specific occupational contextual demands; (5) increase integration and sophistication of theoretical approaches; and (6) update work-family studies to take into account the influence of the growing prevalence of technology that is transforming work-family relationships.