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.
Jenny K. Rodriguez and Elisabeth Anna Guenther
Gendered organization theory refers to an understanding of organizations as sites that (re)produce gender dynamics and the gender order. Bringing the gender lens to discussions about organization theory is useful to capture the filter through which relational dynamics operate in organizations and the way these (re)construct the psychological, cultural, and social dimensions that shape the organization as a dynamic, relational, and interdependent structure. Key ideas associated with gendered organization theory center on gender as a social category that continues to be the basis for inequality in working life. Gendered organization theory pays particular attention to how gender interacts with different dimensions of social, political, economic, and technological life and how this is mobilized in organizations as well as how organizations foster and tackle new and reformulated gender(ed) inequalities. However, gender is not the only social category of difference that shapes inequality in organizations and would benefit from more explicit insight from feminist theories to unpack the complex dynamics in organizations and the impact they have on individuals. Focusing on intersectionality, decolonial feminism, ecofeminism, queering, and theorizing beyond the human provides a more integrated framework to understand the complex and fluid impact of gender in organizations.
Lize A. E. Booysen
With the development of an integrated cross-disciplinary framework to study workplace identity construction, the current theoretical discussion on workplace identity construction is extended—first, by focusing on intersectionality as theoretical lens and methodology in our thinking about workplace identity, highlighting the significance of an individual’s intersections of social locations in the workplace embedded in socio-historical and political contexts, and second, by focusing on the influence of national culture and societal landscapes as important macro contextual factors, adding a super-group level and a cross-cultural perspective on how individuals navigate their identities at work. Using an intersectional-identity-cultural conceptualization of workplace identity formation elucidates the personal, social identity, sub-group, group, and super group level of influences on identity formation. It focuses on the interplay between individual, relational, collective, and group identity, and emphasizes social identity as the bridge between personal identity and group identity. It highlights the multiplicity, simultaneity, cross cutting, intersecting, as well as differing prominence and power differences of social identities based on differing contexts. It illustrates the relatively stable yet fluid nature of individual (intra-personal and core) identity as it adapts to the environment, and the constant changing, co-constructed, negotiated, and re-negotiated nature of relational (inter-personal), collective identity (social identity) as it gets produced and re-produced, shaped and reshaped by both internal and external forces, embedded in socio-historical-political workplace contexts. Understanding the interplay of the micro-level, individual (agency), relational, and collective identity levels (social construction), nested in the meso level structures of domination, and group dynamics in the workplace (control regulation/political) in its macro level societal landscape context (additional control regulation) will help us to understand the cognitive sense-making processes individuals engage in when constructing workplace identities. This understanding can help to create spaces where non-normative individuals can resist, disrupt, withdraw, or refuse to enact the limited accepted identities and can create alternative discourse or identity possibilities.
Elisabeth Anna Guenther, Anne Laure Humbert, and Elisabeth Kristina Kelan
Gender research goes beyond adding sex as an independent, explanatory category. To conduct gender research in the field of business and management, therefore, it is important to apply a more sophisticated understanding of gender that resonates with contemporary gender theory. This entails taking the social construction of gender and its implications for research into consideration. Seeing gender as a social construct means that the perception of “women” and “men,” of “femininity/ties” and “masculinity/ties,” is the outcome of an embodied social practice. Gender research is commonly sensitive to notions of how power is reproduced and challenges concepts such as “hegemonic masculinity” and “heteronormativity.” The first highlights power relations between gender groups, as well as the different types of existing masculinities. The latter emphasizes the pressure to rely on a binary concept of “women” and “men” and how this is related to heterosexuality, desire, and the body. Gender research needs to avoid the pitfalls of a narrow, essentialist concept of “women” and “men” that draws on this binary understanding of gender. It is also important to notice that not all women (or men) share the same experiences. The critique of Black feminists and scholars from the global South promoted the idea of intersectionality and postcolonialism within gender research. Intersectionality addresses the entanglement of gender with other social categories, such as age, class, disability, race, or religion, while postcolonial approaches criticize the neglect of theory and methodology originating in the global South and question the prevalence of concepts from the global North. Various insights from gender theory inform business and management research in various ways. Concepts such as the “gendered organization” or “inequality regime” can be seen as substantial contributions of gender theory to organization theory. Analyzing different forms of masculinities and exploring ways in which gender is undone within organizations (or whether a supposedly gender-neutral organization promotes a masculine norm) can offer thought-provoking insights into organizational processes. Embracing queer theory, intersectionality, and postcolonial approaches in designing research allows for a broader image of the complex social reality. Altogether management studies benefit from sound, theoretically well-grounded gender research.