Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Intersecting Identities of Individuals in the Workplace: A Phenomenological Study of the Lived Experiences

Annette John-Baptiste, Fielding's School of Human & Organizational Development

Diversity literature has often neglected analysis of how individuals with intersecting identities experience work omitting within-group differences in their diversity and inclusion efforts. This study begins to document the paradoxical experiences of people of color with multiple intersecting identities in the workplace. All seven participants were white-collar professionals possessing a salient feature or characteristic that set them apart from the dominant White male group and had membership in at least one subordinate historically marginalized or stigmatized social identity group. This qualitative phenomenological study employed the intersectionality framework to gain insight into the experiences of participants’ intersecting identities in the workplace. Four themes emerged: microaggressions, emotions, coping mechanisms, and unequal access. Coping mechanism encompassing assimilation, suppression of social identity categories, and safe spaces as subsections, manifested as the central reason particpants felt partially included.

Results provide insight into within-group diversity of intersecting identities based on race/ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation, and sexual orientation and the paradoxical experience of being marginalized and having privilege.  Moreover shared experiences across social identity groups revealed new findings of similar experiences among Black gay men and Black women being hypersexualized and experiences around the “glass ceiling” phenomenon being much lower than previously noted in White women.  Additionally, insights about the dichotomies around being bilingual were uncovered identifying another gap in literature.

By excavating the unique voices of participants situated at the intersections of multiple social identities, their realities were illuminated. Because intersectionality investigates the simultaneous experiences of multiple intersecting identities and how power is maintained and recreated in the workplace it can uncover many of the inequalities among men and women that must be dealt with and have yet to be discovered.

Key Words: multiple identities, intersectionality, microaggressions, inclusion, diversity

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