Reading List: the economics of intersectionality

A one-day workshop exploring the connections between economics and intersectionality, with participants from academia, business and policy communities.

The economics of Intersectionality Reading List

Suggested readings


Felix Danbold: Construal level stereotypes: perceived differences groups’ abstract versus concrete cognitive styles

Individuals can construe the world around them more concretely or more abstractly, with consequences for their judgments and behaviours. Across five studies involving 2,845 US adult participants and archival data describing 317 occupations, we test whether people hold stereotypes about the tendency for different groups to think more concretely or more abstractly. Across Studies 1-2B, individuals report explicit and consistent construal level stereotypes about social groups in various demographic, occupational, and non-human categories. In Studies 2A and 2B, we establish discriminant validity, finding only modest correlations between stereotypes about groups’ construal level tendencies and stereotypes about their competence, agency, and power. Using archival data, in Study 3 we show that the construal level stereotypes in studies 1-2B align with occupational traits, as well as with the demographic makeup of these occupations. Finally, in Study 4 we establish predictive validity using an experiment to show how individuals use construal level stereotypes to inform employee selection decisions. Together, these findings integrate and advance two major topics in human cognition: stereotyping and construal level theory. We reveal societal implications by showing that construal level stereotypes predict behaviours associated with discrimination in resource allocation.



Liz Johnson: Workplace allyship

In this paper we adopt an intersectional lens in addressing the following question: when can we expect White people to participate in race-based allyship in the workplace? In Study 1 we use data from a nationally representative sample of Americans (N = 2,889; PEW, 2019) and find that among White respondents, liberals had greater allyship intentions than conservatives, and women had great intentions than men. In Study 2, we replicated these findings in a sample of working, White, heterosexual cis-men and women (N = 596). We then explored the role of racial threat in shaping the allyship of White men and women by their political ideology. In particular, we find that White liberal woman’s allyship appears to be most sensitive to racial threat: when racial threat is low, White liberal women’s allyship intentions are greater than other groups, but as threat rises, their allyship intent steeply declines. We are currently exploring these effects in ongoing experimental work. Our results suggest that liberal Whites who hold a non-dominant identity may engage in greater workplace allyship, to the extent that their position in the racial hierarchy remains intact.



Ezgi Ozgumus: identity masking: how organizational data analysis practices conceal racialized gender differences in sense of inclusion and belonging

The most prevalent, current approach to analyzing DEI data in organizations is to quantify metrics comparing women to men, or racial/ethnic minorities to racial/ethnic majorities. Drawing from the organizational scholarship on intersectional invisibility, we argue that the “traditional” approach to analyzing DEI data is fundamentally flawed in the context of the differential rates of representation across different racial/ethnic groups. Using survey responses of more than 70,000 financial services industry employees across the United Kingdom, we introduce the concept of “identity masking data analysis practices.” Whereas the “traditional” approach reveals women (vs. men) report experiencing a greater sense of inclusion and belonging at work (therefore suggesting that the UK’s financial services industry has solved the belonging gap between men and women), our identity-unmasked data analysis approach at the intersection of gender and race instead uncovers that the overrepresentation of White women masks the far more negative experiences of racially minoritized women. Taken together, our research represents one of the first empirical tests of intersectional invisibility hypothesis (Bhattacharyya & Berdahl, 2023; Ponce de Leon & Rosette, 2022; Purdie-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008) using real world data and shows how an intersectionality-informed data analysis approach could help organizations fully understand the experiences – both positive and negative – of their employees, and thus enhance their ability to achieve their diversity goals.



Sanaz mobasseri: defending white hegemonic masculinity

This paper uses systems psychodynamic concepts to develop theory about the persistence of racial inequality in U.S. organizations and to inform an approach for disrupting it. We treat White men who aspire to emulate hegemonic masculine ideals as the dominant group and Black people as the archetypal subordinate group. In our theory, persistence is rooted in work contexts that conflate merit with idealized images of White masculinity, which provokes unconscious distress in White men who aspire to meet those ideals. To keep this distress at bay, they covertly construct an unconscious, multilevel defense system, comprising projective identification at the individual level bolstered by a social defense at the organization level. This system is self-sealing: It diverts attention away from the real culprit—work contexts that threaten White men’s self-worth—by contriving a substitute problem—a shortage of meritorious Black people; at the same time, the social defense fuels aspects of the work context that give rise to such threats in the first place. The upshot is the persistence of racial inequality. We offer guidance on how to disrupt these dynamics by building mutually-reinforcing holding environments where organization members can engage in intrapsychic and intergroup reparative work. We conclude by offering theoretical contributions to organizational inequality, systems psychodynamics, and masculinity literatures.



Megan tobias neely: the wager: race, gender, and value in elite firms

Feminist and anti-racist scholars have long established that gender, race, and social class, as systems of inequality, simultaneously influence whose labor is valued and devalued. The focus has largely been on the devaluation of work gender-typed as women’s work and, through the lens of intersectionality, how this devaluation varies according to the racialized- and classed-typing of the work. Building on these insights, I apply the theory of intersectionality to examine how and why the work of elites in finance and technology—work dominated by elite white men—has become highly valued, even relative to that of other top earners. I conducted in-depth interviews and field observations of hedge fund, venture capital, and technology startup firms, which all feature striking social disparities in terms of who wields the investment power to dole out financial funding and who gets funding. The theory of intersectionality provides the tools for understanding how whiteness, masculinity, and elitism confer value to this group of elite white men. I identify how the organizational structures, specifically those that delineate wages and equity, designate the work of these elites as of high worth and how this is central to the prevailing gender, racial, and class hierarchies in the labor market. I find that the social interactions that set wages, bonuses, and equity reflect speculative, financial cultural logics that are distinct in each of these three fields, shaping how inequality is embedded within each type of firm. The processes through which earnings and capital are distributed in these fields are intrinsically racialized, gendered, and classed as they are based on assumptions about risk, value, and worth. I call the process of speculating on earnings and equity the “wager” and explain how it helps to account for widening economic inequalities; how these trends are gendered, racialized, and classed; and how elites in finance and tech view their earnings as consistent with the logic of accumulation of financial markets.



Alicia Sheares: navigating constraint: regional racial capitalism and the experiences of black tech entrepeneurs in silicon valley and atlanta

Entrepreneurship is a key component of capitalism, as entrepreneurs create companies that solve problems for customers and that have value for broader society. Yet, such a depiction obscures the racial foundations of capitalism that limited Black economic opportunity and mobility. Missing from discussions of racial capitalism is the role of place. This raises question as to how does racial capitalism shape the exclusion that Black people encounter in the United States? What strategies do they rely on to combat inequalities produced by racial capitalism? And how do these experiences vary in accordance with racial capitalism’s geographic manifestations? I answer these questions through a comparative case study of Black tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and Atlanta. Through nearly 100 semi-structured interviews with Black tech entrepreneurs and investors, I find that racial capitalism shapes the constraints of Black tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and Atlanta in similar ways as they lacked wealth and networks to facilitate entrepreneurship and were not a “racial fit” within the industry. Yet they were not resigned to their positionality, but strategized about how to get ahead in accordance to the ecosystem they were embedded within. Those in Silicon Valley engaged in a process that I call racial coverage which entailed that they gain elite credentials and use racial stand-ins in meetings with investors. Alternatively, those in Atlanta engaged in a different process altogether. They used blackness as currency to tap into elite Black networks and diversity programs that would provide them with alternative opportunities. I argue that these results show that Black tech entrepreneurs confronted distinct regional racial capitalisms, or the intersection between racial and regional dynamics that shape the constraints and possibilities of Black entrepreneurship. Consequently, they developed divergent racialized legitimation strategies, or tactics racial minorities use to get ahead within unequal capitalist systems.



Adia Wingfield: not just identity: how intersectional approaches help understand organizations, workplaces, and more

Intersectionality theory has become more mainstream since its creation in the 1980s by legal scholar Kimberle Williams Crenshaw. Initially coined to highlight the ways race and gender overlap to create distinct identities and outcomes for Black women, the framework has become both more accepted and more controversial in recent years, leading to misunderstandings and misapplications. In this presentation, I discuss how intersectional applications in research do not just highlight identities, but provide a more nuanced view of workplaces, organizations, and economics. I conclude with a call for researchers and business leaders to return to intersectionality’s core principles, and to consider using the theory to broaden how we think about work and employment.