Critical Examination of Tokenism and Demands of Organizational Citizenship Behavior Among Faculty Women of Color

Critical Examination of Tokenism and Demands of Organizational Citizenship Behavior Among Faculty Women of Color

Shelley Price-Williams (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA) and Florence Maätita (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5942-9.ch005
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Women of color in academia are a double minority who face extreme challenges in attaining tenure and promotion. Common challenges faculty of color experience encompass characterization of inferiority, expectations of work products that are often undefined or beyond that of peers, exposure to tokenism, and denial of access to power or authority. Faculty of color are often excessively recruited or assigned to institutional committees and projects because of their minority membership, and are also frequently sought out by students and peers of color for mentoring. These forms of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) often go unnoticed and can be undervalued in promotional proceedings. This chapter critically examines how women of color in academia experience tokenism and how this manifests through unrealistic demands and undervalue of organizational citizenship behavior.
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What Is Tokenism?

Theoretical Approaches to Tokenism

This section reviews theoretical approaches to tokenism and how that characterizes the professional experiences of faculty women of color. Since the passage of landmark civil rights legislation in the 1960s, scholars from a variety of disciplines have examined the workplace experiences of underrepresented groups. Rosabeth Moss Kanter is often described as opening the door for women in this line of inquiry. In the groundbreaking book Men and Women of the Corporation, Kanter (1977) defined tokenism as the negative experiences that women managers face in a Fortune 500 Company. Kanter saw the organizational structure of the workplace causing women’s negative experiences at work, which resulted from tokenism—which she recognized in organizations where women comprise less than 15% of their respective work groups—in corporate positions. Her work inspired more attention to the effects of numbers and proportions in the overall workforce on workers’ experiences and job satisfaction.

To Kanter, men in an industry with a small proportion of women workers construct and maintain an organizational culture that is hostile to these women. This ethos yields three primary negative experiences that underrepresented women typically confront:

  • First, despite the low numbers of token women in this business setting, they face great visibility, which often corresponds with male colleagues using greater and different standards to evaluate women’s work than they used to evaluate men’s job performances.

  • Second, tokens reported feelings of social isolation, which contributed to difficulties connecting with their male colleagues.

  • Third, men frequently consigned their token coworkers to roles that paralleled gender stereotypes (Kanter, 1977; Young & James, 2002; King et al., 2010).

Although Kanter did not use the language of “microaggressions,” the negative experiences she outlined correspond with subtle and blatant attempts to punish tokens that challenge the behaviors and roles that others expect of them (Harris & Gonzalez, 2012). This literature tends to focus on the negative conditions associated with tokenism and prompted academics to consider other possible explanations for tokenism besides numerical representation.

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