Leveraging Workforce Diversity through a Critical Examination of Intersectionalities and Divergences between Racial Minorities and Sexual Minorities

Leveraging Workforce Diversity through a Critical Examination of Intersectionalities and Divergences between Racial Minorities and Sexual Minorities

Julie Gedro
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1812-1.ch004
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Using a multi-disciplinary survey of educational studies, sociology, adult education, and human resources literature, this chapter explores the ways that racial minorities and sexual minorities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) face oppression in organizational contexts. It examines and critiques organizational responses to diversity, and it uncovers the ways that these populations differ. Implications for diversity training programs are articulated, suggestions for training practice are offered, and recommendations for further research are provided.
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So we are working in a context of opposition and threat, the cause of which is certainly not the angers which lie between us, but rather that virulent hatred leveled against all women, people of Color, lesbians and gay men, poor people—against all of us who are seeking to examine the particulars of our lives as we resist our oppressions, moving toward coalition and effective action (Lorde, 1984, p. 128).

The phrase workforce diversity encompasses a broad spectrum of constructs, categories, and dimensions and it has become ubiquitous in the discourse and the practice of Human Resource and Organizational Development. Diversity represents “visible and non-visible aspects of identities by which individuals categorize themselves and others” (Ely & Thomas, 2001; Rocco, Landorf, & Delgado, 2009, p. 9). Harvey and Allard (2009) “define diversity as the ways in which people differ that may affect their organizational experience in terms of performance, motivation, communication, and inclusion” (p. 1). Issues of race, class, gender, able-bodiedness, sexual orientation, religion, educational attainment, marital status, culture, ethnicity, and age comprise the fundamental aspects of ways that employees differ. Some of these aspects are visible while some are more nuanced or even invisible. Understanding the social, political, legal, environmental and organizational milieu is crucial for HRD practitioners and scholars to understand when designing and conducting diversity training programs. The field of Human Resource Development has begun to explore diversity, as evidenced by single issue journals on African American women’s leadership experiences (Byrd & Stanley, 2009), diversity in the HRD curriculum (McDonald & Hite, 2010), disability awareness (Roessler & Nafukho, 2010), and sexual minority issues (Rocco, Gedro, & Kormanik, 2009). In the field of HRD, the current status of both of these diversity dimensions is that they are siloed. Each has been explored, but not in relation to each other. Each of these dimensions is situated within particular historical and social contexts that run counter to the dominant narrative of equal opportunity based upon merit. There are areas where these populations converge, and there are areas where they diverge. A critical examination of both areas—of convergence and divergence—is warranted so that such teasing out and unpacking provides Human Resource Development scholars and practitioners with deeper levels of understanding of “difference” and intersectionality. Such deeper level understanding provides a framework by which more effective diversity training and education can be imagined.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Gender Expression: The manner in which a person exhibits masculine or feminine characteristics in dress, speech, hairstyle, grooming, mannerisms and behavior. It may or may not correspond to one’s sex.

Gay: A man who is romantically and sexually attracted to men.

Lesbian: A woman who is romantically and sexually attracted to women.

Sex: The biological classification, assigned at birth as male or female.

Transgender: A man or woman whose internal sense of self does not match the biology of one’s sex.

Ally: A member of the dominant group who has knowledge of the challenges faced by the minority group, who actively and intentionally seeks to champion the equal rights of the minority group.

Sexual Minority: People who are not heterosexual.

Bisexual: A man or woman who is romantically and sexually attracted to men and to women.

Gender: The state of being masculine (male) or feminine (female).

Employee Resource Group: A collection of employees, typically having a particular common characteristic such as race, gender or sexual orientation, who are organized in an effort to mobilize for strategic and/or activist purposes within the organization, and also, across other networks of similarly characterized groups in other organizations or sectors.

Family: A set of people who are related, usually consisting of a nuclear system of husband, wife and children. Family can extend to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins.

Gender Identity: A person’s internal sense of gender, which may or may not correspond to one’s physical gender.

Racial Minority: People who are not White.

Religion: An organized set of doctrine, accompanied by an established system of beliefs, rituals, and practices that are intended to honor the sacred.

Race: A social construction that groups people based upon physical characteristics.

Intersectionality: A place that two or more populations meet. A place, circumstance, or result that is common.

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