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Lumumba Babushe Seegars, PhD candidate in Organizational Behavior, Harvard Business School.
This talk explores how the dynamics of formal organizing around race and gender inside of organizations contributes to the contestation and reproduction of both racial and gender inequality, and it introduces the term “sanctioned radicals” as an analytical device. Sanctioned radicals are individuals who attempt to change their organization with the explicit permission and approval of their organization. They are sanctioned by being officially recognized and supported with resources, but they are also sanctioned by being controlled by the ensuing resource dependence. They must organize, behave, and use the resources in ways that stay within the boundaries drawn by organizational leaders. These organizational leaders are often members of the dominant race and gender groups (e.g., White men in the United Sates). Thus, organizing around race and gender within organizations both mirrors and amplifies the resource dependence already inherent within racial and gender hierarchies present in society more broadly. One formal type of organizing that has become widespread in many organizations is employee resource groups (ERGs). ERGs are official groups organized for members of a particular demographic group (e.g., women, Black) inside of organizations. This talk compares the experiences of employees participating in ERGs organized for Black versus women employees and examines how the systems of racial and gender hierarchy distinctly and intersectionally shape the way racial minorities and women mobilize to create more diverse and inclusive organizations.