Abstract: Reducing Racial, Ethnic and Gender Inequalities in Work-Life Balance: Toward a Model of Intersectionality, Diversity and Inclusion (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

391P Reducing Racial, Ethnic and Gender Inequalities in Work-Life Balance: Toward a Model of Intersectionality, Diversity and Inclusion

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Michalle Mor Barak, Ph.D., Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Adriane Clomax, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Southern California, CA
Background and Significance.  Work-life research in the past several decades has contributed to our knowledge base (e.g., Kinman, G., & Jones, F. ,2008, Shek, et al 2018).  Yet this research has suffered limitations due to its focus on certain forms of labor – primarily employees in work organizations – and on certain aspects of family and life -- mostly traditional western (Ozbilgin et al., 2011).  Expanding our understanding of what ‘work’ and ‘life’ mean to non-traditional groups, while finding new ways to address those differences, will help to reconcile the work-life conundrum in an increasingly diverse workforce.  It will assist in overcoming racial, ethnic, gender, and LGBTQ inequalities, and in fostering a climate of inclusion in organizations (Mor Barak, 2017).  This paper identifies unexplored issues of work-life research and offers a conceptual model for future research by using intersectionality theory to examine diversity of work and life experiences, adding a global lens for further depth of analysis. 

Theoretical Framework.  Intersectionality theory provides a useful framework for understanding the relationship between work-life, diversity and inclusion in organizations.  The theory highlights the importance of viewing the overlap between different forms of social inequality, oppression, discrimination and exclusion to create a multidimensional picture diversity (Crenshaw, 1989; Lutz, Herrera Vivar, & Supik, 2011; Mor Barak, 2017).  It addresses the combined inequalities associated with characteristics such as class, gender and race and their association with access to power in the organizational and societal structure (Acker, 2006; Mahalingam ,2007).  Intersectionality challenges the notion that social problems can be broken down into separate issues that only affect specific identity groups, such as focusing only on race or gender and ignoring the overlap of these two identities.  Accordingly, the “single axis framework” in which discrimination and oppression are framed in terms of discrete categories creates artificial boundaries, encourages mutually exclusive interests, and promotes inter-group conflict (Crenshaw, 1989; Cho et al., 2013; Wells et al., 2015; Macias, & Stephens, 2017).

Conceptual Model and Overlooked Research Areas.  Reviewing the work-life literature, it is clear that there is need to expand the definitions of both the ‘work’ and ‘life’ domain, using intersectionality theory, to understand the experience of exclusion in work organizations.  This paper presents a conceptual model to guide future research based on intersectionality theory and connecting work-life reconciliation and inclusion in organizations.  Work-life research has typically focused on women’s issues in more traditional, white middle class concerns.  Though the research domain has evolved into work-life with expanded focus, it has not yet been able to capture the full spectrum of the life experiences of today’s diverse workforce.  Expanded emphasis needs to be placed on the needs of men, single people, non-traditional families, and families of immigrants (e.g., Wilkinson, Tomlinson, & Gardiner, 2017).  Correspondingly, there is need to explore life outside of family demands and expectations, to include leisure/self-care, religious affiliations, community involvement, volunteer commitments, life responsibilities of single persons, unpaid domestic work and other personal activities and needs (Ollier-Malaterre, & Foucreault, 2017; Ozbligin et al, 2011).