Date of Degree

6-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor

Erica Chito-Childs

Committee Members

Jessie Daniels

Jessica Hardie

L'Heureux Lewis-McCoy

Subject Categories

Race and Ethnicity | Work, Economy and Organizations

Keywords

organizations, racism, diversity, equity, inequality, work

Abstract

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work is a billion-dollar industry that companies across all industries utilize to “transform” their workplaces and for many, increase profit. Despite the resources invested, there is, unfortunately, little to show for it. This qualitative case study draws on three years of ethnographic fieldwork and interviews at a national nonprofit, Education for All (EFA), to examine how DEI, coupled with organizational culture and structure, works to engrain inequality, rather than lessen it.

This research is based on 49 interviews with employees at Education for All, supplemented with observations and analyses of organizational artifacts. This study uncovers how the DEI practices and initiatives, coupled with organizational structure and culture, reproduce inequality, despite the good intentions and progressive social-justice mission. These seemingly positive and progressive workplace initiatives entrench inequality not only within the organization in a myriad of ways, but also illuminate how EFA is a racialized organization (Ray 2019), that contributes to shaping and reinforcing the larger racial order. Throughout this dissertation, we hear from participants about organizational culture, relationships, collaboration, shifting organizational structure and how all of these shape and are shaped by the DEI work at the organization.

Although this project closely examines one education-focused nonprofit, the story of EFA reflects a larger narrative (full of cautions and successes) of what can happen to a well-intentioned and seemingly progressive organization in a landscape and era marked by market-based approaches to DEI work, the non-profit industrial complex, and white supremacy culture. When organizations connect material resources to racial schemas, these organizations not only become more durable, but are also racialized. The role of the Case Manager, the employees hired to work with program participants and who are most likely to be staff of color, provides substantial evidence of EFA being a racialized organization. Through limiting the agency of Case Managers, a decoupling of policies and practices, of reinforcing and legitimating racial hierarchy and reinforcing whiteness as a positive credential, I demonstrate how the DEI work at EFA works to fortify a racial hierarchy both within and outside of the organization.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Friday, June 09, 2023

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