Race and Sex in Organizing Work: ‘Diversity,’ Discrimination, and Integration

Source: Tristin Green, Emory Law Journal, 2009

From the abstract:
This Article provides the first extended analysis of the conscious use of race and sex in decisions organizing work. It takes the position that race and sex are being used in organizing work-in assigning clients and job tasks, in composing work teams, in staffing committees and outreach groups-and that they are being used pursuant to a “diversity” narrative in ways that are likely to entrench workplace inequality. At the same time, it argues that race and sex could be used in those same decisions to reduce workplace discrimination and to further equality in work. Drawing on a rich body of research in sociology, social psychology, and organizational theory, the Article exposes the risks and possibilities of race and sex in organizing work by focusing on the role that social interactions play in producing and reproducing disadvantage and on the role of organizational and institutional structures in shaping those interactions.

Based on this empirical foundation and on the Supreme Court case law governing the use of race and sex in employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Article advances a comprehensive approach to the permissibility of race and sex in decisions organizing work. It argues that Title VII permits the use of race and sex in decisions organizing work to serve the goal of reducing employment discrimination, provided that individual race- and sex-based decisions are part of an employer’s systemic integrative effort. This approach recognizes that decisions organizing work differ from decisions at moments of entry, promotion, and exit in ways that matter to an anti discrimination analysis. They are “softer” in that their benefits and harms are not always immediately discernible, and they can impose costs as well as benefits on women and people of color, even when they are intended to (and do) further anti discrimination goals. The approach to Title VII developed in this Article accounts for these differences and offers a unique opportunity to harness the existing business case for diversity to progress meaningful integration in work and to foster reduced workplace discrimination.

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