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2019 International Association for Conflict Management Conference

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When and Why Allyship Backfires in the Pursuit of Workplace Equality

Keywords: discrimination equality minority allies ally allyship race gender helping diversity inclusion

Abstract: One way to understand how workplace discrimination can be counteracted is to study the role of allies — dominant group members who support minorities in the pursuit of workplace equality. Although considerable attention has been devoted to examining what motivates dominant group members to become allies, less is known about what happens once they begin the process of helping. In this conceptual article, we make two overriding theoretical arguments that challenge the conventional wisdom on workplace allies. First, those who purport to want to be allies sometimes fail to increase workplace equality because they (1) possess ulterior motives (a lack of benevolence), and/or (2) lack a sufficient understanding of the underpinnings of discrimination (a lack of competence). Second, even when offered counter-productive help, minorities still feel pressure to accept it. We conclude with a discussion of the various ways that this theory can direct future empirical work on these topics.

Andrew Carton, University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Karren Knowlton, University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School


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