From Conversation to Action : Perceptions and Practices of Allyship in aSwedish Workplace Context

University essay from KTH/Skolan för industriell teknik och management (ITM); KTH/Skolan för industriell teknik och management (ITM)

Abstract: Motivated by laws and regulations, moral grounds or the potential business advantages a more diverse workforce might bring, Diversity Management has become an ubiquitous part of organizational practices. Still, minorities are regularly exposed to social and structural discrimination at their workplaces. Allyship mayplay a vital role in changing this. The purpose of this thesis is to explore how allyship is perceived and practiced in a Swedish organization whose members have undergone training in allyship. In short, workplace allyship is the support and advocacy for the inclusion, belonging and career development of a socially disadvantaged or marginalized group. While more and more companies are including allyship into their Diversity Management practices, organizational research is yet to catch up. In addition, there is a very limited body of literature, independent of research field, which surveys allyship outside an American or native English-speaking context. Thus, claims that allyship is cross-cultural are so far founded in theory rather than empirical evidence. Constructed from a single case study of a Swedish subsidiary of an American company, this thesis presents an empirical model of the perceptions and practices of workplace allyship encompassing its motivators and demotivators, resulting behaviours, and challenges concerning its implementation. The model is based on interviews with both non-managers and managers but focuses its attention on disadvantaged group members and managers - two important perspectives that hitherto have received very limited attention in allyship research. The findings suggest that the way allyship is perceived and practiced is directly affected by both organizational enablers and barriers and the context of allyship. It is found that local endeavours must be made to contextualize centralized initiatives to a larger extent. In particular, educational efforts need to be more explicit about both the essence of and interrelation between allyship and systemic discrimination, since such connotations seem to be lost in translation when brought outside its original American historical, cultural and social context. If these are not made clear, there might be a risk that what is perceived as allyship helps preserve the very inequitable systems it conceptually is intended to disrupt. This insight motivates further research on the actual effects of workplace allyship.

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