UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Not all allies are created equal : a relational examination of allied relationships for women of color at work Bhattacharyya, Barnini


In recent years, allyship has been lauded as a solution to support marginalized individuals and dismantle oppressive structures, illustrated by increasing discourse around being a “good ally” in workplaces. While allyship research suggests having work allies can help marginalized employees such as women of color navigate the workplace, traditional allyship scholarship has tended to frame allyship as a general set of overarching behaviours without delineating the nuances of different forms of ally behaviours. Further, allyship has been defined as a relationship between a marginalized person and a demographically dissimilar individual with a dominant identity who advocates on behalf of the marginalized person. This definition may not reflect the reality of marginalized group members as it does not explain how they forge beneficial ally relationships within or outside of their social groups, especially with members of other marginalized groups. Integrating scholarship on positive relationships at work (PRW) with critical intersectional perspectives on allies for women of color, I examine allyship from a relational perspective to uncover what constitutes a “good ally” and what kind of allyships women of color forge at work. Through an inductive qualitative examination of allyship using interviews with 30 dyads of women of color and their workplace allies (for a total of 60 informants), I provide a framework of intersectional allyship that challenges traditional notions of allyship and moves our understanding forward by proposing four key dimensions of allyship behaviours and three types of allied relationships at work. This framework also explicates gaps that exist between allyships expected by women of color vis-à-vis allyship as enacted by allies, thus highlighting challenges in allied practices and relationships.

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