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Experiencing privilege at ethnic, gender and senior intersections

Doyin Atewologun (Department of Organisational Psychology, City University London, London, UK)
Ruth Sealy (International Centre for Women Leaders, Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, UK)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 6 May 2014




In management studies, assumptions surround the fixed, categorical and binary nature of male, ethnic and other privileges. Compared to white, middle-class men, “others” are typically assumed not to experience privilege. The authors counter this assumption by applying intersectionality to examine privilege's juxtaposition with disadvantage. The paper offers an elaborated conceptualisation of organisational privilege and insight into the agency employed by individuals traditionally perceived as non-privileged. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


Using diaries and interviews, the paper analyses 20 micro-episodes from four senior minority ethnic women and men's accounts of intersecting ethnic, gender and senior identities. The paper identifies how privilege plays out at the juxtaposition of (male gender and hierarchical) advantage with (female gender and ethnic) disadvantage.


The fluidity of privilege is revealed through contextual, contested and conferred dimensions. Additionally, privilege is experienced in everyday micro-level encounters and the paper illustrates how “sometimes privileged” individuals manage their identities at intersections.

Research limitations/implications

This in-depth analysis draws on a small sample of unique British minority ethnic individuals to illustrate dimensions of privilege.

Practical implications

It is often challenging to discuss privilege. However, the focus on atypical wielders of power challenges binary assumptions of privilege. This can provide a common platform for dominant and non-dominant group members to share how societal and organisational privileges differentially impact groups. This inclusive approach could reduce dominant group members’ psychological and emotional resistance to social justice.


Through bridging privilege and intersectionality perspectives, the paper offers a complex and nuanced perspective that contrasts against prevalent conceptions of privilege as invisible and uncontested.



The authors wish to acknowledge the Editors of this Special Issue for their encouraging comments and give special thanks to Professor Donna Ladkin and the three anonymous reviewers whose comments encouraged and developed this paper. This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant number ES/F020570/1).


Atewologun, D. and Sealy, R. (2014), "Experiencing privilege at ethnic, gender and senior intersections", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 423-439.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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