LGBTQ research in management and institutions: broadening the lens

Erhan Aydin (Usak University, Usak, Turkey) (IPAG Business School, Paris, France)
Fiona Colgan (Birkbeck College, University of London, London, UK)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 22 May 2020

Issue publication date: 22 May 2020



Aydin, E. and Colgan, F. (2020), "LGBTQ research in management and institutions: broadening the lens", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 33 No. 3, pp. 449-455.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

LGBTQ research in management and institutions: broadening the lens


LGBTQ movements in the world may be viewed as following a historical process whereby a social movement seeks legitimation by peer and legal systems so asserting its right to exist (Maurer, 1971; Suchman, 1995). The historical progress of LGBTQ people and their movement(s) demonstrate the ways in which they have campaigned to gain legal rights by adopting the goal of legitimisation of being LGBTQ in society. The history of the LGBTQ movement illustrates this legitimising process in three phases. In the first phase, individual reactions against an authority turn to a movement through becoming small groups (Vincent, 2016; Ataman, 2015). In the second phase, a movement requires becoming a community or constituency organising to seek to have legitimacy in a state (Vincent, 2016). In the third phase, the organised community completes the legitimising process via gaining rights to establish representation through first non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (Yılmaz and Göçmen, 2016). Then, the organisations aim to protect LGBTQ rights against any unethical and unjust implementation of a state and society’s laws and practices and set out to gain more LGBTQ rights and create voice and visibility as they become legitimately institutionalised (Ozeren and Aydin, 2016). As Rumens et al. (2016) suggested, LGBTQ movements have adopted some mainly shared political and civil goals such as challenging heteronormative constructions of femininity and masculinity, homophobia, heterosexism, the decriminalisation of homosexuality and securing legal protection and rights. In order to achieve these goals, the LGBTQ movement has established NGOs and forms of community/constituency within trade unions and company LGBTQ network groups (Hunt, 1999; Colgan and Ledwith, 2002, Colgan and McKearney, 2012; Kollen, 2016) and worked to affirm LGBTQ identit(ies) within institutions such as the family, education, work, law, state and religion (Scott, 2008; Healy et al., 2018).

Institutions are a critical component of the social environment that shapes organisational structures – the orders of social relationships and sovereignty – which indicate who has power and gains access to beneficial resources (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983; Fligstein, 1991; Yang and Konrad, 2011). In this regard, the power of these institutional structures comes from self-reinforcement through reproducing power positions and eliciting dominant elites to protect these structures so creating a continual position of authority (Greenwood and Hinings, 1996). However, much current LGBTQ research has considered the experiences and social relation of LGBTQs in a workplace context by adopting an individual level of analysis rather than an organisational/national level and via multi-level analysis (e.g. Yılmaz and Göçmen, 2016; Colgan, 2011, 2016; Colgan et al., 2007; Rumens, 2011, 2016; Wright, 2011; Colgan and Mckearney, 2012; Creed, 2003; Creed et al., 2010; Oztürk and Ozbilgin, 2015; Rumens and Broomfield, 2014). In order to address the perceived lack of research addressing individual LGBTQ experiences connected with larger social and institutional structures (Wijeyesinghe, 2017), we and our colleague Oscar Holmes IV invited contributions to the stream “LGBTQ Research in Management and Institutions: Broadening the Lens” at the 10th Equality, Diversity and Inclusion International Conference, 2017. This stream successfully stimulated discussion of the ways in which LGBTQ research could be relocated in institutional settings allowing multi-level analysis within a variety of different institutional contexts such as families, workplaces, NGOs and trade unions as well as education and the state for example. This special issue (SI) builds on from the “Broadening the Lens” stream. It explores the ways in which the LGBTQ pursuit of legitimation and the dynamics by which these are shaped, understood and experienced within organisations and society can be mutually influencing (Acker, 2006; Colgan and Rumens, 2015; Healy et al. 2018). In this SI, we aim to contribute to management and institutions’ research by extending the range of conceptual, institutional and contextual knowledge and understanding regarding the interlocked practices, processes and dynamics of such mutual interaction. We are pleased to be able to introduce papers that are based on research across a range of countries including France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and the UK.

The SI starts with the paper by Rifat Kamasak, Mustafa Ozbilgin, Sibel Baykut and Meltem Yavuz entitled “Moving from intersectional hostility to intersectional solidarity: insights from LGBTQ individuals in Turkey”. This paper demonstrates the value of exploring intersectionality as a relational phenomenon (Ozbilgin and Vassilopoulou, 2018) at the intersection of both individual and institutional levels. It does so by shining a spotlight on LGBTQ experiences of institutions in Turkey by operationalising the concepts of intersectional hostility and intersectional solidarity at individual and institutional levels. In doing so, it seeks to close the gap in empirical research exploring the intersections of gender, sexuality and class at the individual and institutional levels in order to understand how these intersections construct unequal working conditions. The research provides an innovative multidimensional model illustrating the dynamism of intersectional encounters between LGBTQ individuals and institutions. Based on the findings, the authors suggest that in order to tackle inequality, organisations should recognise that encounters may be more strongly shaped by the institution rather than by individual effort. Thus, equality/diversity interventions should move from a focus on individual training on topics such as unconscious bias to focus on changes in institutional intersections so encompassing a wider range of policies to supporting diversity.

Following on, Simone Pulcher, Marco Guerci and Thomas Kollen in “Unions as institutional entrepreneurs: the contribution of unions to the diffusion and adaptation of LGBT diversity initiatives” highlight the potential role of trade unions. In doing so, they draw attention to a hitherto marginalized employee relations actor by providing an analysis of the ways in which unions can contribute to the diffusion of LGBT diversity management practices. This paper, by focussing on the Italian context, adds an important perspective to a discourse that has previously consisted of predominantly Anglo−American research. It explores the ways in which institutions can be subject to both incremental and discontinuous change processes, drawing on DiMaggio’s notion of “institutional entrepreneurs” (1988) to cast trade unions as actors with sufficient resources and an interest in the realization of new institutional arrangements. Their paper raises some interesting political and strategic questions on how best to move forward building on the individual representation, negotiation and collective agreements achieved to date. It concludes that within Italy, unions may fairly be viewed as institutional entrepreneurs in the field of LGBT workforce diversity, capable of reaching a range of organizations which otherwise might not have implemented LGBT diversity initiatives.

Simon Roberts then moves on to utilise Jenkins’ (2014) concept of the interaction order to consider identity construction as a two-way process. His research reveals that for individuals, asserting an identity is not sufficient, as identity construction is also dependent on the perceptions and categorisation by others in a given context. “The intersection of professionalism, gay men, bodies and power”, specifically focuses on how gay male professionals in positions of authority in the UK, try to make sense of themselves within a context of varying notions of organisational heteronormativity, masculinity and professionalism in organisations. Roberts explores how as a consequence gay men try to manage their identities, bodies and selves in the workplace. A key theme running through the paper is the issue of agency vs constraint. The paper explores the ways in which what Roberts terms the “body project” for gay men involves negotiated and contested terrains in the interaction order (Jenkins, 2014). He concludes that as a result many gay men within professional positions of authority feel they need to conform by fitting within the heteronormative expectations attached to these roles within their organisations. The paper brings to the fore wider questions about the ways in which professionalism serves as a normalising process that pressurises gay men to perform a specific type of masculinity. It points to the need for a more inclusive reappraisal of the meanings attached to professionalism in institutions and academic research.

Next, Scott Lawley’s paper “Spaces and laces: insights from LGBT initiatives in sporting institutions” develops a conceptual framework which highlights the differences between initiatives to change heteronormative cultures at institutional levels and the levels of individual organisation spaces. His conceptual framework draws on insights from Butler’s (1990) research on gender performativity, Lefebvre’s (1991) work on historical notions of space plus Ahmed’s (2006, 2012) insights on the gap between institutional diversity initiatives and the heteronormative nature of specific organisational spaces. Lawley’s paper uses this framework to examine LGBT exclusion from sporting institutions in the UK, seeing it as a phenomenon which takes place in specific spaces such as the locker rooms, pitches and stadia within these institutions. The conceptual framework also informs his evaluation of a range of change and diversity initiatives to combat discrimination and promote LGBT inclusion in sport. The paper concludes that these change initiatives can only be effective in tackling heteronormative cultures if they engage with the multiple, heterogeneous, institutional lived spaces within sports institutions rather than operating solely at a blanket institutional regulatory level.

Aidan McKearney’s paper moves from a consideration of LGBTQ issues within a specific occupation or sector to a comparative study of how recent legislative change has impacted sexual minority rights in Britain and Ireland. In “Changing contexts: from criminal to citizen”, McKearney contributes to the “Broadening the lens” SI by drawing on debates within the sexual citizenship literature (Weeks, 2000; Richardson, 2017). His paper offers a useful reflection on the tensions and controversies inherent in the pursuit of sexual citizenship as a route to LGBTQI legitimation. The paper illustrates the changes taking place in LGBTQI lives and movements in two specific historical, geographical and spatial contexts. Further it offers insights into a hitherto neglected group within LGBTQ research, the lives and LGBTQI movements of gay men who live and work in rural and small-town environments. The paper concludes that significant advances have indeed taken place in both Britain and Ireland post-2000, bringing positive impacts which have reached beyond the cities to extend to non-metropolitan gay men at work and in their communities. It also points to the particular importance of local LGBTQI groups in non-metropolitan locales, given the ongoing need to increase voice, visibility and challenge heteronormative norms and traditions as appropriate in differing contexts.

In “The role of sexual orientation in entrepreneurial intention: the case of Parisian LGB people”, Rony Germon, Severine Leloarne, Myriam Razgallah, Imen Safraou and Adnane Maalaoui adopt a quantitative approach to investigate the role that sexual orientation may play in entrepreneurial intention. In doing so, they seek to contribute to the literature considering whether the entrepreneurial intention is stronger when minorities (women, black and minority ethnic and LGB people) perceive discrimination in the labour market and workplace organisations. The authors identify a research gap with respect to LGB people in the minorities and entrepreneurship research. Thus, the study analyses the results of a survey of 654 individuals in the Paris region of France, testing the impact of sexual orientation on the antecedents of entrepreneurial intention and on entrepreneurial intention, as defined by Ajzen (1991). The study concludes that the LGB respondents did express a higher entrepreneurial intention than non-LGB respondents in their highly educated sample. It also sheds light on the key antecedent which may usefully assist and support the entrepreneurial intentions of LGB people.

Another welcome addition to the LGBTQ literature is provided by the penultimate paper focusing on tourism “Pride festivals as a space of self-expression: tourism, body and place”. Sonay Kaygalak-Celebi, Sehriban Kaya, Emir Ozeren and Ebru Gunlu-Kucukaltan adopt a critical, poststructuralist stance in order to explore the authentic experiences and sense-making processes of LGBTQ+ participants of Amsterdam Pride. They ask how the tourists attending the Pride festival experience tourism as a means of self-expression in the interaction of body and space. They seek to answer their question by using the concepts of intrapersonal and interpersonal authenticity (Wang, 1999; Poria, 2007). The paper contributes to a growing body of knowledge around issues of LGBTQ+ lived identities within the context of an oppressive heteronormative social order. It concludes that Amsterdam Pride represents a unique, authentic and transgressive experience for LGBTQ+ tourists, if only for a short time because they are able to live their sexual identities openly and express themselves in a safe and unrestricted environment. However, the paper echoes some of the competing tensions between a desire for queer, dissident expressions vs a normalising trend within LGBTQ+ organising also identified by McKearney in his discussion of LGBTQI groups. Nonetheless, at a time when the purpose of LGBTQ+ Pride festivals may be questioned, this paper reminds us of the value of shaking up the heteronormative order by creating spaces for LGBTQ people to express ideas, beliefs and practices and participate in a collective LGBTQ+ identity.

The final paper, “Inclusion and exclusion of sexual minorities at organisations: evidence from LGBT NGOs in Turkey and the UK”, focuses on the ways in which LGBT NGOs understand and perceive the inclusion and exclusion of LGBT individuals in LGBT NGOs in Turkey and the UK. Its authors Erhan Aydin and Emir Ozeren identify its originality as one of the first scholarly investigations of LGBT NGOs. It contributes to the SI through its exploration of both individual and organisational and/or macro levels of analysis (Oztürk and Ozbilgin, 2015). Thus, it contributes to the LGBT literature by demonstrating several complexities, contradictions and tensions based on the specific characteristics of each country setting, where specific cultural, societal, political and legislative/regulative forces come into play in LGBT inclusion and exclusion within organisations. Finally, it offers intriguing conclusions concerning the significance and the role of context in shaping public discourse, policies and practices of LGBT NGOs in Turkey and the UK.

In conclusion, we hope this special issue on “LGBT Research in Management and Institutions: Broadening the Lens” is well received by readers. It includes eight papers which extend the LGBTQ literature across conceptual, contextual and institutional fields. It also provides a range of varied perspectives and insights to practitioners, policy makers, consultants and academics on the LGBTQ pursuit for legitimation within different institutions and contexts. We believe that the originality of this SI is its exploration of the ways in which the LGBTQ pursuit of legitimation and the dynamics by which these are shaped, understood and experienced can be mutually influencing at the intersection of both individual and institutional levels.

The SI could not have been put together without our contributors, the hard work and support of our team of reviewers plus of course the support from the editorial team at Emerald Publishing. We would like to thank them all.


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