An ally you say? Endorsing White women as allies to encourage perceptions of allyship and organizational identity-safety among Black women
Inside STEM organizations, Black women report feeling greater trust and belonging when there is perceived allyship from other female employees.
Black women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and they face unique challenges inside organizations due to a dual stigma for both their race and gender. This lack of representation, in addition to environments unwelcoming to them, may cause Black women to question their belonging in any of these spaces.
Research indicates that a way to fight potential self-questioning by Black women is to introduce cues that signal that their identity is valued inside an organization. One of them is an allyship cue, which refers to a person inside the organization signaling they support the success of Black women, and an acknowledgement of the obstacles and injustices they face because of their race and gender.
In this article, the authors examine the potential efficacy of an allyship cue for organizational safety and belonging in the context of a STEM environment. Specifically, they aimed to find how the presence of a White female ally would influence the extent to which a Black woman experienced safety and belonging inside an organization. It also evaluated whether the impact of how Black women perceived allyship depended on the race of the ally, whether the “ally” label was self-ascribed by the ally, and how “stigma conscious” a person is (that is, the extent to which a person anticipates experiencing discrimination because of their identity).
Perceived allyship related to higher anticipated trust and belonging in the organization for all participants, with some key differences.
- Participants reported greater perceived allyship from a Black female employee, a White female who self-identified as an ally or a White female that was endorsed as an ally, versus allyship perceived by a White female who did not identify as an ally. This effect was more pronounced among those who reported higher stigma consciousness.
- When compared with the Black female profile, the perceived allyship of the White female was lower when she self-identified as an ally than when her allyship was endorsed by an outside Black woman. This effect was found among Black women high in stigma consciousness.
- Participants with low stigma consciousness reported greater perceived allyship across all conditions.
- Among participants high in stigma consciousness, the Black female employee, the self-identified ally, and the endorsed ally all encouraged higher trust and belonging than the White female whose allyship was not stated. Participants believed that the aforementioned three types of employees cared about helping Black female employees succeed.
This research shows new techniques through which White allies can more effectively demonstrate their allyship to Black women, regardless of their level of stigma consciousness. This study also demonstrates the importance of using allyship not only in the recruitment, but also the retention, of Black women in STEM.
Participants were randomly assigned to read about one of four employees working in a STEM organization. In the first three conditions, participants read about a White female scientist who either self-identified as an ally, was endorsed as an ally by a Black woman, or made no mention of allyship in her employee profile. In the fourth condition, participants read about a Black female employee.
Across all four conditions, participants read their randomly assigned employee profile, reported their perceptions of whether the employee was an ally, their anticipated trust and belonging with the company, and completed a measure of gender–race stigma consciousness.
For Experiment 1, the final sample consisted of 400 participants, all of whom were recruited through a crowdsourcing platform that administers online studies. Participants were compensated $1.50 USD, and the sample was only composed of Black women.
Participants viewed the same fictitious STEM company and were randomly assigned to view the profile of a White female employee, or the profile of a White female employee endorsed as an ally by a Black woman. Similar to Experiment 1, then they had to report whether they perceived the employee to be an ally, as well as their anticipated trust and belonging in the company and their level of stigma consciousness.
The final sample consisted of 234 participants, who were recruited through the same platform as Experiment 1 and were compensated the same amount. Likewise, the sample was exclusively composed of Black women.