Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Asia Eaton

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Valentina Bruk-Lee

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Dionne Stephens

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Matthew Marr

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


social class; gender; race; white supremacy; intersectionality; antiracism; workforce

Date of Defense



Professional workplace norms in the U.S., such as wearing a suit to an interview or offering a firm handshake as a greeting (Sharma & Sharma, 2012), are behaviors considered ideal among members of a specific occupation (Cohn et al., 2017). This project investigated how people from working-class backgrounds in the U.S. learned, adopted, and conformed to workplace norms as they moved from a lower-status to a higher-status position within their career. Guided by Intersectionality Theory, Cultural Mismatch Theory, and the Stereotype Content Model, these studies examined how workplace norms shifted as employees changed social class and interacted with employees’ racial and gender identities. We conducted two qualitative studies in which White and African American women and men were interviewed regarding their experiences learning workplace norms throughout their class transition. The first qualitative study explored the professional norms learned by White and African American women and men who experienced career mobility. Inductive thematic analysis was used to glean themes from the data. All our respondents recounted that there are workplace norms they had to learn during their transition, with some norms being consistent across race and gender groups, but many varying between these groups. Using the same sample, in the second study we investigated how participants’ workplace norms fit into a framework of White Supremacy Culture (WSC). Deductive thematic analysis found support for many of the facets of WSC. Additionally, awareness of these norms varied for different identity groups.





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