Women and Public Policy Program Seminar Series

Imposed Versus Desired Professional Identities: Embracing, Passing, Revealing and their Consequences with Erin Reid

August 21, 2014

This field study of a strategy consulting firm explores how men and women cope with organizational pressures to construct a professional identity that involves full devotion to work. Reid finds that while some people easily embrace this imposed identity, most experience a conflict between it and the less-devoted professional identities that they desire to construct. She traces how men and women navigate this conflict by aiming to stay true to their desired selves while either (1) passing as adherents to, or (2) overtly revealing their deviance from, the imposed identity. Unpacking the different ways in which people manipulate features of their work, we construct and manage these deviant professional selves. Drawing on performance and interview data, she demonstrates how both those who embrace the imposed identity and those pass as adherents to it are held in high esteem and rewarded by the firm, while those who reveal their deviance are recognized as such and penalized. Speaker: Erin Reid, Assistant Professor, Boston University

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