Our conversation with Beth A. Livingston, Associate Professor at the Tippie College of Business, co-author of Shared Sisterhood: How to Take Collective Action for Racial and Gender Equity at Work
What was the tipping point that inspired you to write “Shared Sisterhood: How to Take Collective Action for Racial and Gender Equity at Work,”?
Dr. Tina Opie, my co-author, first developed the idea of Shared Sisterhood years ago as she worked with companies to improve their racial and gender equity. She was continually considering how to solve the problem of racism and sexism at work, wondering how we could bridge the divide between women at work to achieve actual workplace equity and inclusion. In 2018, Tina reached out to me about her ideas, and we realized that, in order to write a book about coming together across racial differences, we needed to collaborate. We then began a series of research projects and outreach around Shared Sisterhood as we developed the concepts for the book. But the tipping point was really the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. It was time to meet the moment and launch our ideas into the world. Companies were reaching out to Tina to help them craft responses to the racial injustices they observed in the world and in the workplace, and Tina and I were both fielding question after question from people asking “what can we do?” Shared Sisterhood is our answer to those questions.
What change in the workplace do you hope that people will make after reading your book?
We hope that reading Shared Sisterhood will inspire women and men across racioethnic identities to build authentic connections across their differences. We hope they will dig into their own preconceptions about race and gender and build strong bridges with other people to help achieve shared goals of equity at work. We provide a framework for how collective action toward equity is built on the foundation of strong interpersonal relationships, and we provide tips for everyone to enact Shared Sisterhood in their own workplaces. Overall, Shared Sisterhood is for everyone who cares about building more just, more equitable workplaces and wants to learn what actual actions they can take to do that.
Can you describe “Shared Sisterhood” in a brief definition?
Shared Sisterhood is a philosophy on how to achieve equity across genders and racioethnicity. It is grounded in deep personal introspection and authentic interpersonal connection, with a focus on achieving more equitable outcomes via collective action. We teach readers how to engage in the practices of Dig and Bridge in order to engage in action together with their coworkers.
How will your work and research continue to reach into this topic, what are the next steps?
Tina and I both believe that a strong research-to-practice pipeline requires outreach and communication, and the next few months we will be engaging in podcasts, speaking engagements, and interviews to help people understand how Shared Sisterhood can be a tool for equity at their workplace. We are also continuing to conduct research to validate the approaches we summarize in the book using survey, interview, and experimental methodologies. When your goal is gender and racial equity at work, you cannot be stagnant—you have to always be learning and growing and ready to meet the moment. Through the strong Sisterhood that Tina and I have built together, we are excited to do just that.