A special presentation of Sociology 24 Introduction to Inequality by Adia Wingfield, Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis
Professional Work in a “Post-Racial” Era: Black Health Care Workers in the New Economy
Abstract: What happens to black professionals when work transforms? In an era of rapid technological change, shrinking protections for workers, and growing income inequality, work is no longer the secure, stable, predictable path to economic stability that it once was for some segments of the population. Instead, organizations today focus on shedding labor, cutting costs, and increasing shareholder returns. At the same time, however, many organizations also profess an interest in meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse population. How do they manage the tensions of adapting to these neoliberal ideals in a more multiracial society? This research study focuses on black professionals in the health care industry to answer this question. Using in depth interviews, field observations, and survey data analysis, I show how work transformation fundamentally changes the labor black professionals do within and outside of organizations. This labor varies by occupational status and gender, leaving black men and black women with divergent responsibilities depending on their position in the organizational hierarchy. Ultimately, this research identifies new challenges for organizations and reveals an additional way that racial inequality gets perpetuated in the new economy.
Bio: Professor Wingfield received a Ph.D. in sociology from Johns Hopkins University in 2004. She specializes in research that examines the ways intersections of race, gender, and class affect social processes at work. In particular, she is an expert on the workplace experiences of minority workers in predominantly white professional settings, and specifically on black male professionals in occupations where they are in the minority. Dr. Wingfield has lectured internationally on her research in this area, and her research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals including and She is the author of several books, most recently the award-winning (Temple University Press). Professor Wingfield teaches classes on race, gender, social theory, and work, that encourage students to wrestle with the ways that intersections of race, gender, and class are institutionalized in various social spheres like media, the workplace, schools, and in public spaces.