Q&A with Courtney McCluney
Courtney McCluney researches, teaches and speaks about ways that organizations and entrepreneurial ecosystems can create diverse, inclusive and equitable communities. She comes to ILR’s Department of Organizational Behavior after a postdoctoral fellowship at the Darden School of Business and the Center for Interprofessional Education at the University of Virginia. McCluney received her doctorate and master’s degrees in psychology from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
What is your research about?
Broadly, my research contributes to the study of diversity, equity, and inclusion in organizations. I primarily investigate the work experiences of people of color to understand how they become and continue to be perpetually marginalized, underrepresented and devalued at work. My work seeks to address three interrelated questions: 1) how do marginalization practices become part of organizational norms?, 2) how are members from marginalized groups navigating these norms? and 3) how might organizations and individuals resist marginalization and create inclusive workplaces? Collectively, I use a variety of theoretical frameworks and methods to investigate how marginalized workers survive and thrive in organizations.
How did you become interested in your field?
My interest in diversity in organizations was initiated from my upbringing in an upwardly mobile Black family. Although my father became the first Black manager at a manufacturing plant, he regularly described instances of racism that he experienced from his subordinates and peers. My own work experiences, beginning in the fast food industry to a science educator and nonprofit consultant, also revealed the precarity of low-wage and nonprofit work and privilege needed to participate in some of these fields. These experiences have stuck with me over the years.
I started conducting research in undergrad, working with clinical and social psychologists to investigate stereotyping and physiological reactions to racism, and continued to examine these phenomena as a graduate student. Working with community, feminist, public health and organizational researchers, I led and published research with diverse employees, which informs my current research program.
What impact do you hope your research will have?
The findings from my research help reveal seemingly innocuous practices in organizations that reproduce inequalities and disparities for marginalized group members. The findings may help managers and senior leaders reconsider and change these practices. Further, my work identifies strategies that marginalized individuals enact to maintain their employment, which can provide useful tools for others to adopt in organizations that are resistant to change.
What attracted you to the ILR School? What are you most excited for about your time at ILR?
Several aspects of ILR were appealing and attractive, notably their highly esteemed faculty and encouragement of interdisciplinary scholarship. I am excited to engage with scholars across disciplines to inform the study work and labor. I regularly draw on psychology, sociology, feminist, legal, and organizational theories to inform my research and teaching, and am excited to continue learning from the brilliant scholars present at ILR. I also see ILR as a space that I can continually grow as a scholar and instructor, especially given the changing workforce issues that affect our society. My interdisciplinary focus and interests in critical issues of diversity and inequality in organizations are a natural fit for the study of work and labor at ILR.
If you could share one piece of advice with your students, what would it be?
Embrace your unique lived experiences as credible source of knowledge! Your perspective is important to share with others as it helps us better understand our social world. At the same time, be open to learn about others’ experiences to broaden your understanding of the world beyond your viewpoint.
Besides your work, what's something that you're passionate about?
I am an avid reader, and have been since I was four years old, because I am passionate about learning from others through storytelling. Reading the Harry Potter series was a life-changing experience that helped to normalize and validate my quirky and fantastical imagination.