Research for Social Good is a MethodSpace focus for October. We are delving into this broad topic with guest posts, interviews, and links to articles or instructional resources.
This guest post is by independent scholar, author, and consultant, Dr. Kristine D. Jones-Pasley.
The Challenges and Opportunities of an Inclusion Study
When I started my doctoral program, I knew that I would want to work on a dissertation study that focused on a social issue. At the beginning, I had no clue what my topic would be but as I worked through the program, I realized that diversity and inclusion were topics that I wanted to focus on. Although I am an African American woman, I did not want to concentrated on gender and race. I thought about age as at the time I was staring down on age 40, but I put that aside also. I wanted a study on a topic that was not talked about much.
One evening, I was reading about servicemembers returning home from war and some of the physical and mental challenges they were having. I started wondering about employment for servicemember after their military service. This led me to research servicemember hiring and the challenges that many were having due to disabilities from their service. When I read about disabilities, I realized that I knew very little about the hiring rates and challenges of people with disabilities. Although, I had read EEO statements and completed yearly training on discrimination, etc., I had not worked with anyone with a visible disability. Why didn’t I work with people with disabilities? What were the rates of hiring people with disabilities? I knew what I wanted to work on for my dissertation, hiring rates of people with disabilities. The problem was going to be how could I work on such a sensitive subject.
When I approached my dissertation mentor about the subject matter, I was warned that it would be a difficult subject to research. I was determined; I was going to research this topic. One small problem…no organization was going to open their books to let me see their rates of hiring people with disabilities. Back to the drawing board. I had my subject group but I needed a topic.
I was scrolling through company websites and I saw all of this information about diversity and inclusion but the images did not reflect the wording. This was my Charlie Brown “That’s It!” moment. I wanted to investigate inclusion practices for people with disabilities. It was important that the information was obtained through public sources as no organization wanted to be seen in a poor light and I did not want to open myself to a lawsuit. It was agreed upon that I would conduct a qualitative content/document analysis, which would include reviewing public materials such as company generated documents and websites, articles, and interviews.
Once I had my focus, I worked on my research questions. This was difficult in that I was passionate about my study (maybe too passionate) and some of my initial questions were more emotional than rational. I wasn’t trying to determine what companies were not doing, I wanted to highlight what they were doing to create environments of inclusion. After putting emotion aside, I focused on one research question with four sub-questions:
R1: How are companies creating an environment of inclusion for employees with disabilities?
R1a: What is leadership’s role in creating an inclusive environment?
R1b: How do company policies and procedures influence inclusive environments?
R1c: How do company values influence inclusive environments?
R1d: What training do leaders and manager attend that help foster an environment of inclusion?
When it came time to search the literature for previous research, it was difficult. The majority of the research focused on attitudes of employers and employees regarding disabilities or the Americans with Disabilities Act. I would hazard a guess that the literature is still lacking on the topic of diversity and inclusion outside of the areas mentioned.
The selection of companies to include in my study took a bit of time as I wanted organizations that a lot of information for me to pull. I initially wanted to conduct my study on Walgreens, which has an awesome diversity and inclusion program. Unfortunately, my requests were ignored so I decided to focus on multiple companies and included Walgreens in my study. After researching 15 companies, I narrowed down my study to five companies including Walgreens.
Although I could not interview members of the organizations that I was studying, I wanted to speak with experts in the field of diversity and inclusion. I conducted semi-structured interviews with experts and they were able to provide me with a foundation on the challenges of employment for people with disabilities and what was needed to support organizations in hiring people with disabilities.
One of the major challenges in conducting the qualitative content/document analysis is the amount of data generated. I created an 11-category coding framework to help organize the data. Margrit Schreier’s qualitative content analysis process helped me in creating and modifying the framework. [See the text, Qualitative Content Analysis in Practice, including sample chapters.] Once I had a framework and system in place, I was able to work through the data but it took awhile to read, research, and cross-reference the information.
As there is such a gap with inclusion studies, I am considering re-evaluating each organization. The study would include comparing the information from 2012/2013 to 2018. I haven’t been on the websites of the companies recently and it would be interesting to see the changes…if any.
When I start my dissertation journey, I never thought that the research conducted would become a foundation for a career outside of academia. I figured once I earned my PhD, I would teach and write academic research papers. From my research, the fire within me regarding diversity and inclusion burned even brighter. I started blogging and wrote my first book, “You’re Not the Boss of Me! A Guide to Leadership Development! and my next book, DIVERSITY: The 9-Letter Dirty Word will be published by the end of 2018. I started my own business, 1DrKris LLC, where I focus on leadership, diversity and inclusion education.
Although I am no longer in the academic classroom, I am still in a classroom. When I write materials, speak at events, I merge the scholarly with the practical. I am an educator at heart and my goal is to educate those around me. I still review academic journals and other materials and reference this information in the work that I do.
When I am speaking on diversity and inclusion, one of the big things that I discuss are company websites, this goes back to my dissertation study and reviewing company websites. I talk about the importance of diversity and posting images that reflect the diversity of their employees and customers. I now have people contacting me asking me to look at their websites and provide feedback. I never thought my dissertation would open doors to a career as an independent scholar and consultant.
More about Kris
Dr. Kristine D. Jones-Pasley is the owner of 1DrKris LLC, a company focused on educating and supporting organizations on the topics of leadership, diversity, and inclusion. She is determined to educate as many people as she can through consulting, blogging, and writing books. Kristine’s next book, “DIVERSITY: The 9-Letter Dirty Word” will be published in December 2018. When not researching and writing, she and her husband travel and collect Funko Pops…they have over 750!