Observing Privilege: Examining Race, Class, and Gender in Health and Human Service Organizations


  • Leslie Collins Fisk University
  • Sandra L. Barnes Vanderbilt University




Race, class, and gender dynamics can result in power differentials and discrimination in organizations. Such deleterious effects are particularly troubling for non-profit agencies with diverse employee and community bases and that endeavor to redress social inequality through service and program provision. Foucault (1975, 1980) as well as Andersen and Collins’s (2007) theories provide a means to conceptualize race, class, and gender as power processes that contribute to the production and maintenance of organizational privilege (unearned benefits and advantages). This study uses bivariate and multivariate analyses and data from five health and human service organizations to assess employee perceptions about dynamics that foster organizational privilege. Modeling results indicate that although organizational position is the most influential indicator in explaining perceptions about participation in decision-making, race is the most important predictor of perceptions about access to learning resources and influential relationships. These results also suggest that formally educated White employees are best positioned to access privilege. Thus, such organizations may be fostering social injustices with detrimental effects for employee culture and the communities they serve.


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How to Cite

Collins, L., & Barnes, S. L. (2014). Observing Privilege: Examining Race, Class, and Gender in Health and Human Service Organizations. Journal for Social Action in Counseling & Psychology, 6(1), 61–83. https://doi.org/10.33043/JSACP.6.1.61-83