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U.S. Department of Labor Futurework
  Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century
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Passion with an Umbrella:
Grassroots Activism in the Workplace

Maureen Scully and Amy Segal

Sloan School of Management
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Task Force Working Paper #WP13

Prepared for the May 25-26, 1999, conference “Symposium on Changing Employment Relations and New Institutions of Representation”

September 1, 1999

Final Sample

In total, we conducted interviews with thirty-nine activists: twenty-two white women, seven men of color, five women of color, and five white men. In addition to interviews with activists, we interviewed five top managers in whose areas there were active diversity efforts in order to understand their reactions to the activists and any efforts to assist these groups. Our sample of activists disproportionately represents men and women of color and white women, relative to their percentages of this workforce. We expected members of these groups to be more involved, because they may have familiarity with and frustration over issues of inequality.

Our final sample includes several informal groups that we discovered. Most activists were affiliated with one or more groups. The following table lists the groups we will discuss, distinguishing those that drew their membership corporate-wide versus from local work areas. The table also indicates whether the group is ongoing, defunct, or emerging. Most of our data comes from ongoing groups. However, there were two recently defunct groups to which activists referred frequently to place their current efforts in context. There was one emerging effort on ageism, an issue on which one activist was beginning to stir interest.

Table 1

Activist Groups and Their Status


Group Status

Affirmative Action Task Force


Multicultural Network


African-American Caucus


Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GALA)


Women of PineCo





Diversity Project


Diversity Reps


Women of Wonderland (WOW)


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