Podcast: Buchter (2021). Escaping the Ellipsis of Diversity: Insider Activists’ Use of Implementation Resources to Influence Organization Policy

Lisa Buchter – Emlyon Business School

Samantha E. Erskine – Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University
Lorenzo Skade – European University Viadrina

Article link: https://doi.org/10.1177/0001839220963633

Transcript of the podcast:

Samantha E. Erskine  00:04

Hello, everyone! Welcome to the ASQ Blog podcast. The ASQ Blog is a student-run community of scholars who enjoy reading articles from the Administrative Science Quarterly. My name is Samantha E. Erskine, one of your co-hosts today. I am a 5th year PhD candidate in organizational behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Lorenzo Skade  00:32

Hello, everyone. My name is Lorenzo Skade. I’m a 4th year PhD student in management and organization theory at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany.

Samantha E. Erskine  00:45

Today we are joined by Dr. Lisa Buchter, an assistant professor at Emlyon business school in France. What a great global conversation we’re going to have today. Lisa, many thanks for joining us!

Dr. Lisa Buchter  00:58

Hey, thank you very much. I’m very happy to be with you today.

Samantha E. Erskine  01:03

So Lisa, you conducted an inductive longitudinal case study of five LGBT rights activist networks in France, and explored the ways in which they produce content and ready-to-use implementation resources that reflect changes the activists want to see, and to leverage more performative in-depth and relevant change in organizations. What inspired the research context for your paper?

Dr. Lisa Buchter  01:30

Thank you very much for the question. So my dissertation was about how activists were reacting to the development of diversity programs in corporations, and I was interested in knowing: Do they think this is a relevant type of programs? What do they do about it? Do they want to engage with the development of this type of programs? So this is how I got interested in this topic. I started with a very ethnographic approach. So I followed activists who collaborated with companies on improving the diversity commitments. I followed groups that cover a pretty broad range of topics, ranging from Muslim communities in France, LGBT communities and people with disabilities who were all trying to improve the way corporations approached diversity programs and the things that they did in companies to be better inclusive of these different minorities.

Samantha E. Erskine  02:28

Interesting! So, you use the term ‘LGBT’ in your paper but people often say ‘LGBTQ’, ‘LGBTQQI’, and even ‘LGBTQ2S’? What was your rationale for using ‘LGBT’ versus other acronyms?

Dr. Lisa Buchter  02:44

Thank you for this question. I think it’s a very important question. Well, what I try to do in general in my research is to use a concept that are used by the actors themselves. So in these cases, I interviewed quite a few LGBT activists, and this is the way they defined themselves when I interviewed them–so, around 2015-2016 and maybe it would have evolved if I interviewed them in 2021. I also based my word choice on the archives that I used where these activists used mostly a framing around LGBT questions and around the fight against homophobia, and later on transphobia. And so as I explained in the paper, the first focus on homophobia really expanded to questions of being better inclusive of transgender people later on, and so they cover up more the fight against transphobia later on. So this was a big question from me on how to really reflect the type of action that they were actually engaged in, when I was writing this paper. So at that point, notions such as ‘queer’ were almost absent from the data I have. So I try to stick with the use of the words that they felt were relevant to address these questions in corporations.

Samantha E. Erskine  04:09

Thank you.

Lorenzo Skade  04:15

So your analysis is based on the longitudinal data you collected on the websites of the LGBT networks. Could you please elaborate on how you utilized NVivo for data management? And how utilizing a grounded theory approach in NVivo helped you uncover the organizations’ strategies, challenges, and successes in-depth and over time?

Dr. Lisa Buchter  04:40

Thank you very much, also a great question. I think NVivo is really a wonderful tool for conducting inductive research. And for me, it was tremendously helpful to keep track of when things occurred when I was knee-deep in the archival data because I was kind of trying to code all of this textual analysis, and knowing when things happen was really important to help me have this kind of longitudinal and also bird’s eye view of the data that I was coding. So I don’t think I would have been able to see in any other ways, how the first strategy of his actors was always first and foremost, to design their own implementation resources before they use all this kind of repertoire that we traditionally associate with activist and insider activities such as denunciation, making claims, creating reputational threats for organization. All of these things did happen in the data but they happened later on, after the activists tried to design resources and only if the organization didn’t really accept to embrace the resources that were developed by the activists. So I still try to code everything manually, to keep this inductive approach and being really grounded in the data, which is very time consuming. But I think NVivo was really extremely helpful to develop second order categories from my initial codes, and also across the five cases. NVivo was also super helpful to see how these categories were spread out over time. And it also helped me design the graph that shows how new topics emerged throughout time. So I had this idea that, for instance, the fight against transphobia, was not really present in the early 2000s. But it was really the use of the word frequency options of NVivo that enabled me to see, okay, this term started to be used around these years. It really peaked around 2016, 2017. So this was really helpful but it was helpful in the second time after I started to develop my own initial analysis of what was happening with the data.

Lorenzo Skade  07:06

Thank you. How did your findings take shape in the process of writing your paper? And what was the most surprising element of your findings?

Dr. Lisa Buchter  07:17

Thank you. So I think I really took an inductive approach. And so what was really surprising for me was to understand that the main strategy of these activists was really to develop these programs to design what I call the implementation resources. And what was really surprising is that when I came back to the literature on this question, I felt that this was something that probably was studied elsewhere, and realizing that actually, we knew very little about how insider activists design this type of implementation resources was kind of surprising for me. I think that this comes from the fact that we have this vision of activists as people who are mostly creating kind of conscientiousness and have contentious tactics. And so what my data showed me is that it draws a picture of activists as being more kind of allies to organizations. They are allies developing programs within organizations and they give a lot of time and energy to design programs that are both relevant for them, but also for the hiring organization. I think such an image is still very different from the image that we have when we say the word ‘activist’. And so I think it needs to be better understood and it’s still something that I think is not really realized by people who see activists as mostly being threatening to organizations.

Lorenzo Skade  08:55

Thanks a lot. Very insightful.

Samantha E. Erskine  08:58

Yes! So, Lisa, you conducted and published this study as a solo author–amazing! What was your journey like from ideation to submission to publishing this paper in ASQ?

Dr. Lisa Buchter  09:13

Thank you for the question. So I was still a doctoral student when I wrote this paper first. It was part of the research I was doing for my dissertation, and it actually emerged from meeting a couple of LGBT activists, who told me about the action that they were doing inside the organization. And they said, ‘Oh, and if you want to have more information about this, you can check out my website.’ Then I realized that this kind of websites were kind of gold mines because they existed for quite a few of his internal networks. There were two US based activists, but it was also a great way to trace their strategies and actions from the early 2000s when civil unions became legal between same sex partners in France. So that was a great resource. I wasn’t planning to use archives so much in my final dissertation, but when I discovered this data, I really found it very powerful and I said, okay, I need to do something about it. I did submit an early draft of this paper to another journal, and it was rejected, which is my way to say to you that you should never get discouraged. And even if you get rejections from trying to submit a paper, it is great to keep trying. So when I received the feedback from this journal, I reworked the paper and the feedback was actually quite insightful. And then I submitted it to ASQ. The whole process with the ASQ was honestly amazing. I think I’ve never received feedback that I felt was so constructive and very taking care of me and trying to make me write a better paper. So I really enjoyed reworking the paper, even though it was stressful, because it was a potentially very important stake for my academic career. But I felt like the reviewers were all here to help me make this paper stronger one, which was a great experience. I also immensely appreciated that ASQ gave me feedback promptly, which was not always my experience with other academic journals. So this whole process was really good. I think the paper is much sharper, thanks to the type of feedback I got from the reviewers.

Samantha E. Erskine  11:41

Wow, such really great insights. And within the context of you writing this as part of your dissertation, and then needing this to figure out your career, I’m wondering if you could share a timeline. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the publishing this paper coinciding with you looking for jobs?

Dr. Lisa Buchter  12:05

Well, the great news for me is that I actually got my job before the ASQ paper was accepted. I received the first R&R from this ASQ paper, one month into my new job as an assistant professor. So I think it was still very important because I’m on the tenure track position and therefore the fact that I published this ASQ is a game changer for me and my academic career, which was really important. But I submitted the paper to ASQ when I was still on the job market, but I received the R&R after I started the position.

Samantha E. Erskine  12:50

Exciting! Congratulations on that–the timing worked perfectly. So, you mentioned that you got really good feedback that was constructive, and also took care of you. What was some of the feedback?

Dr. Lisa Buchter  13:02

I think that what is still staying with me and what I found was the most impressive was this one reviewer who went back and read a few of the academic articles that I was already discussing, because the reviewer thought that these ideas were already present in the work existing in the literature. So they went back to this literature, and specifically pinpointed the way I indeed contribute to this literature, which felt amazing. So, because they took the time to do that, and they took the care to that, and so indeed after going back to these papers, they were convinced that I actually had a contribution to make, but they helped me rephrase this contribution in a way that felt more convincing to them, which I felt like they were doing my major job as a writer, but it was really a great feedback. I could see that this reviewer in particular spent a lot of time working on my paper with me, and gave me very to-the-point feedback on this paper.

Samantha E. Erskine  14:12

That sounds so amazing. How did you manage to balance work and your life during that time?

Dr. Lisa Buchter  14:20

Great question. So like I said, I received my first R&R, as I just started a job as an assistant professor in my new school here at emlyon. So the first round of revision was really intense for me, because I was designing and teaching three new classes at the same time. But I felt like I was given the necessary time to do all the revisions, which was great. They gave me six months, I think. And the feedback were very clear, and I think I had the great chance of having the three reviewers going in kind of the same direction. I know that it’s sometimes a huge tension if the reviewers disagree about what is important in your paper. Actually, there was one point of disagreement, now that I think about it. One of the reviewers hoped that they would develop my paper in another direction. So you had to make this kind of decision as I was rewriting the paper, but the first few months were really intense. Just because starting as a full time professor was taking a lot of my energy as well but I wanted to do my research work, as well as I could.

Samantha E. Erskine  15:36

Thank you for these insights.

Lorenzo Skade  15:40

One final question, Lisa. What advice would you give to junior scholars, including PhD students and junior faculty members, on publishing qualitative research about diversity and activism in ASQ?

Dr. Lisa Buchter  15:52

Thank you. So for my experience, I would say go for it! I think ASQ is a great journal to publish your research on a such topic, They are very welcoming and very interested in these topics. It’s always a journal that I have loved to read and therefore, I’m very happy to have been able to publish my research there. Maybe one advice would be make sure that you send something where you’re confident that your data are very strong, and where you can see that you have a significant contribution to make. But I think, especially for instance, people who are finishing their PhD, they oftentimes have very impressive fieldwork with them and so it may be a great time to try to publish a paper based on the data that they collected during their PhD. I think it’s a good idea. My second advice really would be, please do that. Send your research there. I know that it are self-censorship processes when you’re conducting research, especially as a young scholar, when you’re trying to understand how everything works. So I think that ASQ is very professional, and I found them very friendly, and they give feedback fairly quickly, which is also great. So that would be another advice. And I’m pretty sure that you both have this but something that I found is really important is to have a community of people who can give you feedback before you actually submit your paper to an academic journal. I really had the luck to have that at Northwestern University when I was doing my research. We had a wonderful workshop for helping graduate students receive feedback on their paper, both from peers, but also from faculty here, for instance, Brayden King was tremendously helpful to work with me, and there is the same type of culture in my new school, which I’m very happy about, because I think we need to support one another to be ready to submit papers that are already in great shape.

Lorenzo Skade  18:02

Thank you so much for your advice, Lisa.

Dr. Lisa Buchter  18:06

You’re welcome.

Samantha E. Erskine  18:07

That’s all the questions we have for you, Lisa. We really appreciate your time today. And these really great insights that I know everyone listening, and reading the transcript, will really appreciate too. Any final thoughts before we end?

Dr. Lisa Buchter  18:25

I think your podcast project is a very exciting one. I enjoyed preparing this podcast with you. So thank you very much for your work. I think it’s creating very interesting communities around the question of publishing research. So thank you for that.

Samantha E. Erskine  18:45

Awesome, thanks so much. Have a great rest of your day, everybody.

Samantha’s Bio: Samantha E. Erskine is a PhD candidate in Organizational Behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. She is interested in the experiences of women and people of color in organizations, flourishing/thriving, Whiteness, patriarchy, antiracist leadership, allyship, and the CEO experience. Samantha’s work broadly examines the emotions, discourse, actions, inactions, and interactions that create, maintain, and disrupt (dis)empowering organizations. Her current research utilizes intersectional qualitative methods to explore the emotions and practices of Whiteness and patriarchy based on insights from women CEOs of nonprofit organizations.

Lorenzo’s Bio: Lorenzo Skade is a Research Associate at the Chair of Management and Organization at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany. His current research interests include time and temporality, organizational paradoxes, and strategy-as-practice. He is particularly interested in a process and practice-based perspective of these topics and approach his interests with various qualitative methods such as critical discourse analysis and ethnographic case studies, among others.

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