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"Intentional Invisibility: Professional Women and the Navigation of Workplace Constraints"

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Swethaa Ballakrishnen
Priya Fielding-Singh
Devon Magliozzi
Sociological Perspectives
2018

ABSTRACT:  Drawing on an in-depth case study at a large nonprofit organization, we find, in line with previous scholarship, that women professionals continue to face biased expectations at work and at home. We leverage data from interviews and participant observation to identify a new strategy that women use to navigate professional constraints created by the second shift and workplace double binds: “intentional invisibility.” Intentional invisibility refers to a set of risk-averse, conflict-avoidant strategies that women professionals in our study employ to feel authentic, manage competing expectations in the office, and balance work and familial responsibilities. We find women across the organization reporting intentionally remaining behind the scenes in attempts to avoid backlash and maintain a professional status quo. While intentional invisibility allows women to successfully navigate gender unequal professional and personal landscapes, it could simultaneously present an additional challenge to career advancement.