Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Community Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Geoffrey Nelson

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


This purpose of this study was to explore the relationships between race, gender, and power in community settings. Taking the experiences of young Black Canadians within the workplace as an exemplar, the study sought to answer three main research questions: (a) How does oppression influence the psychological empowerment of Black youth and young adults in the workplace? (b) How do workplace characteristics promote Black youths’ and young adults’ psychological empowerment?, and (c) How does gender influence Black youths’ and young adults’ experiences of oppression and empowerment in the workplace? To answer these questions I conducted narrative interviews with 24 Black Canadian youth and young adults (aged 16–35), and critical self-reflections on my personal work experiences. Data were analyzed using a combination of narrative and grounded theory approaches. Findings are presented using the metaphor of the working game to conceptualize participants’ stories of race, gender and power in the workplace. Narratives of workplace oppression suggest that young Black Canadian workers are disadvantaged by an unequal playing field comprised of stereotypes and unequal intergenerational legacies, and by racialized interpersonal gameplay. Their stories describe various moves that young Black Canadians use to negotiate oppression, as well as an oppressed subjectivity characterized by a sense of difference, uncertainty, and frustration. Narratives of workplace empowerment suggest that empowering workplace settings function as surrogate legacies that include four key characteristics (relationships, roles, opportunity, and incentives), that promote six empowered outcomes (independence, confidence, eye opening, appreciation, a desire to give back, and the ability to talk to others), through four main psychological processes (encouragement and advice, exposure, respect, and validation). Narratives of gender suggest a common perception that the intersection of gender and race in the working game function to disadvantage Black males through severe stereotypes and absent male legacies. Gender differences in valued empowering workplace characteristics were found, with Black females emphasizing encouragement and Black males emphasizing opportunity. The discussions highlight theoretical contributions to community psychology's understanding of power, race, and gender in community settings, including an emphasis on social networks, dramaturgy, and identity. Limitations and implications for future research and practice are discussed.

Convocation Year