Communication ETDs

Publication Date



This study examines white-male elite understandings of diversity and leadership to consider possibilities for exploring articulations of white masculinity. Sixteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with white-male leaders in their organizations who by virtue of their race, gender, class, and education, exercise much power and control in their organization. I used grounded theory methodology to highlight the communication strategies that white-male elites employed when talking about leadership and diversity. Techniques in grounded theory methodology yielded concepts, descriptors, and semantic moves that were articulated to intersecting discourses of race, gender, and sexuality. Through the intersectional matrix, I posited that multiple functions of social identities of white-male elites are essential in (re)producing positions of power. Nuanced talk on leadership and diversity (re)produced discourses of white masculinity as intersecting discourses operating within particular functions of white hegemonic masculinit--white, heterosexual, and patriarchal power. White-male elites in this study used four communication strategies when discussing leadership and diversity: some white-male elites highlighted the significance of race in society, while others denounced race for more appropriate observations outside of racial identity categories; many white-male elites approved binary categories between men and women; some white-male elites buttressed race transcendent ideas; and some white-male elites verified their own privileged positioning. These communication strategies revealed the contradictory meanings of race and gender in white-male elite discourses on leadership and diversity. Thus, theorizing white masculinity constitutes the negotiation of identity politics within social anxieties of the multicultural context. The notion of studying up is important in revealing the context in which I, a black heterosexual male researcher, construct meanings about white heterosexual male bodies. This context provides a unique location within the intersectional matrix to observe the process of communication operating in the creative engagement, management, and negotiation of meanings in co-creating, reproducing, and reaffirming whiteness, heterosexuality, and masculinity ideologies.




White Masculinity, Diversity, Leadership, Intersectionality

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Foss, Karen

Second Advisor

Chavez, Karma

First Committee Member (Chair)

Collier, Mary Jane

Second Committee Member

Allen, Ricky