< Back to previous page


The fine art of boundary sensitivity: How the second generation turns educational success into professional leadership positions.

The thesis focuses on second-generation professionals, the social boundaries they encounter in the labour market and organisations, and how they consequently deal with these boundaries. By means of four articles, I show that social boundaries, and the exclusionary practices that are an inherent part of social boundaries, are a reality for second-generation professionals. As power processes from society at large, in which they are seen as belonging to a marginalized ethnic group, penetrate organisations, their professional position is at times overruled by their alleged societal background, resulting for instance in second-generation professionals in leadership positions facing subtle discrimination in the workplace by supervisors, same-level colleagues and subordinates alike. How second-generation professionals deal with social boundaries, is linked to both their professional position and their second-generation background. Second-generation professionals employ a strategy of "sameness and difference". They emphasize their professional sameness in the workplace in order to fit in with their predominantly native-parentage colleagues. Simultaneously, they avoid giving up parts of their identity through assimilation by keeping their differences, where it matters most to them, in place in the organisational context. Through this fine art of boundary sensitivity, second-generation professionals circumvent boundaries by being both sensitive and competent in dealing with the limitation of boundaries. This sensitivity and competence allows second-generation professionals to use their knowledge of the organization in combination with their "in-betweenness" as second-generation climbers to exert influence to bring about forms of change on behalf of their own position in the organisation, and for creating awareness in the organisation (and beyond) about taken-for-granted power that leads to and is a result of structural inequalities in organisations and society at large.
Date:15 Jul 2016  →  14 Jul 2017
Disciplines:Applied sociology, Policy and administration, Social psychology, Social stratification, Social theory and sociological methods, Sociology of life course, family and health, Other sociology and anthropology