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Investigating Identity

Cassandra Tate, a student in the Doctor of Health Administration Program, investigates the experiences of Black males in the healthcare profession. Black men in high-status occupations are in a unique position; they are in the gender majority but the racial minority. These factors make Black men in healthcare hyper-visible, and thus, subject to marginalization, discrimination, heightened scrutiny, and assumptions of inferiority. As a result, many Black male professionals engage in identity shifting and alter their behavior, speech, and appearances to create an image of conformity and defend their credentials.

Interested in the psychological impact identity shifting has on Black men in healthcare, Tate plans on surveying approximately 300 male members from the National Association of Health Services Executives. The survey will measure how often participants engage in identity shifting and the level of psychological distress experienced as a result. The study will be conducted primarily online using Qualtrics, a web-based application that administers surveys and collects data. Tate expects the results will reveal that identity shifting in this context is used as a coping mechanism for Black men in response to racism and discrimination in the workplace. She believes it is used to present an image of professionalism that society deems acceptable for Black men.

Tate chose to study the identity shifting of Black men in high-status occupations to fill a gap in existing research. There are substantial amounts of research on the experiences of Black women in Corporate America. However, because of their unique position in the gender majority, Tate believes Black professional men may have different experiences than Black women in high-status occupations. Though Tate is in the beginning stages of her research, she hopes to provide insight into the experiences and psychological distress of Black men in healthcare.

At CMU We Do Research, We Do Real World

Story by ORGS intern Hailey Nelson

March 2022