Positionality may be defined as the ways a person’s perspectives derive from their location or membership in numerous different social groups. Such membership includes one’s race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability-status. As Özlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo discuss in Is Everyone Really Equal?, this location affects people’s understanding of how society operates and their ability to understand the perspectives of others. Each individual’s position is shaped by relations of unequal social power. In-depth understanding of positionality is a foundational skill for inclusive and equity-minded leadership because awareness contributes to a leader’s attitudes and practices in motivating and directing their team.
The authors explore how each person’s position affects their access to resources, reviewing ways that assumptions about the relative benefits or deficits associated with varied aspects are likely to influence perceptions and actions. Regarding leadership, they note how gender, race, and class may influence perceptions of capability and advancement in an organization. Middle- and upper-class people may understand leadership as a natural ability, and men may not focus on gender identity as a factor in being to leadership positions. In Chapter 5, their discussion includes the role of internalized oppression, as one’s position may influence behavior in ways that others perceive as indicating they lack leadership qualities.