Measuring receptivity to intersectionality: bridging theory and practice
Roland, Jennifer Catherine
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Studying and applying intersectionality is critical to community organizers, social justice advocates, scholars, practitioners, helping professionals, and researchers. Intersectionality is important to the future of Women’s and Gender Studies and Social Work. The field of social work may benefit from applying intersectional analyses when engaging with historically marginalized groups. This dissertation explores the potential of critical race and Black feminist theory when used as a model for social work practice. An intersectional approach may provide practicing professionals with a richer, deeper, broader, and more complete understanding of how power and oppression influence the complex experiences of marginalized populations, such as women of color and their families. This dissertation is guided by one overarching question: Does social work bridge theory and practice by incorporating the theory of intersectionality into curricula? Three distinct methods are employed to address the major question of this dissertation— textual analysis, content analysis, and a survey questionnaire. I examined six textbooks intended for undergraduate use primarily in HBSE I and HBSE II courses published between 2010 and 2015, analyzed fifty-nine HBSE course syllabi for intersectional content, and a total of seventy-five undergraduate social work instructors from CSWE accredited programs completed a survey questionnaire. The study found that of the 342 paragraphs examined from all six textbooks, only 9.3% included intersectionality. In addition, 39% of syllabi included intersectionality and/or intersectional content. The survey revealed that there is strong support for intersectionality in social work education. Eighty-nine percent of the respondents believe that intersectionality is a tool of analysis that can be applied to social work practice. There is an opportunity for intersectionality in the field of social work because although the majority of respondents supported the tenets of intersectionality as outlined in the questionnaire, 59% of respondents were not familiar with the theory of intersectionality and only 17% of respondents use intersectionality in their own research.