I am applying for a PhD in Organizational Behavior in Canada. I have an M.Sc. in Management from Oxford and a B.Sc in Economics. Below is the essay prompt:
The statement should be one to two pages outlining your research and career interests and reasons for undertaking doctoral education. The document must be uploaded on the 'supporting documents' page of the online application.
"No homo; those shoes look great!"
Working in a country like Pakistan, where homosexual acts are punishable by death or imprisonment, I had gotten used to hearing negative remarks about homosexuals in the workplace. However, after working in the NYC headquarters of Bank of America for several years, I was surprised to hear similar homophobic remarks like "no homo" used by colleagues in social settings outside the workplace. As a gay man in the closet, I realized that much of Wall Street still operates like an "old boy's club" where progress within the firm depends as much on your performance as it does on your ability to fit in.
This was not the first time that I had realized that policy and reality may not always align. While pursuing my master's thesis at the University of Oxford, I examined how corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns in Pakistan were sometimes very successful in empowering the less fortunate members of the country but at other times CSR was just used as "greenwashing" and had minimal impact on the way a company did business. I enjoyed the process of coming up with a research problem, gathering the relevant quantitative and qualitative data and ultimately deriving some meaningful insights from the findings. I particularly appreciated how academic research encourages the investigation and exposure of truth, even if those facts may contradict what was previously known about the topic. After completing my master's, I felt that working in the industry would give me valuable experience and would help me come up with an idea that I was truly passionate about for my Ph.D. research.
After working in the finance industry across two very different countries, I realized that many employees, like myself, have identities that they feel must be kept separate and even hidden from the workplace. Despite Bank of America's participation in annual NYC Pride events, I was not the only person who felt the need to hide his or her sexuality at work. After conducting candid exit interviews at work, I recognized that sexuality was not the only taboo topic that employees felt uncomfortable disclosing. One of my male colleagues chose to leave the firm rather than disclose his struggles with depression. While there has been extensive research into the challenges faced by visible minorities, comparatively less work has been done to understand the challenges faced by employees with concealable stigma identities.
At this point in my career, I feel that pursuing a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior will allow me to return to the research work that I previously enjoyed and examine the sensitive topic of concealable stigma identities. After completing my Ph.D., I hope to obtain a tenure-track position as an assistant professor at a research-intensive university. As an assistant professor, I will not only be able to continue to research work but will also be able to impart my findings in the form of papers, seminars and classroom instruction.
While researching Ph.D. programs and corresponding with the professors, I quickly realized that XXX was one of the few schools that employed academics who have worked extensively on concealable stigma identities. After reading the research of various professors and corresponding with Dr. Andy Tick, Dr. Bill King, and Dr. Cat Delles, I realized my research interests align quite well with those of the professors at XXX and I would greatly benefit from their insights as I pursue my own work during my doctoral studies.
I would like to add to the existing research on how candidates with concealable stigma identities choose certain job or profession. Scholars like Tick et. al. (2015) have shown that employees with concealable stigma identities were overrepresented in certain professions which either had a high degree of task independence or required high levels of social perceptiveness. While King et. al. (2016) found that organizational diversity statements in company literature have little correlation with reduced discrimination in the hiring process. Taking this research as a starting point, I would want to further examine whether job applicants with concealable identities apply to roles based on job characteristics like task independence, the presence of diversity statements and other inclusivity measures, or the presence of other employees with concealable identities.
The existing research would also indicate that there are several potential benefits of effectively tackling concealable taboo identities. Ramarajan and Reid (2013) and other researchers have documented the negative impact on performance brought on when a 'non-work' identity (e.g. motherhood) does not align with life in organizations. But according to Callander et. al. (2017), once employees stopped hiding the fact that they suffered from a concealable stigma identity, the employees were found to be more productive in the workplace. Furthermore, most companies now acknowledge that a diverse employee pool, including visible and concealable minority groups, leads to measurable benefit to the organization such as greater insights into the customer base, access to a broader talent pool and a better perception of the organization as a whole by outsiders (Cunningham 2011). I would like to examine what factors led employees to disclose their stigma identities? Under what circumstances do employees feel comfortable participating in diversity initiatives? What impact do inclusivity measures, like an annual Pride event, have on the career progress of employees with concealed identities?
In my research, I would also seek to examine how effective diversity initiatives are in terms of bringing about greater inclusion in the workplace. King et. al. (2016) have shown that the presence of diversity statements does not preclude the possibility of discrimination in the hiring process. I would, therefore, want to examine the effectivity of inclusivity measures in attracting, retaining and developing employees with stigma identities. What impact, if any, do these initiatives have on the broader organization e.g. less discrimination in the hiring process, sexual minority representation in senior management, etc.
In anticipation of re-entering the world of academia after a considerable time in the industry, I have tried to keep up to date with the latest research in Organizational Behavior. This year, I have been working with Dr. Amit Gupta, based at ABC, on a research that investigates the relationship between context, mental sense-making, and action amongst employees in the English legal services industry. My work includes using various qualitative analysis tools to examine legal trade media coverage and categorize the types of sense-making mechanism displayed in each case. This experience allowed me to gain valuable research experience, update my skillset with the latest tools used for encoding qualitative data and further solidified my passion for academic work.
At this point, I feel my graduate-level training in academic research, my experience in the industry and my recent exposure to research in Organizational Behavior have prepared me well for the rigors of completing a Ph.D. in organizational behavior. Given that several of the professors at XXX have research interests similar to my own, I feel this program will be a good fit for me. After successful completion of my doctorate studies, I aim to obtain an assistant professor role in a university where I will be able to continue doing my research. I would also like to serve as a role model for other scholars originating from conservative areas like Pakistan who want to research topics that may be considered risqué in that region.
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Muhammad, you have a very good presentation here. It is timely, relevant, and highly important as a social study of modern day man and culture. However, I feel like your research interests stop short of informing the reader about what you hope to accomplish during and after your studies. There needs to be a stronger push in your research area that indicates what you hope to achieve aside from simply researching the work and coming to a better understanding of the world. Working as a professor is one thing, but what the results of your dissertation should be is different. This should be the indicator of the changes you hope to implement or share with the world upon your return to your profession. How does your essay plan to remove the stigma from people with closeted identities? Why is it important that the stigma be removed? I did not get a clear idea regarding these aspects in your presentation.
Again, the direction of your essay is good. It is strong and will be notable once submitted. However there are a few points that I feel you can improve upon. However, if you feel that the paper is complete as is, then that is what is important.