Q&A with Sa-kiera Hudson, PhD
Sa-kiera Tiarra Jolynn Hudson is an assistant professor in Management of Organizations at Berkeley Haas. She is interested in two broad research questions: What are the psychological and biological roots of power hierarchies, and how do these hierarchies intersect to influence experiences and perceptions? She received her BA in psychology and biology from Williams College and her PhD in social psychology from Harvard University. Before coming to Haas, she was an NSF postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Yale University.
Tell us about your research project funded by EGAL
Although there are historical power differences between men and women, research in this area often finds that power has similar effect on men and women. However, the fact that both men and women respond to power in similar ways masks the reality that men and women aren’t always able to do so. Women in high status positions are a case of two power hierarchies: gender and organizational role. Due to the interactional nature of status and power, having or lacking power in organizational situations where gender is made salient should affect women to a greater extent than men. The focus of the current research is to begin to understand the effects of having or lacking power on authenticity for men and women in contexts where gender is salient and relevant.
What inspired you to conduct the type of DEI research that you do?
I have always been fascinated by intersectionalities and hierarchies, in part because of my lived realities. As a Black queer female from a low socioeconomic background, society has told me I am marginalized. However, I am also an alumna from several prestigious universities, making the intersection of my marginalized identities with my privileged education perhaps a paradox. Part of the confusion arises from the fact that although I hold these identities simultaneously, the stereotypes associated with them are antagonistic.
I started to explore these questions for the first time during a Summer Research Opportunities Program done the summer after my junior year in the Psychology department at UC Berkeley. I reviewed psychological literature to find underlying commonalities between marginalized groups that could influence intersectional interactions, or situations where the people in the interaction belong to multiple, salient groups. In particular, I noticed that the identities that become salient are ones where one partner is of higher status or power than the other. I concluded that the positions identities have in the overall social hierarchy are key in anticipating intergroup interaction outcomes. Furthermore, the research on the relationships between those of high and low power parallels existing scholarship on ethnic minority/majority and gender interactions. Synthesizing these two areas of research, I hypothesized that intergroup interactions are often stressful and detrimental (e.g. diminished working memory capacity, negative affect, etc.) not only due to group membership differences but also due to differences in the status/power held by each interaction partner. Status, or the respect and prominence of an individual, and power, or the ability to control resources for the self and others, are hidden mechanisms that operate in concert with social identities to create nuanced intergroup interactions.
This idea may seem redundant when discussing singular notions of identity but become critical when assessing the experiences of groups at the intersection of power systems, and I have spent the bulk of my research career to date understanding the intersections of social hierarchies in this way.
How have findings from your research in the past influenced your own perspectives and leadership approach?
My research has consistently showed me that what we know about singular identities do not neatly translate to situations of multiple identities. However, we often believe that they do. Allowing for complexity in people’s experiences has encouraged me to constantly confront my assumptions, heuristics, and expectations of people in situations, which has led me to be more inclusive and understanding.
Who is a notable Equity Fluent Leader who inspires you? What are the traits that make them such an effective leader?
I believe Vicky Plaut, the new Vice Provost for the faculty at UC Berkeley, is a phenomenal equity fluent leader, in part because she constantly tries to address hidden elephants in the room that impact belonging and inclusion. For example, during faculty orientation, she discussed imposter syndrome and how she, a full professor of Law, still experiences it from time to time. In this way, orientation was a combination of optimism and realism, which felt genuine and authentic.