Dr. Lucy Thompson Published in Handbook of Power, Gender, and Psychology

January 31, 2024 - Shelly DeJong

A headshot of Dr. Lucy Thompson.

Congratulations to Dr. Lucy Thompson, an assistant professor in the MSU Psychology Department who authored a chapter in a recently published handbook titled The Palgrave Handbook of Power, Gender, and Psychology. Dr. Thompson’s chapter, titled “A Feminist Psychology of Gender, Work and Organizations,” addresses the critical need for feminist perspectives in psychological understandings of workplaces and organizations.  

We recently talked with Dr. Thompson about her approach as a critical feminist psychologist, why this framework is vital to work and organizational research, and what advice she has for students entering the workplace. 


What does it mean to you to be a part of this handbook? 

I was honored to be asked to do it. I think when you've been mentored by so many feminist colleagues in the way that I have, it takes a minute to feel like you are one of their peers. It signifies to me that I'm moving to the next phase of my career where I'm now a part of those conversations as an author, a peer, and a colleague.  

Being a part of a book that focuses on power was special to me because centering power is very important in my work. It means a lot to be able to write about intersectionality as an analytical framework and then apply that framework to understand power. More space needs to be given to perspectives like that. The collection itself contributes a body of work that's interested in understanding power from an intersectional perspective, which is what intersectionality theory was originally meant for.  


Can you tell us about your chapter? 

The cover of the Palgrave Handbook of Power, Gender, and PsychologyWorkplace conflict, leadership, and impostor syndrome are all things that mainstream and feminist psychologists have been concerned about. These topics were particularly interesting for me because they raise issues around equality, equity, inclusion, and justice. They are also three things that I've dealt with in earlier work, and I wanted to work through the process of analysis where I took each phenomenon and applied an intersectional feminist perspective to (re)frame them from a feminist psychological perspective. This is in line with calls from other feminist psychology scholars who've argued that specifically in Organizational Psychology, there's a basic lack of integration of intersectional perspectives in general, not to mention critical perspectives on power. I was interested in taking those three examples and analyzing them to see what we can learn if we use that kind of a framework.  

Workplace conflict is often seen, for example, as an individual and interpersonal issue rather than something that's broadly framed by a set of conditions which make certain people vulnerable to others. The idea of imposter syndrome being a faulty belief in someone’s head doesn’t account for the fact that some people are viewed as being less credible or competent than others in many workspaces, and this often plays out intersectionally along axes of racism, sexism, ableism, and so on. Trying to reframe these issues from a feminist psychological perspective to me is such a central part of the work that needs to be done to address these issues. If we reframe workplace phenomena and analyze them from an intersectional feminist perspective, what other things might we notice or what might become important? 


What is your definition of intersectionality? 

One of the most commonly applied theories of intersectionality was developed by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw. My definition of that theory is a feminist analysis of power that doesn't problematize features of the individual or identity, but rather looks at circuits of oppression and the ways in which those compound one another other, and how those are contingent on one another for meaning. To me, at its core, a feminist intersectional approach is an analysis of power relations. Any intersectional analysis that simply takes identities as its object of analysis is fundamentally missing the point of what intersectional theory is about. An intersectional analysis allows you to examine complex power relations, where no one form of oppression is separate from another and these constellations of privilege and oppression are viewed as inextricable and interdependent.  


In your chapter, you talk about how organizations are critical sites for the enactment and preservation of gender power and politics. Can you speak about that? 

We don't leave the conditions of our lives at the door when we come into the workplace. Even in the case of the more traditional way of thinking about the workplace as a ‘public’ domain and the home as a ‘private’ domain, we can still see how particular relationships of power are set up outside of the workplace and play out inside the workplace, such that people are not always treated equally in either space. This is even more so now, in times of very blurry boundaries between work and home life.  

We spend so much of our lives at work. Many people spend more time at work than they do at home. Work should be considered a key site for enactments of power which affect people and their sense of self, who they are, and their happiness in the wider world. We're humans at work and we're humans at home. Society surrounds all of that, so it's easy to see how some of those issues can bleed through into the workplace.  

Even what's counted as work and what's rewarded as being work is contingent on what's valued and what's not within society at any given time. I've talked a lot in my Psychology of Women class about the Wages for Housework movement in the UK, and how feminists have been calling for domestic work to be counted as work and compensated appropriately for decades. 


There are 60 different authors in this handbook. Why is it important to have a diverse understanding of feminism and power? 

The more perspectives you have, the more comprehensive your analysis and understanding is going to be. Something that's key to feminist psychology is thinking reflexively about your own position. Our narratives, analyses, and interpretations are always framed by our perspectives, values, and interests. We don’t leave our positionality as scholars at the door when we go to write a book chapter or conduct a research study. Even the questions we ask in our research are tied up with who we are. Making sure that there are a range of positionalities represented in spaces like this book means that there isn’t one dominant voice. The same should go for our journals, research projects, and psychology departments more broadly. 

Perspectives on psychology from the U.S. and Europe are the dominant forms of knowledge that went into building the discipline of contemporary psychology as we experience it today in the U.S. But globally, the perspectives that we see are hugely different. It’s important that those perspectives are balanced to help correct the Euro-American centrism that has dominated the history of psychology.  


As a professor, you work with students who are going to be entering the workplace soon. Are there things that you tell students, or you would want to tell?  

One thing I always say to students is protect your peace. Set boundaries and know that your home life is as important as your job. If you're committed to boundaries, you can bring yourself to that space rested and happy rather than stressed out and overworked. One thing I hope for is that we can create work cultures that are based around joy rather than stress.  

Finding good networks of people that you can trust within any organization is really important. Having people who you can confide in or vent to or get advice from who also understand the context that you’re in is so important. For that reason, don’t underestimate how important it is to find your people, wherever you’re working, and treasure those relationships! 


Anything else you’d like to add?  

I’d like to give a shoutout to Dr. Carla Pfeffer, an associate professor in the Department of Social Work, the chair of the Department of Sociology, and the former director for the Consortium for Sexual and Gender Minority Health, for co-authoring another chapter of this book! It makes me proud of the good work happening at MSU! Also, a massive shoutout and thanks to the editors of this collection, Professors Eileen Zurbriggen and Rose Capdevila, for all the work that went into this project.