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Growing leaders from below: Identity-based worker education and identity-leader ability among self-employed women in India

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-04-12, 14:02 authored by Sarah JaySarah Jay, Alastair Nightingale, Namrata Bali, Sahra Ryklief, Maura AdsheadMaura Adshead

Informal and unregulated work is the norm rather than the exception in emerging economies. This study was conducted in India where nine out of 10 women are occupied in informal, unregulated work, and are vulnerable to low-wages, exploitation, and interconnected cultural and social-economic injustices. The Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) and their education wing the Indian Academy of Self-Employed Women encourage their members to self-define as “self-employed workers” and facilitate identity-based worker education and leadership training. Drawing on insights from the Social Identity Approach to Learning and the New Psychology of Leadership this cross-sectional study (N = 300) explored if this shared social identity significantly predicted participants perceived identity-leadership ability. We further explored if this relationship was partially explained by SEWA norms, values, and beliefs, developed during learning, and measured as “awareness of gendered inequality”, “injustice consciousness”, and “collective efficacy”. A parallel mediation analysis found a direct relationship between “self-employed women identity” and “identity-leader ability” and indirect relationships through “awareness of gendered inequality” and “collective efficacy”. No indirect path was evident through “injustice consciousness”. The theoretical and practical implications of an identity-based approach to worker education and leader training among vulnerable workers, are discussed.



Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 32 ( 6), 1016– 1028


Wiley and Sons Ltd

Other Funding information

The research was funded by the Irish Research Council and the Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions Co-Fund CAROLINE scheme. We thank SEWA Academy management and the research team for their work on this paper.

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  • Politics & Public Administration

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