Intersectionality is a term that has gained increasing recognition in recent years, particularly in the context of diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts. It refers to the interconnected nature of social identities, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status, and the ways in which they intersect to create unique experiences of privilege and oppression. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of intersectionality in D&I efforts and discuss ways to promote intersectionality in the workplace.
Intersectionality was first coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, in reference to the ways in which Black women experience both racism and sexism in unique and interconnected ways. Since then, the concept has been expanded to include a wide range of social identities, including but not limited to race, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, and socioeconomic status.
The significance of intersectionality lies in the fact that it recognizes the complexity of human experiences and acknowledges that individuals can experience privilege and oppression in different ways depending on the intersections of their social identities. For example, a white woman may experience sexism in the workplace, but also benefit from white privilege. On the other hand, a Black man may experience racism in the workplace, but also benefit from male privilege. To clarify, according to data, white women will achieve gender parity with men in the United States by 2059. However, it will take until 2130 for Black women to achieve the same level of parity, and until 2224 for Hispanic women to achieve it.
Diversity and Intersectionality
In D&I efforts, it is important to recognize that diversity goes beyond simply acknowledging differences in social identities. It also involves understanding the ways in which those differences intersect and impact individuals’ experiences in the workplace.
For example, a workplace that is diverse in terms of gender but lacks diversity in terms of race or ethnicity may still perpetuate systemic racism and discrimination. This is because individuals who hold intersecting identities, such as being a woman of color, may experience discrimination that is unique to their intersectional identity.
The Significance of Intersectionality in D&I
There are several reasons why intersectionality is important in D&I efforts:
Only 21% of C-suite leaders in the US are women, with only 4% of them being women of color and only 1% being Black women, likely due to inadequate training, mentorship, and sponsorship.
By recognizing the ways in which social identities intersect, organizations can create a more inclusive workplace that accommodates the unique experiences of all employees. This can help promote a sense of belonging and foster a culture of respect and empathy.
Addressing Systemic Discrimination
Intersectionality can also help organizations address systemic discrimination that may be perpetuated by policies, practices, and norms that are not inclusive of individuals with intersecting identities. By understanding the ways in which individuals’ identities intersect, organizations can identify and address discriminatory practices and policies.
People with disabilities in the workplace face wage inequality, which worsens with intersectionality. For instance, in the UK, Bangladeshi men with disabilities experience a pay gap of 56% in comparison to non-disabled white British men.
Attracting and Retaining Diverse Talent
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Black women in the US were almost twice as likely as white men to report job loss, furloughs, or reduced hours/pay.
Another study found that individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds who faced microaggressions at work had a higher tendency to resign. In fact, 35% of Black professionals planned to quit their jobs within two years, in comparison to 27% of their white counterparts. Black women had slightly higher rates (36%) than Black men (33%).
Organizations that prioritize intersectionality in their D&I efforts are more likely to attract and retain diverse talent. This is because individuals with intersecting identities may be more likely to seek out workplaces that recognize and value their unique experiences.
Promoting Intersectionality in the Workplace
Here are some ways that organizations can promote intersectionality in the workplace:
Conducting Intersectional Analyses
Organizations can conduct intersectional analyses of their policies, practices, and norms to identify areas where individuals with intersecting identities may face unique challenges or experiences of discrimination. This can help inform the development of more inclusive policies and practices.
Prioritizing Inclusive Practices
Organizations can prioritize inclusive practices that recognize the intersectionality of individuals’ social identities. This can include flexible work arrangements that accommodate the needs of individuals with intersecting identities, inclusive language in communications and materials, and training programs that address intersectionality and unconscious bias.
Creating Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
Employee resource groups (ERGs) can provide a space for employees with intersecting identities to connect, share experiences, and advocate for inclusive policies and practices. ERGs can also serve as a resource for organizations to better understand the experiences of employees with intersecting identities and inform D&I efforts.
Providing Intersectional Training
Organizations can provide intersectional training to employees to increase awareness and understanding of the ways in which social identities intersect and impact experiences in the workplace. This can include training on topics such as unconscious bias, privilege, and allyship.
Holding Leadership Accountable
Leadership can play a critical role in promoting intersectionality in the workplace by holding themselves and others accountable for creating an inclusive workplace. This can involve setting clear expectations for inclusive behavior, addressing instances of discrimination or bias, and actively seeking out diverse perspectives and experiences.
In conclusion, intersectionality is a critical component of effective D&I efforts. By recognizing the ways in which social identities intersect, organizations can create a more inclusive workplace that accommodates the unique experiences of all employees. This can help promote a sense of belonging, address systemic discrimination, and attract and retain diverse talent.
To promote intersectionality in the workplace, organizations can conduct intersectional analyses, prioritize inclusive practices, create ERGs, provide intersectional training, and hold leadership accountable. By prioritizing intersectionality in their D&I efforts, organizations can create a workplace that values and respects the unique experiences and perspectives of all employees.