Intersectionality, Why It Matters & How to Embrace for a More Diverse & Inclusive Workplace

Intersectionality is a word that we hear often in the diversity space. Intersectionality is a theory which identifies a person, group of people, or social problem affected by discriminations and disadvantages due to overlapping identities and experiences.

First coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980’s it is as relevant today. Intersectionality was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2015 with its importance recognised due to the increased focus on structural inequalities in the workplace and in society at large. Increasing the awareness of these inequalities will allow us to address them and move towards a more just and sustainable society. 

Intersectionality demonstrates and confirms that all identities affect experiences, opportunities and also barriers for each person. It can be a form of oppression which can lead to unfair treatment, discrimination or prejudice. 

It is important that we recognise Intersectionality when we are committing to progress in the workplace as it has a huge impact on what inclusion looks like and how we can support people with over-lapping identities to face barriers and challenges. It shows up at many levels from pay gaps and a lack of opportunities for under-represented groups to high staff turnover and the emotional and mental well-being of staff. When we fully embrace and work towards improving these oppressions we can expect better work culture, innovation, creativity, talent and profitability with a decrease in inequalities and isolation. As with being Diverse and Inclusive, embracing Intersectionality is the right thing to do and it makes business sense.

How can we do better?

  1. Reflect on our own identities.

Have trusted workplaces where we can fully embed this into the DNA of the workplace. Look at the work culture, people and consider how we become more informed on what identity is and how it presents itself.  

  • Become Better Allies.

Actively and consistently advocate and support under-represented or marginalised people in the workplace. Actively listen and hold space for people and groups of people who have over-lapping identities and seek to understand.

  • Look at the Policies and Strategies.

How could we do better in our policies and strategies to embrace all people at all levels to increase awareness and take action to decrease prejudice, discrimination and oppression for our colleagues. Ensure the language does not exclude people or groups of people, make assumptions or contain our own biases.

  • Training & Employee Engagement

Provide ongoing support and awareness of systems of oppression which may raise it’s head in the workplace. Think about working groups or focus groups and be mindful to not leave the work to the under-represented groups.

  • Collect the Data

Creating a work culture where inclusion is so embedded that people feel trusted enough to share their own data in the workplace leads to raising awareness on the barriers faced and gives space for commitment to progress.

Moving towards a workplace where each person can show up as their true authentic self allows all people have the space to share their experiences, challenges and successes. Centering marginalised voices in these spaces means we can break down barriers and work together to find solutions to any kind of bias, discrimination, prejudice or inequality in the workplace.

Blog by Orla McKeating, Business Executive at Diversity Mark.

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