What is intersectionality in the workplace? “Intersectionality” was coined by civil rights activist and professor Kimberle Crenshaw as:
The interconnected nature of social categorizations, such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, is regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
In other words, it’s about people having mixed identities.
Intersectionality in the workplace involves recognizing and considering various aspects of a person’s identity that can affect their work experiences.
It means incorporating this concept from hiring to training to leadership. The goal is to ensure employees feel free to discuss differences and work together to eliminate discrimination.
Examples of intersectionality in the workplace
Intersectionality recognizes that people may face certain workplace disadvantages based on their multiple identities:
According to NPR, LGBTQ+ people of color are more than 2X as likely as white LGBTQ+ employees to say they experienced discrimination because they are LGBTQ+ when applying for jobs. Black LGBTQ+ workers are more likely to report that discrimination has affected their ability to keep their jobs and more likely to be specific when choosing their employers to avoid discrimination than white LGBTQ+ workers.
The Center for American Progress reported that Black workers with disabilities have the lowest employment rate among all racial and ethnic groups. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2021, there was a 15.1% unemployment rate among Black disabled people and a 13.3% unemployment rate among Hispanic or Latino disabled people compared to a 9.3% unemployment rate among white disabled people.
In Payscale’s State of the Gender Pay Gap Report, Hispanic and Black women earn $0.65 for every $1 white men make. Meanwhile, Asian women make $1.03 to every $1 white men make. This confirms that although they’re all categorized within the same gender, women of different races experience a wage gap.
A College Board study showed that the median salary of full-time working people aged 25 to 34 with a bachelor’s degree ranged from $42,100 among Black women and $43,900 among Hispanic women compared to $72,300 among Asian men. The earnings for a bachelor’s degree relative to a high school diploma was the highest among Asian males and females.
Leadership and career advancement
In McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace Report, for every 100 men promoted from entry-level positions to managerial roles, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted.
And, Syndio cited that Black and Latina workers are the most underrepresented race in managerial and executive positions. Black women represent 8.3% of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission workforce but only 4.0% of managers and 1.8% of executives. On the other hand, Latina women are 7.5% of the workforce but 3.8% of managers and 1.7% of executives.
Importance of intersectionality in the workplace
In the context of organizations, intersectionality is vital for several reasons:
- Intersectionality helps organizations create an inclusive workplace. By recognizing and valuing the diverse experiences and perspectives of employees, organizations can build an environment that promotes creativity and innovation.
- Intersectionality promotes equity and fairness by acknowledging that different individuals face challenges based on their intersecting identities. It encourages companies to adopt inclusive policies and programs that consider diverse individualities and promote equal opportunities for all.
- Intersectionality permits companies to understand and address the complex forms of discrimination faced by people by identifying and removing systems and practices that encourage discrimination based on multiple dimensions of identity.
- Intersectionality addresses employee well-being and engagement. When employees with intersecting identities feel valued and supported, they are more likely to be satisfied in their jobs, which increases the company’s productivity and employee retention.
- Intersectionality promotes a positive reputation. When organizations actively address issues of inequality and discrimination, they gain credibility and in the process, attract diverse talent, customers, and partners.
- Intersectionality facilitates a deeper understanding of the diverse stakeholders. It helps organizations consider the needs and perspectives of diverse groups.
How to implement intersectionality in the workplace
Implementing intersectionality in HR practices is critical in ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion in your organization. Here are 10 tips to help you integrate intersectionality into your HR strategies and processes:
- Raise awareness and understanding of intersectionality by educating all employees, (especially recruiters, hiring managers, and HR staff) about intersectionality, unconscious bias, and inclusive practices.
- Review and edit job descriptions to ensure they are free from biased language. Remove unnecessary requirements that may exclude certain groups by listing only the essential qualifications and skills required for the job
- Craft guidelines for fair and inclusive screening and selection processes. Use structured interviews and standardized assessment criteria to reduce bias.
- Expand your recruitment sources to reach a more diverse candidate pool. Join diversity-focused professional networks, community organizations, and job fairs to attract candidates from different backgrounds and identities.
- Include employees from different backgrounds and identities as part of your interview panel. It will help to mitigate bias and ensure a more fair assessment of candidates
- Conduct regular pay audits to determine any gender, racial, or other compensation biases. Enforce transparent salary bands and guidelines to promote fairness in compensation.
- Review and update employee benefits to ensure they are inclusive and address the needs of individuals with intersecting identities. This may include parental leave policies, healthcare benefits, and flexible work arrangements.
- Create employee support groups (ERGs) that focus on different dimensions of identity. These groups can provide a way for employees to connect, share experiences, and contribute to diversity and inclusion-related company initiatives.
- Provide mentoring and leadership development opportunities that support advancing individuals from underrepresented groups. Offer resources and support for career growth and address barriers to progression.
- Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of your intersectionality initiatives. Monitor diversity metrics, conduct employee surveys, and track processes to identify areas for improvement.
Why I wrote this:
Intersectionality is vital for organizations to promote inclusivity and equity. Organizations can create an inclusive work environment by recognizing the complexity of individuals’ identities and experiences.
And here at Ongig, we promote diversity by writing job descriptions that attract candidates with intersecting identities. Please contact us for a demo to learn more.
- State of Gender Gap Report – Payscale
- Women of the Workplace Report – Mckinsey
- Education Pays 2019 – CollegeBoard
- Quantifying the U.S. Opportunity Gap – Syndio
- For LGBTQ People Of Color, Discrimination Compounds – NPR
- Removing Obstacles for Disabled Workers Would Strengthen the U.S. Labor Market – Center for American Progress