Intersectionality is a popular term used during discussions and conversations around diversity and inclusivity. Although employers have recently started using the term, you should note that the term was coined 30 years ago by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia University and UCLA. The term was used in the context of social justice. Let us understand the meaning behind the concept in terms of the professional world and find out why intersectionality is important in the workplace.
What is Intersectionality?
Intersectionality in the workplace refers to how people with different identities may interplay and affect the work of the organization. In the past few years, there has been an increasing shift in incorporating employees from all spheres and making them feel included. Intersectionality emphasizes eradicating different types of biases and ensuring that the employees get the desired opportunities to discuss and communicate freely in the workplace.
Professor Kimberlé used the term to explain how ethnicity, religion, age, gender, class, and other individual characteristics may overlap. Similarly, a workplace may have employees with different identities, that can be coherently combined. She even argued that the campaigns are targeted at one particular group. She used the reference of how campaigns around racism are targeted towards black men, whereas those aimed at feminism are targeted only towards white women.
In the context of the workplace, it implies that there is a need to balance and make efforts for all identities. Not paying attention to a specific group can lead to imbalance and impact the functioning of the organization. Understanding intersectionality in the workplace can allow organizations to create a more inclusive and safe work environment.
Intersectionality in the workplace may also mean that the organization should be paying attention to the needs of every specific individual or employee. Let us understand this better with the help of an example. Women make $0.80 for every $1.0 man earn. However, the percentage of their earnings might not be the same for every woman. Hispanic women may have different earning capacities, while black women may have different, and disabled women might have different capabilities. This shows that there can be disparities and challenges within the same group as well.
Women of different races and ethnicities are likely to face more barriers and challenges. Furthermore, there can be more layers that may contribute to more such barriers. This is why it is important to be mindful of the intersectionality approach and fight discrimination in the workplace.
Why is Intersectionality Important?
Intersectionality in the workplace is an essential phenomenon that allows companies to understand how different identities may contribute to unique perspectives and teamwork within the organization. Here are some of the ways and reasons why it is important to embrace intersectionality in the workplace.
- It will help in building an inclusive and equitable workplace. Intersectionality works as a reminder that while working for one group, you must also be considerate towards other subgroups or communities.
- Understanding intersectionality in the workplace will allow you to avoid having a stereotypical approach while resolving the concerns at the workplace.
- An intersectional approach will allow you to become a better employer and leader. You will be able to address the employees’ concerns more effectively, which may make them feel included. This may improve employee engagement and help build an inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued.
- Maintaining intersectionality in the workplace can also help improve employee well-being. Happy employees are the key to a good and productive work environment.
- When the employees are happy, they are likely to be more productive. They will participate more in the company’s initiatives, which may contribute towards the growth of the organization.
What to Do to Improve Intersectionality in the Workplace?
Here are specific steps HRs can take to embrace intersectionality in the workplace and build a more inclusive work environment.
- Recognize the challenges that employees might face at different stages of their employee life cycle. From onboarding and selection to recruiting and leaving the organization, make a list of the barriers and challenges. Knowing the obstacles is the key to determining where you need to improve.
- Consider reviewing the current policies, programs, and initiatives. As a leader, you must keep updating the policies and initiatives taken for the welfare of the organization. Any step or initiative targeted at a particular group or race of employees can harm the views of others. This is one of the reasons why the measures should be reviewed for the growth of different intersectionalities. Redefine the recruitment and onboarding process to make them feel warm and welcome.
- Have a specific diversity management department or a specific diversity manager who will look after the operations and intersectionality in the workplace.
- Educate yourself on the issues that may affect the marginalized sections of society. Once you understand the issues well, you will know how to resolve them. You may even consider spreading awareness and telling employees to be specific about what they say. Make sure that no employee is making any stereotypical comment, not even in a joking manner. Make strict rules and regulations regarding what can be said or done in the workplace.
- Consider taking feedback on the policies and initiatives taken by your team. Share a survey or have a one-to-one interaction with the employees to understand the loopholes and challenges impacting your organization’s growth. A confidential survey or one with anonymous respondents is one of the most effective ways that may encourage employees to speak up.
Embracing intersectionality in the workplace means acknowledging that different team members will have different identities and perspectives. Understanding different identities is one of the keys to understanding the challenges and finding out how to create an inclusive workplace. Having intersectionality in the workplace will lead to more satisfied and engaged employees.
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