Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives have become increasingly prevalent in the workplace in recent years. It's important to understand the concept of intersectionality to truly create an inclusive and equitable workplace. Intersectionality refers to the complex way in which multiple aspects of a person's identity, such as race, gender, sexuality and ability, intersect and influence their experiences of oppression and privilege.
How does intersectionality manifest in the workplace?
Intersectionality in the workplace means that an individual’s experiences are shaped by the interaction of their different identities. For example, a black woman can experience both racism and sexism in the workplace. Intersectionality can manifest itself in different ways in the workplace, including inequalities in recruitment, promotion and pay.
According to Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, a prominent scholar and activist who coined the term intersectionality, “Intersectionality is about understanding that people can be privileged in some ways and definitely not privileged in others. It’s about acknowledging that, for example, a wealthy Black woman experiences both privilege and marginalisation.”
How to identify individual privileges, oppressions, and where they overlap
To understand intersectionality, it is important to identify the privileges and oppressions associated with different identities. In order to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace, it is important to acknowledge that certain identities in society may be more privileged than others. This includes identities such as whiteness, maleness and heterosexuality, while others may experience systemic oppression, such as those who identify as black, female or queer.
It is also important to recognise the way these identities overlap and overlap. For example, a white woman may experience privilege in terms of her whiteness, but oppression in terms of gender.
As Dr. Crenshaw notes, “Intersectionality is not just about identity, it’s about how structures of power interact with each other. If you don’t understand intersectionality, you don’t understand how power operates.”
How intersectionality contributes to improving EDI initiatives
Understanding intersectionality is crucial to improving equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives, because it allows us to recognise the way different identities interact and influence individuals' experiences.
By acknowledging the unique experiences of individuals with intersecting identities, we can develop more inclusive policies and practices. This includes working to ensure that EDI initiatives are intersectional, which means they address the way different identities intersect and influence each other.
As Dr. Crenshaw states, “An intersectional approach understands that our social identities are not mutually exclusive, but rather interdependent and interrelated. That’s why intersectionality is so important for any effective policy that aims to level the playing field for everyone.”
Why are belonging and human-to-human connections crucial to EDI engagement?
It is crucial to EDI engagement to create a sense of belonging and human-to-human connection, because it allows individuals to feel seen, heard and valued in the workplace. This involves creating spaces for individuals to share their experiences and perspectives, actively listening and responding with empathy and understanding.
As Vernā Myers, Vice President of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix, states, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” In other words, it’s not enough to simply have diverse employees in the workplace. We must also actively engage with them and create a culture of inclusion that values their unique perspectives and contributions.
Tools and methods for engaging in EDI conversations and improving individual belonging
There are various tools and methods that can be used to engage in EDI conversations and improve individual belonging. This includes creating affinity groups or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for individuals with intersecting identities, hosting workshops and trainings on topics such as unconscious bias and allyship, and providing opportunities for individuals to share their experiences and perspectives.
In conclusion, intersectionality is an important concept to understand the complexities of privilege and oppression in the workplace, and to develop effective Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives that address the unique experiences of individuals with intersecting identities. However, it is not sufficient to simply acknowledge intersectionality without also creating a sense of belonging and human connection.
By actively engaging with employees and valuing their diverse perspectives, we can create a more inclusive and equitable workplace for all. Continuous learning and active engagement are necessary to build a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion.