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How to incorporate intersectionality at the workplace

Updated: Nov 23, 2023


Intersectionality at the workplace

Intersectionality is the overlap of multiple marginalized identities that could result in a unique set of barriers for an individual. Intersectionality at the workplace can bring forth its own set of challenges if not acknowledged and addressed. However, organizations can embrace intersectionality at the workplace by taking some proactive steps.


Intersectionality & Recruitment


Those who belong to multiple marginalized communities face more challenges during the recruitment process itself. Job descriptions which focus on personality descriptors can alienate applicants. For example, if a job description uses words such as out-going or extroverted, neurodiverse applicants might not feel comfortable to apply to the job though they might be suitable for the role. Moreover, in-person interview assessments that have parameters such as ‘maintained eye contact - yes/no’ can create barriers for autistic applicants. Job descriptions and the interview process should focus primarily on skill to overcome biases.


Companies should also provide accessibility options such as sign language assistance or specialized equipment to ensure the recruitment process is smooth for candidates with disabilities. Rejection data should be analyzed to identify gaps and experts should be engaged to revamp the recruitment process to be inclusive.


Intersectionality & Policies


Company policies that appear to be inclusive can be exclusive to those belonging to multiple minorities. For example, a health policy that does not cover mental health issues provides only partial cover to an employee who is a veteran with a disability and PTSD. Parental leave that is not extended to same-sex parents is another example of a policy that is not factoring multiple identities. Policies that acknowledge intersectionality and are designed to include the most marginalized will benefit all those who face any type of barriers at the workplace. Organizations should promote self-identification and conduct surveys to provide a platform for employees to voice their concerns related to policy-making.


Intersectionality & Leadership Positions


Black and Indigenous people and other people of color (BIPOC) make up 31 percent of front-line workers, but only 17 percent of the C-suite. This number gets much lower when the dimension of gender is added to the mix. Women of color face higher expectations in leadership positions and have to battle gender as well as race discrimination as they make their way to the top. Companies need to assess senior leadership positions through the lens of intersectionality to address the invisible barriers that block the path of deserving candidates. Setting up leadership training programs that proactively eliminate bias from the selection process is a great way to ensure every employee gets equal opportunity.


Intersectionality & Employee Engagement


Employees can experience exclusion during employee engagement activities when intersectionality is not considered as a factor in decision-making. For example, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are usually created around a single identity such as a Women’s ERG. When activities are conducted at a location that does have wheelchair accessibility, women with disabilities cannot participate. Hence, it is imperative to integrate intersectionality into thinking and decision making at the workplace. Awareness campaigns about intersectionality can help employees understand the challenges experienced by individuals belonging to multiple minorities.


Intersectional efforts can be boosted with the help of multi-ERG events. When two or more ERGs come together for an event, it promotes awareness and engagement across multiple ERGs. Also, these collaborations can highlight the challenges faced by individuals who belong to the intersection of the ERGs. For example, the Women’s ERG, the Hispanic ERG and the Disability ERG can together share the unique experiences and barriers faced by women of color with disabilities. These examples and stories have the power to make policies and processes more inclusive.


When workplaces proactively work towards supporting intersectionality, the invisible barriers are removed for all ensuring every employee prospers.


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