Intersectionality affects every aspect of our lives both within and beyond the realm of work, but it’s not always considered as a framework for meaningful change within organizations.
Because of the way we have been socialized to continue feeding systems of oppression, we often feel it is rude to formally recognize others’ differences. We see this in how people are uncomfortable naming another person’s perceived race or asking for someone’s preferred pronouns. However, we must recognize these identities as a way to step beyond our assumptions that our experience is common.
The new perspective offered by intersectionality doesn’t only highlight cultural concerns; it also helps achieve cultural goals. Individuals who feel they are categorized in ways that fail to reflect their identity, recognizing the unique needs and experiences of intersected identity groups indicates a more authentic workplace.
To help you consider some of those iterative pathways forward for your own organization, we’re going to break down some recommended actions from the intersectionality research into three groups: increasing awareness, finding and addressing inequities, and changing culture.
Intersectionality should be central to all DEI efforts, including ERGs. When crafting learning programs companies need to consider each of these identities and all the permutations of how they overlap for an individual. What companies are currently doing is creating subgroups for one lens of your identity, which could be either race or gender. Companies do not need to create countless subgroups for each possible intersection, rather DEI Leaders and ERGs should equip with workforces with fluency in intersectionality. That fluency of intersectionality can be leveraged by ERGs to identify new opportunities for cross-ERG collaborations and new types of supportive programming to meet intersectional needs, and ultimately to use their influence to change policies and practices that me be negatively impacting their members.
One way to begin building this kind of intersectional fluency is through learning & development programs. Top companies’ current DEI training efforts, found very few examples of intersectional awareness included in organizational training. As a result, we recommend “stretching diversity training to include understandings of more nuanced intersectional identity categories, and having conversations about privilege.” Existing DEI-related programs could be adapted to include this type of content.
2) Changing culture
Applying an intersectional lens to our work isn’t only about calling greater attention to the needs of non-majority group members, but that “An intersectionality perspective highlights broader concerns about inclusive climates in organizations.” The new perspective offered by intersectionality doesn’t only highlight cultural concerns; it also helps achieve cultural goals. For instance, one of the common aspirations organizations have for their work culture is “authenticity,” and the desire to create a more authentic culture is well-served by applying an understanding of intersectionality.
For individuals who feel they are categorized in ways that fail to reflect their identity, recognizing the unique needs and experiences of intersected identity groups indicates a more authentic workplace.
3. Finding and addressing inequities
We need to start to move away from an awareness of intersectionality as a concept to actually applying it as a framework in order to thoroughly investigate employee needs and experiences related to organizational policies, for instance.
If it seems intimidating to imagine creating policies that align with a nuanced understanding of employees’ intersectional identities. Most organizations already have a recognition of differential needs based on social categorization, such as providing senior employees with more support for eldercare responsibilities or single parents greater levels of flexibility. By applying an intersectional lens to our thinking about how policies and processes may be serving (or failing to serve) employees at the intersection of multiple identities, organizations can surface previously unidentified needs and make tweaks to policies and programs that build on the existing types of support available.
The Future is Intersectional:
Creating None of the Above Moments
At first, it may feel overwhelming to think of all of the things you could change in your organization by applying the lens of intersectionality to your work. So, instead of thinking how? NOTA has designed a framework and all year solution to help you make the necessary steps to equip your workforce with a fluency of intersectionality. Contact us via our website notainclusion.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how we can help you.