Intersectionality at Work

By Christina Giordano
June 23, 2021

Let’s Go Over What Intersectionality Is

Kimberlé Crenshaw first coined the term “intersectionality” in 1989 in her scholarly essay, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics

When thinking about what this word means Crenshaw asks us to visualize intersections of a physical road with the center being the overlap of identifies. The examples she uses in the essay include, “Colonialism Street, Patriarchy Street, and Racism Road”. 

Crenshaw’s essay focused on Black women and the intersection of gender and race, encouraging us to think about the intersection that women of color sit at by being both women and people of color folks need to understand the intersection of two historically marginalized identities or minority groups. 

Recently, intersectionality has become a hot topic in corporate america with the rise of companies wanting to participate in the corporate social justice movement. In order for organizations to participate fully and effectively, it is important to approach strategy planning for diversity, equity, and inclusion with an intersectional lens. Let’s look at a few tangible examples of how this can be executed.

Inclusive Internal Marketing 

If the team is planning to highlight your company’s women’s employee resource group in any way to the organization. (.ie. presentation, slideshow, video, photos) think critically about:  

  1. Whose is highlighted in the images? 
  2. Who is speaking most of the time? 
  3. When we talk about women, are only white women highlighted? 
  4. Are there women who are involved in other employee resource groups represented? 

Inclusive External Marketing 

  1. What are the demographics of the users of the product or service you’re selling? Does your external marketing represent these demographics equally?
  2. Do you feature someone with different abilities or for example, in a wheelchair and the purpose of their presence is not to highlight someone in a wheelchair?
  3. Are you representing different age groups of users using product/service? 

Making Space for All Identities

Thinking about intersecting identities is a practice in opening up your perspective. For example, there are a lot of ways to think about intersecting identities of historically marginalized groups when celebrating specific days in history.

A good example is considering the overlap of gender and race when we talk about “Equal Pay Day”. In 2021, “Equal Pay Day” for “all women” is March 24, 2021 but if you dig deeper into the stats for women of color we’re looking at different days: 

  • Mom’s Equal Pay Days 2021: May 5, 2021 
  • 0.90 cents for AAPI mothers, 0.71 cents for White, non-Hispanic mothers, $0.52 cents for Black mothers, 0.46 cents for Latina mothers, and $0.50 cents for Native American mothers. 
  • Black Women’s Equal Pay Day 2021: August 3, 2021
  • Native Women’s Equal Pay Day 2021: September 8, 2021 
  • Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day 2021: October 21, 2021 (October 21, 2021 is 7 months after March 24, 2021 folks) 

Or, more generally when talking about women, being intentional in including transgender women and transgender women of color. More than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias. More than three-fourths have experienced some form of workplace discrimination.  J.K. Rowling has been criticized for her participation in the TERF movement which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminst movement. Don’t be a TERF.   

Taking the Steps Everyday

Knowing that data like this exists, but is generally ignored or unknown, what can you do to actively be better, everyday?

  • Stop grouping people together in homogenous terms. No one is part of a monolith. 
  • For example: All women, all Black employees, All LGBTQ employees, All employees of color 
  • Analyze the information you read and whose perspective it’s coming from 
  • For example: if you’re reading about the history of Stonewall and planning some corporate Pride celebrations, does the article include Marsha P. Johnson, and Silviera Rivera, do they reference how important the trans community is to the huge movement? Is your company sharing these names or turning their logo rainbow and calling it a day? 
  • Look at your marketing 
  • Are you being actively inclusive in your marketing externally and internally? 
  • Do an audit and make some changes 
  • Making space 
  • Are you making space for identities that don’t match your own? Are you promoting women of color and not just hiring them? Are you retaining folks? 

No one is equal until we’re all equal. That might be an idealistic idea but we can aim for equity. “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even if her shackles are very different from my own.”, said Audre Lorde. 

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