An Intersectional Approach to Inclusion at Work

This is because these companies are the ones that make an effort to ensure that everyone feels like they are a valuable part of the team. When everyone feels like they belong, they are more likely to be productive and to enjoy their work. If your organization wants to be truly inclusive, it needs to understand what intersectionality in the workplace means and how to embrace it.

Most organizations have taken a sequential approach to inclusion in the past, with a focus on gender first, then race, sexual orientation, and eventually disability and age. Or maybe class. Or neurodiversity. This means that, in most cases, the power center will bring in the next most acceptable characteristic. An older, black, visibly disabled woman faces different challenges than other members of society. Or an Indigenous, economically disadvantaged, autistic man? What if a deaf refugee who is fleeing religious persecution, or any other person who has some attributes that are not “currently includable,” is not able to be helped? Sequential inclusion leaves people behind.

Welcoming all talent requires:

What is intersectionality in the workplace?

Crenshaw coined the term ‘intersectionality’ in 1989 to explain how different social factors intersect with each other and affect the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.

Intersectionality in the workplace refers to the way different aspects of a person’s identity can interact with each other to affect their experience in the workplace. After that, it uses this knowledge to inform its policies and practices related to recruitment, onboarding, training, and leadership. The goal of this company is to ensure that employees feel comfortable discussing issues of discrimination in order to create a more inclusive workplace.

Intersectionality, the idea that different forms of discrimination often overlap and reinforce each other, has been getting a lot more attention lately, and has also been critiqued by many people over the years.

The problem of discrimination disappears when laws are passed that remove bias relating to individual characteristics. Although the 1965 Civil Rights Act aimed to end racism, it unfortunately has not had the desired effect of also closing the racial wealth gap. While reinstating women’s rights has made progress in leveling the playing field, it has not eliminated sexism or misogyny.

The author argues that bias and discrimination persist in our society because the systems our society is built on were created predominantly by white men, who infused them with racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination.

What are examples of intersectionality in the workplace?

One manifestation of intersectionality is that women earn only 83 cents for every dollar men earn. However, women of color are at a greater disadvantage. In 2020, black women were paid 64% and Hispanic women were paid 57% of what white non-Hispanic men were paid.

Even though women may be classified as the same gender, different races and ethnicity experience different work environments and may suffer from more inequality.

The proportion of Black men in managerial positions in US companies with 100+ employees rose from 3% to 3.3% between 1985 and 2014. White women saw more significant gains of 22% to 29% between 1985 and 2000. By comparison, white men’s wages grew by only 3% to 4% during the same time period. However, this percentage has not risen since then. This suggests that White men continue to dominate management positions.

People of color who have a disability might face more layers of bias when looking for jobs and while working.

Why you need to pay attention to intersectionality in the workplace

Educating yourself and your organization about intersectionality in the workplace is important for several reasons.

To build a truly inclusive and equitable workplace

It is important to consider the intersections of race, gender, and class when shaping company initiatives in order to best represent and support all employees. Therefore, it is an effective way to fight bias and discrimination.

If we don’t take into account the different intersections of identity that people have, it’s impossible to create a workplace that is inclusive for everyone. This is vital in order to maintain a positive employee experience, where everyone feels welcomed, safe, respected and supported, no matter what their race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religion is.

An inclusive and equitable workplace is one in which employees feel confident that they can voice their opinions and concerns without fear of being reprimanded, alienated, or victimized. The employees trust that the business leaders will take their feedback into consideration and make changes accordingly.

To become an employer of choice

An increasing number of people, especially those in the Millennial and Gen Z generations, are seeking out employment with companies that are dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. They want to feel included, but also because they want anyone else to feel included.

Offering the best annual salary and an attractive benefits package is no longer enough to be competitive. Not only are candidates assessing organizations, but they are also doing it on more factors than before. Companies that show inclusion as one of their values are more attractive to job seekers today. A survey done by McKinsey found that out of those surveyed, 39% of them decided not to take a job because they thought that the organization they were applying to lacked an inclusive environment.

The world is becoming increasingly diverse, which is reflected in the workplace. Many employees feel like outsiders due to how they’re treated or their subtle experiences. If someone feels less included or happy at work, they are less likely to feel engaged or committed to the organization.

To improve employee wellbeing

Paying attention to intersectionality in the workplace and implementing policies and practices accordingly can greatly improve employees’ lives. The result is undoubtedly improved employee wellbeing.

When employees feel good both mentally and physically at work, they are able to perform their job duties at the best level possible, stave off health problems that can come from anxiety and stress, and take care of the people around them better.

To boost results

25% of organizations that are not ethnically or racially diverse are likely to achieve higher results. Organizations with gender diversity are more likely to outperform those without gender diversity.

While your primary concern should be creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace, a side benefit is that employees gain an environment that helps them bring their A-game and thrive. Owing to the fact that a multitude of perspectives exist within any workplace, it is of the utmost importance that all organizations prioritize comprehending diversity and intersectionality.

Breaking the cycle of systemic discrimination

The self-perpetuating cycle of systemic discrimination is made up of access and success barriers. There are factors that make it difficult for people who are not in the mainstream to join the organization. There are several barriers to success that limit opportunities for marginalized groups, such as access to professional development and unfair promotion mechanisms. This lack of representation, voice, and leadership opportunities can further restrict these groups. This lack of representation of certain groups in leadership results in further barriers to access for those groups. cycles of discrimination can only be addressed by a systemic intervention. Inclusive practices are better for everyone because they help to reduce stress and frustration for all employees.

The Canary Code is a set of six principles that promote fairness in the workplace. To create a fair and just workplace, these six principles should be embedded into the entire talent cycle.

1: Participation

Make sure to include individual employees in the work-design process, especially those who think differently or come from intersectionally marginalized backgrounds. It is more effective to create jobs with the involvement of individuals rather than trying to design them, even if empathy is used. Empathy is constrained by similarity. No matter how extreme the situation is, participation will always boost morale and productivity.

2: Outcomes

The productivity of marginalized employees is partly explained by their innovative ways of working. Even though employees who are good at coming up with new ideas are often the ones who have to work in traditional ways that aren’t as effective. If we focus on the outcomes of employees instead of their professional appearance or work style, we will support both inclusion and productivity. If an employee outperforms their sales goals using a well-crafted email blast, does it matter that they didn’t use phone calls, if that is what the performance evaluation form calls for assessing? If a manager is able to use asynchronous collaboration technology to bring a hybrid team together, is the lack of synchronous meetings a problem or something to be celebrated?

It is important to focus on the content of a person’s work, rather than superficial elements such as style. To make sure that this is the case in your workplace, take a look at the criteria you use to assess employees and give them opportunities for advancement. Do these include references to subjectively defined “potential” or “fit”? Do they list any specific work style preferences (e.g., teamwork)? Criteria other than outcomes, such as personal similarity, can negatively impact the most marginalized members of society who are least likely to be similar to the person doing the rating.

3: Flexibility

Barriers that are based on time, place, or work style should be removed to support the employment of people with disabilities who need flexibility to accommodate their sensory sensitivities or sleep issues. In addition to reducing attitudinal barriers, it can help reduce other opportunity gaps, such as transportation limitations for those with disabilities or economic disadvantage. Flexibility in job assignments can help to match people’s individual strengths, and job sharing and part-time work can make it easier for people with other commitments to stay employed. Providing benefits that work for a variety of life circumstances can also help to include marginalized talent. This also means that employees are satisfied and stay with the company for a longer period of time, as flexibility is something that is highly desired.

4: Organizational justice

The main concern of justice in the workplace is fairness in outcomes and procedures, as well as interpersonal treatment, dignity, and providing employees with enough information. All types of justice have implications for employee morale.

When trying to create a more inclusive organization, it is important to follow Leventhal’s six procedural justice criteria. Reviewing your hiring, promotion, and other decision-making procedures with input from those who are not usually represented will probably identify areas that need improvement. Just procedures:

5: Transparency and clear communication

Organizations need to communicate clearly with neurodivergent people, who are often excluded because they cannot understand hidden messages, corporate doublespeak, and “insider” expressions with obscured meaning. Cultures that do not share information or allow people to participate in decision making can be difficult for autistic people and others. Transparency provides both inclusion and productivity , promotes a sense of psychological safety , and drives organizational performance .

6: Valid tools for decision making

Talent management practices that are based on subjectivity rather than objectivity exclude neurodivergent talent, create barriers for other marginalized groups, and limit the talent pool for organizations. Instead of using random instruments, using ones that are rooted in job analysis helps ensure that everyone is included. Job-seekers who are on the autism spectrum are often denied work because personality-based interviews, which measure the ability to talk about one’s skills, disproportionately favor those who can speak fluently about their qualifications. People who come from cultures that value modesty may have a difficult time accessing the same education opportunities as those from other cultures. When choosing someone for a job, it is more accurate to assess their skills directly instead of asking them to tell you about their skills. -When it comes to advancing or promotions, it is important to have examples of your successes to reduce potential bias.

When we solve the problem of exclusion in the workplace by creating systems that are inclusive of everyone, it can help solve other problems related to inclusion and well-being. This will create a brighter future for all employees, no matter their background.

Intersectionality in the workplace refers to the different intersections of identify an employee has. Embracing intersectionality means acknowledging these different intersections and using them to create an inclusive work environment. When different aspects of identity are considered together, employees are happier, more engaged, and more productive. If we can remove the things that are stopping marginalized groups from being successful, then everyone will have a chance to succeed.


Your sales have stagnated or decreased, and you can’t figure out why. Discover what’s holding you back from achieving predictable sales growth in your business.

If you want to grow your business, you need a proven plan and framework. That’s what you get with the 2X Your Sales Discovery Session.

Want to learn about a formula for Predictable Growth that will put your business on a 90-day path to 2X Your Sales?

Join our 90-minute one-on-one virtual workshop.