the importance of intersectionality in the workplace.

The recent protests against racial injustice and violence directed at the Black community have shone a bright light on the need for a stronger intersectional approach to gender equality. As allies, we have a responsibility to stand up in solidarity with the Black community. We must take action and use our voice to empower all women and amplify the voices of those who have less privilege.

Through our Women Transforming the Workplace program, we’ve talked extensively about the need for more women in leadership. Diversity and inclusion are central to our identity and what we stand for at Randstad Canada. As HR leaders in the gender equality space, we’ve spent a lot of time advocating for women. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved, but recognize there is always room to do more. That’s why intersectionality is so important. When only some women succeed, it’s not enough. As advocates for women, we’re committed to helping all women access the same opportunities.

why intersectionality matters in the workplace

what is intersectionality?

Intersectionality looks at points of overlap between marginalized groups and aims to offer a more nuanced view that considers how a variety of socioeconomic factors contribute to lived experiences and discrimination. Socio-economic factors such as gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation etc. must be considered simultaneously when exploring how individuals and social groups experience discrimination. 

For example, how a white cisgender woman experiences discrimination will be vastly different from how a Black trans woman does, even though both are part of the women minority group. Their vastly different experiences cannot be painted with the same brush and addressing the types of discrimination each faces requires more nuanced solutions. Intersectionality aims to broaden the scope of the original feminist movement, which primarily benefited white, middle to upper-class women.

why intersectionality matters in the workplace

develop more nuanced, inclusive solutions

Talking about issues like gender equality in a general sense often neglects to look at how other subgroups within that demographic are affected. The gender pay gap is a perfect example. When broadly discussing how the pay gap for women is shrinking, the experiences of minority women are erased. Racialized women earn $5k less than white women. They’re also more likely to be underemployed, and hold jobs that are not reflective of their experience and education. An intersectional view on the issue would explore solutions to ensure women in other subgroups achieve equal pay to their white counterparts.

women are multi-dimensional

People are not one-dimensional and may be a part of many marginalized groups simultaneously. Reducing women to a single demographic is reductive and doesn’t address the systemic issues women face based on their race, age, class, and other compounding factors. Not all women experience discrimination the same way and painting everyone with a broad brush leads to a simplified approach that only benefits certain subgroups. Research shows Black, Asian and Latina women face different challenges in the workplace than white women. Black women are more likely to experience microaggressions at work and have their expertise questioned than any other group of women. Latina women are the least researched subgroup of women, with much workplace data centred around general Latinx experiences, rather than those unique to Latina women. Asian women face the stereotype of being the ‘model minority,’ yet remain least likely to be promoted to management roles. Without addressing the systemic issues that each group of women face, we will inevitably reinforce systems that give preference to white women. 

create allyship and amplify other voices

An intersectional approach to workplace equality creates allyship and structural change where women who succeed have the ability to pull up other groups behind them. Intersectionality eliminates the competitive mentality where advancements for one minority group hurts another. Since white women have historically been the biggest benefactors of the push for gender equality in workplaces, workplaces must work to create a system that enables white women to extend their privileges to women who are a part of other minority groups. Educating women who currently have the power to drive change on how they can be allies and amplify other marginalized voices is one way to drive lasting structural change.

eliminate situations where women are the ‘only’

Many women continue to find themselves in situations where they’re the only woman, person of colour, or person of their identity in workplace situations. According to research by Bentley University, 20% of white women have experienced being the ‘only,’ compared to 40% of Black women. This disparity is stark. Women who have an ally or another person to reinforce their viewpoint have a significant advantage. Women who are the ‘only’ in their workgroup are 150% more likely to consider leaving their job. They also face added pressure to not make mistakes and to not confirm stereotypes. An intersectional approach ensures that women with diverse perspectives have a seat at the table and the ability to confer with other women. It’s impossible for one woman to speak for all women, so we must have diverse women who bring many viewpoints into leadership.

interested in learning more about intersectionality and strategies to make your workplace more inclusive to all women? check out part 2 of this content series with actionable ways you can make your workplace more intersectional.

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