Increasing equality at work is tough and new challenges seem to emerge along the way, these are the unintended consequences of change.
For example, I’ve noticed that the words ‘equality’, ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’, which are now part of organisational parlance, are being used interchangeably. Each word seems to be losing its meaning and this is important, because we risk obscuring our aim.
So, if we can’t get the basics right what chance do we have when we introduce more jargon, such as ‘intersectionality’:
Intersectionality is a term used to describe overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. The idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole identity that is different from the component identities.”
An example is black feminism, which argues that the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood in terms of being black, and of being a woman, but must include the interaction of both identities, which frequently reinforce each other.
Identities such as age, colour or ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, personality and neurodiversity are all relevant to intersectionality.
We believe intersectionality may be the key to unlocking progress on equality at work.”
Although the word is not yet commonplace, we believe intersectionality may be the key to unlocking progress on equality at work.
This is because focusing on one identity as the main receptacle of bias in the workplace, such as gender or colour, is inherently exclusive and can fuel in group/out group animosity.
Whereas consideration of bias in relation to intersectional identities can have the opposite effect. We are more likely to share one or more of the intersecting identities, engendering a sense of relatedness and empathy.
So, here’s the thing. There are many passionate, talented people working to level the playing field at work. At The Glass Lift, we began by focusing on reducing gender inequality. We now believe there is a better way and have a call to our colleagues working to increase equality at work:
If you are working to reduce inequality for black, Asian, other ethnic minority, LGBTQ, disabled, neurodiverse or older employees, we want to be your best allies. After all, attempting to untangle our intersectional identities is unproductive, because they play out in different situations at various times, and are therefore a moving target.
By working together to eliminate discrimination, bias and social stereotyping we have a bigger voice and more impact.
We all want a workplace where ALL people have the same status, rights and opportunities. That’s true equality!
Views from The Glass Lift by Margaret Davies, Occupational Psychologist and Director, The Glass Lift
If you are interested to explore what we could do together, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.