Insights & Research

Enhancing DEI Training

Intersectionality in Focus: Enhancing DEI Training With Complex Identities

What is Intersectionality and Why Does it Matter in DEI?

In the pursuit of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), it’s essential to recognize that individuals’ identities are multifaceted and interconnected. One of the most powerful frameworks for understanding this complexity is intersectionality. Coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in the late 1980s, intersectionality acknowledges that people’s experiences of oppression and privilege are shaped by the intersection of various social identities, such as race, gender, sexuality, disability, and socioeconomic status.

In recent years, intersectionality has gained traction as a critical tool for advancing DEI initiatives in workplaces, educational institutions, and communities. By recognizing and addressing the intersecting forms of discrimination and disadvantage that individuals may face, organizations can create more inclusive environments where all voices are heard and valued.

At its core, intersectionality challenges us to move beyond simplistic notions of diversity and recognize the complexity of human identity. It acknowledges that individuals embody multiple social identities, and these identities interact with one another in unique and nuanced ways.

For example, a Black woman may face discrimination not only based on her race but also based on her gender. Similarly, a queer person with a disability may experience marginalization at the intersection of homophobia, ableism, and other forms of prejudice. By understanding these intersections, organizations can develop more targeted and effective DEI strategies that address the diverse needs and experiences of all individuals.

Applying Intersectionality Principles in DEI Initiatives

Incorporating intersectionality into DEI training programs is essential for fostering a more nuanced understanding of diversity and inclusion. Rather than treating each social identity in isolation, intersectional DEI training encourages participants to consider how various forms of oppression and privilege intersect and overlap.

Training modules may include case studies, group discussions, and interactive exercises that explore the complexities of intersectional identity. Participants learn to recognize their own biases and privilege, understand the experiences of others, and develop strategies for creating more inclusive spaces.

One of the key benefits of intersectional DEI training is its emphasis on amplifying marginalized voices. By centering the experiences of individuals at the intersections of multiple identities, organizations can ensure that their DEI efforts are truly inclusive and equitable.

This may involve inviting guest speakers from marginalized communities, elevating diverse perspectives in decision-making processes, and implementing policies that address the unique needs of different groups. By prioritizing intersectionality, organizations can create environments where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.

Intersectional DEI training can serve as a catalyst for building coalitions for change. By fostering solidarity among individuals from diverse backgrounds, organizations can create a powerful force for advancing social justice and equity.

Through collaboration and collective action, participants can work together to dismantle systemic barriers, challenge discrimination, and create more equitable policies and practices. By embracing intersectionality, organizations can move beyond superficial diversity initiatives and create lasting, transformative change.

Case Studies: Intersectionality at Work in Diverse Teams

Here are some examples of how organizations can apply intersectionality to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace:

  1. Recruitment and Hiring: Instead of relying solely on traditional hiring practices, organizations can implement inclusive recruitment strategies that consider the intersecting identities of candidates. This might involve using blind resume reviews to mitigate biases, actively seeking out candidates from underrepresented groups, and ensuring diverse representation on hiring panels.
  2. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Employee resource groups provide spaces for employees with shared identities or experiences to come together, share resources, and advocate for change within the organization. By supporting intersectional ERGs that represent a range of identities, organizations can create a sense of belonging for employees with diverse backgrounds.
  3. Professional Development: Organizations can offer professional development opportunities that address the unique needs and experiences of employees at the intersections of multiple identities. This might include leadership programs specifically tailored to women of color, mentorship initiatives for 2SLGBTQIA+ employees, or training workshops on disability inclusion.
  4. Policies and Practices: Reviewing and revising organizational policies and practices through an intersectional lens can help ensure that they are equitable and inclusive for all employees. This might involve implementing flexible work arrangements to accommodate employees with caregiving responsibilities, providing gender-neutral facilities for transgender and nonbinary employees, and offering accommodations for employees with disabilities.
  5. Performance Evaluation: Organizations can strive to make performance evaluations more equitable by considering the unique challenges faced by employees with intersecting identities. This might involve providing additional support and resources to employees from marginalized backgrounds, taking into account the impact of systemic barriers on their performance, and ensuring that evaluation criteria are objective and transparent.
  6. Cross Cultural Communications Training: Offering cross-cultural training that addresses the intersectionality of identity can help employees develop a deeper understanding of diversity and inclusion. This might include workshops on topics such as unconscious bias, microaggressions, and privilege, with a focus on how these concepts intersect with various social identities.
  7. Diversity in Leadership: Organizations can work to increase diversity in leadership positions by actively recruiting and promoting individuals from underrepresented groups. This might involve implementing diversity quotas or targets for leadership positions, providing leadership development opportunities for employees from marginalized backgrounds, and creating inclusive succession planning processes.
  8. Community Engagement: Engaging with external communities and stakeholders can help organizations better understand the intersecting needs and experiences of their employees. This might involve partnering with community organizations that serve marginalized populations, participating in diversity and inclusion events and initiatives, and soliciting feedback from employees and community members on DEI efforts.

Check out our Equality 360 platform that includes a variety of high-impact DEI microlearning like Cross-Cultural Communications, Inclusive Leadership, Inclusive Recruitment and Hiring, & more, and toolkits and templates (including policy templates, professional development processes, and inclusive performance evaluation resources) to advance your DEI journey!

Skip to content