By Mary Tiffin
One’s life experience cannot be summed up with one identifying factor. Someone is not just their gender, race, color, sex, ethnicity, class, ability or sexuality; people are a combination of these and other identities. The same can be said for businesses. The culture of an organization is the reflection of the unique backgrounds of its members. There must be a holistic approach within business models that empowers, welcomes, includes and connects all team members to build a strong sense of community within the company, and this can be implemented with a focus on intersectionality.
Whether you are an entrepreneur or part of an established business, intersectionality is an essential consideration for your organization to build a level of trust among employees, managers and leadership that will promote cooperation, respect and personal well-being, as well as productivity and effectiveness.
The term “intersectionality” gained mainstream attention in the mid-20th century when issues of discrimination were bound within the legal frameworks of racial, gender or class discrimination.
Activists like Kimberlé Crenshaw worked to shed light on the experiences of people who identify with more than one of these factors. For example, the negative experiences of Black women cannot simply be attributed to either gender discrimination or racism; the intersection of their identities can affect how people are perceived and their resulting experiences.
In the workplace, intersectionality has grown to be incorporated within many inclusion and equity initiatives. It represents a diverse range of identities , opportunities and barriers that must be addressed within business models. It is important for entrepreneurs to promote an intersectional approach throughout all stages, from recruitment to onboarding to employment and more.
Building intersectionality into your business
If you build your business with intersectionality as a foundational value, there will be an inclusive culture from the start, which attracts not only quality employees but also customers, investors and business partners.
1. Intentional leadership
It is the responsibility of entrepreneurs, managers and company leadership to investigate exclusionary practices, understand the root causes, and take action to improve accessibility and inclusivity. This will promote a company culture of acceptance and belonging that strengthens community.
Take an honest look at your business’s values and, though it can be challenging, take the initiative to make change even when it can feel uncomfortable. Be intentional with your leadership and business decision-making to take a proactive approach to equity and inclusion.
2. Sharing experiences to build a guiding framework
Intersectionality in the workplace relies on the sharing of experiences. You want your business to reflect the diversity of your community, and this takes thoughtful planning, inclusive designs and thorough implementation over time. The Harvard Business Review recommends “systemic inclusion that considers intersectionalities, comprehensively addresses all barriers, and embeds inclusion in all talent processes and decision-making mechanisms.”
It is important that to create a safe space for employees, you listen to their needs, personal values and experiences to apply effective solutions to specific problems. Create a space where people feel comfortable to share their unique experiences and bring their full selves to work.
3. Feedback and open spaces for engagement
It can often be difficult for managers or leadership to implement effective measures of intersectionality if they do not have a clear idea as to the current office culture. As an entrepreneur, you are often so busy that you may not have time to touch base with your staff, even if your intentions are to build an inclusive and intersectional workplace.
Feedback and surveys are an outstanding way to allow people to share their experiences and have a direct impact on the changes they wish to see within the business model. According to recent research from the Achievers Workshop Institute, businesses that asked for feedback from their employees at least four times a year have 50% higher levels of engagement, while 88% of those employees are more likely to feel valued. This not only boosts an intersectional company culture but also improves productivity and growth.
Change that is worth doing takes time
As the next generation of changemaking, global entrepreneurs, you must have a business model with intersectionality at its core to effectively boost diversity, equity, inclusion, acceptance and belonging. Learn more about DEIAB within your businesses with new #YLAI4All resources.