Intersectionality is a framework for better understanding ourselves, others, our interactions, and the world around us.
Intersectionality is a word that has many definitions, but the interpretation in this toolkit is based on the Intersectionality Resource Guide and Toolkit created by UNPRPD and UN Women. It defines intersectionality as the understanding that people’s lives are shaped by their identities, relationships, and social factors that combine to create intersecting forms of privilege and oppression depending on a person’s context and existing structures such as patriarchy, ableism, colonialism, imperialism, homophobia, and racism.
We know that each person is multidimensional, that is, they have many identities that make up who they are. For example, you may be a white, middle-aged, disabled, British man, or you could be a black, lesbian, woman from Canada who is Deaf.
Intersectionality asserts that these identities overlap, that they are always present, and that they cannot be pulled apart from one another. It concludes that everyone’s unique combination of intersecting identities impacts how they experience and understand the world.
What intersectionality is not
As important as it is to understand what intersectionality is, it is equally as critical to know what it is not. Intersectionality is not:
- Another word for diversity. For example, it would not make sense to write in a job advertisement that you are looking for an intersectional employee because everyone has intersecting identities.
- A maths equation for oppression. You cannot simply add and subtract privileges and prejudices people face. There is no score for how people experience the world.
- A static concept. Like most frameworks for better understanding, identities are ever-changing and relationships between people are dynamic. Cultural context also needs to be considered, as intersectionality is not just a western idea.
- A definitive answer to social problems. Instead, it reframes a person’s understanding of marginalisation and creates space for reflection and engagement.
Origins of intersectionality
In 1989, Kimberle Crenshaw introduced the concept of intersectionality in an article entitled Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist. Crenshaw devised this term while working on employment discrimination legal cases and observing the simultaneous racial and gender prejudices faced by women of colour. By naming intersectionality, Crenshaw labelled a concept that was already familiar to many human rights activists.
In the article The history of intersectionality and the Black feminists behind it, Amara Ochefu explains that the tenants of intersectionality date back before Crenshaw. Similar principles were used by other Black activists and women of colour, queer, and indigenous people around the world before 1989. It is important to acknowledge that this concept did not just start with one woman.
Intersectionality has expanded to encompass the interconnections between all types of oppression—not just sexism and racism. It has also moved beyond academia, and it is being applied in other contexts, including the workplace.
Why intersectionality in the workplace matters
It is important to recognise how a person’s identity shapes their understanding and experience of the world. This is because people want to be aware of the ways they might be advantaged and be sensitive to the fact that other people may not have had those same advantages. This recognition is especially important when people share a space (like a workplace). Once people do this, they can start to take on the shared responsibility of reducing barriers and promoting inclusivity.
Since 2010, diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) work in England, Scotland, and Wales has been guided by the Equality Act 2010. In Northern Ireland, protection from discrimination is covered under several pieces of legislation. Additional details can be found on the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland website.
Policies based on equality and discrimination law have historically taken a single strand approach to workplace inclusion, meaning that most practices respond to one characteristic at a time. A single strand approach can leave gaps in inclusivity work, but there are several benefits of taking an intersectional approach to your DEI practices and policies.
First, this approach can help to increase employer and employee understanding. This approach supports an understanding of how individual experiences differ, even within already marginalised groups, which helps employers understand how the employee experience can differ from person to person. Having a better understanding of each other’s experiences at work can help identify structural barriers that could be missed when only looking from a single perspective.
Second, an intersectional approach to DEI could make an impact at every point in the employee journey. It recognises and celebrates diverse talents, aiding in the retention and progression of employees. This approach can help increase employee satisfaction and retention by ensuring that your employees feel heard and seen. Ultimately, internal employee satisfaction positions your organisation as a more desirable place to work for new talent, aiding in recruitment efforts. For additional guidance, see enei’s Quick Guide: Inclusive Recruitment.
Finally, taking an intersectional approach can support your organisational business goals. It allows you to make more informed, inclusive, and responsive decisions when it comes to organisational objectives, changes, and leadership. Taking this approach can improve understanding and collaboration throughout all levels of an organisation, which means that time, money, and energy are spent more intentionally and efficiently.
The state of intersectionality in the workplace
In 2021, the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei) surveyed its 400+ members to find out how organisations were taking an intersectional approach to their DEI policies and practices. The results highlighted that this kind of approach was still in its infancy and that there are barriers to overcome. Some of the responses included:
- Only 20% had supports in place that were tailored for a staff group with overlapping characteristics;
- Less than a quarter had held awareness raising events for staff around overlapping characteristics;
- 31% analysed staff monitoring data to look at overlapping characteristics;
- 32% said a barrier to intersectional work was a lack of understanding or awareness;
- Less than half said they take an intersectional approach to their DEI strategy; and
- 55% said they supported employee networks or employee resource groups (ERGs) to work together in an intersectional way
One participant summarised the feelings of many when she noted, “Knowledge of intersectionality as a factor of discrimination is known about within the organisation, but we are still looking at individual characteristics. I feel isolated or like I am pushing the envelope too far if I bring it up as a woman of colour. There are some capacity issues, but I also think we just do not know where to start.”
Not knowing where to start was a sentiment that was echoed by many respondents. Providing that starting point is the primary purpose of this toolkit.
The role of allyship
Once you understand the concept of intersectionality as a framework and realise how it can impact your life, you might wonder how to use it to create inclusive environments. Allyship is one method of putting the concept of intersectionality into action.
What is an ally?
An ally is someone who recognises their unearned power and privilege within society. They use their position to challenge inequality and support underrepresented people and groups. An intersectional ally reflects on the unique experiences of others and consistently and proactively looks for ways to hear and back up marginalised people.
Allies often belong to a dominant group that either has more power or a larger number of members, and this may give the ally access to those groups in a way that underrepresented people do not have. They may have influence over the group and can shift attitudes or be able to rally support from within the group. They can then use that position to champion the rights and experiences of others.
Allyship is about action and making conscious choices. Sometimes this can be difficult, or it can feel like a daunting task, but as you push for cultural change and inclusivity, this ongoing practice becomes embedded in how you operate and approach each situation. Allyship will look slightly different for each person and in each scenario, and while there will be continuous growth and reflection on your allyship journey, it is important to remember that it is not a linear progression, and you will be constantly learning and adapting.
Who can be an ally?
To put it simply, all people can be allies to one another. Allyship can be a powerful tool for finding your own role in creating change. Sometimes belonging to a marginalised group puts you in a prime position to be an ally because it gives you an understanding of what oppression might feel like.
Allyship can relate to power dynamics and can reveal who has certain opportunities and access based on parts of their identity. This can divide people into different social groups and may determine where they sit within societal hierarchies.
Where a social group sits will change in different situations, and because identities are intersectional, there will be some scenarios where someone first falls into a dominant group according to a part of their identity and then falls into a less powerful group according to another part of their identity. This means that if they draw on their experience, they can relate to feelings of isolation that other marginalised groups might face while acknowledging that they might never fully understand the specific experiences of others.
Initial steps towards allyship
First, you want to consider what allyship looks like to you and what is driving you. This will be different for everyone, but if you have a clear idea of your motivation and what change you want to see then it makes your allyship more sustainable and consistent.
Part of this will involve taking moments for self-reflection. You should consider your own intersectional experiences of belonging to socially dominant groups (where you might have access to power and privilege), or socially marginalised groups (where you might face exclusion and oppression). This will shift and change in different scenarios and through life, so it will involve a certain level of practice and dedication to learn from your behaviours and responses before it can influence how you can engage differently in the future.
A final step to get going on your ally journey is to focus on the groups you are trying to support and take steps to educate yourself about their experiences, history, and some of the core issues that have an impact on them.
Things to remember about allyship
Take time to meet and listen to people about their unique stories and make room to find common ground. It is incredible what you can learn and unlearn by simply engaging with one another. There are several pieces of advice, including:
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It can be uncomfortable to recognise that you may have privilege in certain situations that others do not, and you may sometimes get stuck with feelings of guilt and shame. Reflecting on that difference is important, but it is also important to think about how you might use that position to better support others.
- Listen to marginalised people. It can be easy to assume you know what people want and need but this can result in speaking over or on behalf of underrepresented people in a way that is not helpful to them. It is important to take the focus away from yourself and listen to what they tell us.
- Allyship is not performative. When so much awareness raising and information sharing happens online, it can be easy to fall into the trap of performativity—where people act, but mainly in a way that is about gaining approval from others. When someone does this, even unintentionally, the result can be superficial action, which does not create effective change. Take a moment to reflect on what your action is, what the impact will be, and how you will sustain it.
- Remember self-care. Self-care and reflection are vital to allyship. When engaging in allyship, it is unsustainable to put all your energy into every initiative all the time. Resting, recuperating, and taking time to process your learning is essential for sustainable allyship.
For more information, see enei’s Employer Guide: Allyship in the Workplace.
Data gathering is an essential way to gain an understanding of who works in your company or organisation, what their experiences have been, and what their needs are. Sometimes it can feel like data is putting people into boxes, but when you conduct data gathering through an intersectional lens, this allows you to consider some of the unique ways in which someone’s identity might impact their employment journey.
What data are you gathering and why?
Data gathering allows an organisation to track trends and experiences and interpret them to unearth challenges or take actions to improve the workplace. When gathering data, it is important to have a clear idea of what information the organisation is collecting, why, and what the organisation is going to do with it.
There are a lot of set data questions or terms that you may use because they have been used in the past, but there is a difference between gathering data for the sake of it and understanding what you are trying to discern from it. The first question to ask is this: what does this data tell us? For example, you could ask broad questions about race or ethnicity, but that only tells you who does not identify as white in your organisation and does not consider the vast difference of experience between racial or ethnic groups
If you have a clear idea of what data you want to gather and know how you will use it to improve your practices and the experiences of your employees, then you can start to ask more specific questions or leave space for individuals to define their own experiences.
Making the ask
Asking questions about all aspects of identity can paint a richer picture of people, even if that information is anonymous. It is best practice to cover a broad spectrum of identity points rather than condensing them to a few areas. You should also consider the language you are using when asking questions about identity. Is it best practice? Slightly outdated? Or even offensive in some circumstances? You should research best practice or approach an expert to ensure that you are not being unintentionally offensive or closing people off from sharing their information at all.
Qualitative and quantitative data
Gathering quantitative data is useful when presenting high level information. But gathering data that explores experiences can enhance the quantitative data you gather. You should ask both types of questions to paint a full picture of your workplace.
Open text boxes
Open text boxes can be an effective way to encourage people to reflect on their own identities and think about how they define themselves. This can involve a bit more work when interpreting the data, so adding text boxes alongside broader demographic questions allows room to expand while still giving you the ability to categorise information when necessary.
Who will see the data?
When divulging information, it is important for employees and customers to feel well informed about how that information is being handled. You should convey how the data is gathered and stored, who will have access to it, and how long will it be kept. People often want to feel certain that the information they provide will be anonymous or that it will not be identifiable. People will be much more likely to disclose if they think their data is being handled safely.
How will you use the data?
When reviewing data through an intersectional lens, it is important to consider how you will use the data. Employees and customers may be reluctant to share their information if they think it will only benefit the company and if there is no clarity about how it will benefit them or others who share elements of their identity.
When encouraging people to share their data, it is important to be as clear and transparent about how you intend to use that information to improve your organisation’s operations or workplace culture. These considerations may also apply when you analyse the data and consider how you will publish your findings.
There may be some information that is too private to share publicly, but in that case, it can still be useful to share the outcomes or actions you plan to take based on the information you have gathered. This will demonstrate a clear understanding of how this information might improve experiences for people.
Case studies, takeaways, and starting points
Understanding the concept of intersectionality is the first step in creating a more inclusive workplace. Although intersectionality is a newer approach to DEI, some organisations have already begun to implement it in their workplaces. Here are five different intersectional initiatives, including action items that can be taken away from each.
British Transport Police – Taking an Intersectional Approach to ERGs
As of July 2022, the British Transport Police (BTP) has 11 ERGs. Within BTP, these groups are referred to as Employee Staff Associations (ESAs). BTP’s ESAs automatically incorporate intersectionality as a standard component of their environment of solidarity.
BTP is expanding and codifying the existing scope of its ESAs by creating a formal charter. This charter will provide an official definition to be used as the basis for all ESAs. It will also incorporate an Intersectionality Pledge that reiterates the ESAs’ commitment to working together and ensuring a joined up, cohesive, organisation-wide approach to inclusion and diversity.
The ESAs will be participating in a conference to ensure intersectionality (and the avoidance of silo working) is integral to their activities and will be seen in their outcomes. There will also be a plan to ensure all elements of intersectionality are incorporated into the organisation’s inclusion and diversity portfolio and programme management approach.
Karen Wiesenekker, Head of Strategic Inclusion and Diversity for BTP says, ‘Avoiding hierarchy within our work with ESAs is critical to ensuring they each feel valued and included. There are certain priorities we do need to take into account whilst simultaneously recognising the diverse needs of each one of our ESAs. A fundamental objective for our ESAs is to create a healthy and effective collaboration, working jointly towards shared goals. The authenticity of our ESAs brings knowledge and learning from intersectionality and lived experience that helps us to build a modern and inclusive force which assists us to create a culture of belonging for all.’
Many companies and organisations already run ESAs (or ERGs). BTP’s work illustrates how it is possible to take established DEI work in an organisation and make it intersectional. This can happen through the creation of a formal charter based on shared experiences and support. A greater sense of solidarity and intersectionality is more likely to be achieved through the leverage of strength in numbers.
Where to start:
How to make your ERGs more intersectional.
- Establish a wide range of well supported and well organised ERGs with budgets, senior leadership support, and terms of reference that take into consideration the intersectional experiences of members.
- Encourage ERGs to sign intersectional pledges.
- Arrange and support cross organisational ERG chairs to meet four times a year (at least).
- Create opportunities for ERG chairs to meet with senior leaders to share experience and influence organisational vision.
- Plan some ERG meetings with more than one group.
- Hold several ERG events together and look for additional opportunities to work together and support one another.
- Get ERGs to agree to stand in solidarity with one another.
- Encourage ERGs to agree to celebrate and support one another by showing up and championing visibility days or initiatives being run by the other ERGs.
- Provide ERG committees with positions specific to intersectional identities.
For more information, see enei’s Employer Guide: Employee Resource Groups.
Department of Transport – Tackling Race, Gender, and Mental Health Through the Barbershop
In 2021, the Department of Transport (DoT) employed over 18,000 staff who worked at locations across the UK. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic and following the murder of George Floyd, it became apparent that there was a lack of Black, male Mental Health First Aiders and fair treatment ambassadors. This meant that when Black men sought support, they were unlikely to meet another Black person.
After realising that within the organisation, Black men did not feel like there was a safe space to discuss their wellbeing and mental health, a group of Black, male employees came together and created a wellbeing support group called The Barbershop.
The Barbershop was designed to give members an intimate space to discuss wellbeing to improve mental health and provide emotional and developmental support for members. Members of the Barbershop could talk openly about challenges they were facing at work and home and had the opportunity to receive mentoring from experienced colleagues in senior management positions. The forum also enabled Barbershop members to become Mental Health First Aiders; they could develop their expertise in wellbeing and mental health to be available to provide immediate support to members when necessary. In addition to improved wellbeing, seven members of the forum were promoted, following developmental support facilitated by the Barbershop.
Some DEI initiatives will be proactive, while others may be reactive. Employers should listen to the needs of their employees, especially during a time of a major world event.
Taking a bottom-up approach to DEI can produce innovative solutions to problems that upper management may not be aware of. Giving your employees space to problem solve and take ownership of initiatives without being prescriptive can be beneficial to both them and the organisation.
Responsive organisational support ensures that reactionary initiatives can be implemented sustainably and can positively impact personal and professional development. This can look like providing resources, time, and management or senior leader support.
Where to start
How to set up responsive safe space initiatives:
- Establish spaces with senior sponsorship involving those who have access to resources and training to lead or support those spaces.
- Create a structure for reverse mentoring and feedback from junior members about their experiences.
- Establish a code of conduct in these spaces with contributions from participants that they can agree to adhere to when engaging in the space (make sure to include conversations around confidentiality).
- Ensure spaces are supported with identity relevant resources by signposting and, where possible, providing external professional expertise.
- Establish routes for issues impacting participants to be fed back to senior leaders (only at the request of participants).
- Provide tools and training where possible or required to support with issues like navigating challenging conversations and being an active listener.
- Recognise participation as part of professional and personal development.
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust – Intersectional Innovation with Hair Caps
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is a large, central London NHS Trust. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, employee feedback highlighted some challenges for Black, Asian, and other staff members from underrepresented ethnic groups. They reported that wearing PPE produced a particular challenge for them due to the increased frequency of needing to wash their hair, causing hair breakage and scalp damage.
While on shift, a nurse named Noni Nyathi began wearing a head covering that both protected patients and eliminated the discomfort caused by makeshift PPE solutions. With support from managers, the Race Equality network, and the network’s executive sponsors, Noni began working with procurement and senior nursing teams to find a supplier who could produce the newly created hair caps at scale.
The innovative approach to alleviating the discomfort that negatively affected colleagues across a range of identities and backgrounds has helped make those employees feel happier, more valued, and better understood. Hair caps are now part of the Trust’s uniform policy and are available to all who request them. The team has also investigated supplying hijabs and other uniform solutions.
This is an example of an intersectional policy as it deals with race, religion, gender, and wellbeing. It recognises that a workplace should take responsibility for ensuring employees are supported physically and mentally. It is a great example of how support from upper management can champion an initiative and destigmatize changes that impact some groups but not others. It also exemplifies how listening to your employees is sometimes the best way to produce impactful solutions for the problems they are facing.
Companies and organisations should provide employees with opportunities to give feedback, listen to them, and follow through when they present issues and possible solutions. After all, they know their own work experience best.
Where to start
How to capture constructive feedback and respond in an intersectional way:
- Create multiple feedback opportunities (including anonymous routes) to ensure employees feel heard and supported.
- Where possible, conduct feedback surveys or establish feedback forums with senior leaders present.
- Train managers to support employees with issues proactively and ask questions about their needs, particularly around physical discomfort, mental health, or anything that may be providing a barrier to them fulfilling their roles to the best of their abilities.
- Actively communicate in a variety of mediums (such as on posters, in meetings, or through regular email updates) that feedback is welcomed.
- Actively respond to employee suggestions and invite them to discuss issues further and develop solutions together.
- Be clear when something is not viable and revisit the topic regularly to show that the issue is being taken seriously.
- Allow opportunities for employees to lead on projects relating to the issues and contribute to decision making processes around the issues. Where possible, ensure that this work is remunerated or recognised as an additional professional development responsibility.
- Highlight successful projects, including details about the process and what steps were taken.
Burness Paull LLP – Tackling Age, Gender, Disability, and Wellness through Menopause Initiatives
Burness Paull are an independent Scottish commercial law firm. With 67% of their staff identifying as female, they realise that the menopause is an issue that should be high on their agenda. The legal sector has become predominantly female; however, gender equality continues to be a significant issue at senior levels.
With the awareness that one in four people report experiencing severe symptoms because of the menopause, and six in 10 reporting that it has a negative impact on their work, Burness Paull recognised that several employees would be juggling some severe physical and mental symptoms of the menopause alongside the pressures of working in a leading commercial law firm. Employee survey data highlighted a lack of knowledge around the menopause as well as a need for better line management support.
So Burness Paull took a multifaceted approach to creating, embedding, and sustaining a workplace culture that supports employees through the menopause. This included various activities aimed at encouraging disclosure, breaking down stigma, and raising awareness of the impact of the menopause at work. Central to this was:
- Improving leadership support;
- Reviewing existing policies;
- Delivering employee and manager awareness raising and training sessions;
- Establishing menopause champions;
- Introducing a Menopause at Work policy;
- Running an HRT (hormone replacement therapy) masterclass;
- Launching a menopause hub on the company intranet;
- Running menopause yoga and wellbeing workshops; and
- Celebrating World Menopause Day.
They also incorporated low-cost changes, such as providing employees with the opportunity to request desk fans and updating the dress code policy to allow short sleeved tops. Both have been effective solutions to help with temperature control regulation, a common menopause side effect.
A post-project survey found that 96% of employees strongly agreed that Burness Paull are committed to raising awareness of the impact of menopause on women at work. Of those going through menopause, 73% agreed that they felt supported at work. This was a 30% increase from the previous 12 months period.
The project was designed to engage employees of all ages and genders and to open the conversation about the menopause as being something that can impact everyone. Carrying on the conversation has been critical, and the menopause is now embedded within their wellbeing culture and woven through their policies and processes, including induction, ensuring those impacted by the menopause can access the right resources and support from day one.
This example shows how embedding intersectional practices at all stages of the employee journey and calling in all your employees, not just the ones that you think are impacted by a topic, can lead to an overall culture change and shift in attitudes. Their approach to the menopause has been tailored so that every person can find the resources that they need, and so that those employees who do not personally experience the menopause can educate themselves on the topic and support others as allies. Importantly, their policies recognise that the menopause can impact bodies of all kinds, and this does not just apply to the groups you might expect.
These policies touch on issues that relate to gender, age, wellbeing, and disability. This is also another example of how changes do not have to be big or expensive to be intersectional and effective.
Where to start
The Government’s Menopause Transition: effects on women’s economic participation report emphasises a variety of approaches to menopause transition at work to reflect differing experiences. Some of these approaches can be adapted to be more intersectional, including:
- Changing organisational culture to destigmatize the menopause.
- Establishing compulsory equality and diversity training that includes age, gender, disability, and the menopause.
- Providing specialist menopause advice.
- Tailoring absence policies and making sure they can apply to all staff.
- Offering flexible working patterns for employees affected by menopause symptoms.
- Appointing a senior woman as a menopause champion.
- Training managers on the menopause symptoms (including how it can impact people differently).
- Being sympathetic if employees are unwell at work.
- Carrying out risk assessments, particularly for shift-based roles.
- Offering employee assistance programmes to help with physical, emotional, and financial support.
- Establishing an advice line for conversations employees may wish to have when they experience difficult times.
You can also make environmental changes to create a supportive environment overall. These include:
- Relocating desks closer to windows that can open.
- Offering more control over heating thermostats.
- Providing desk fans.
- Supplying cold water.
- Allowing for more frequent toilet breaks.
- Making flexible working arrangements.
- Rethinking nylon uniform.
Learn more in enei’s Employer Guide: Menopause in the Workplace.
Greater London Authority – Intersectional Data Analysis
The Greater London Authority (GLA) has illustrated how a big organisation can use the data they are likely already collecting in a more intersectional way. Under the Equality Act, it became mandatory for GLA to report on their gender pay gap. However, they realised that just reporting on gender did not paint the full picture of pay inequity and did not go far enough to help them understand where they needed to invest their resources.
To address this issue, GLA began including ethnicity pay gaps with their gender pay reports. In 2022, they also began including disability pay gaps in their annual report. The idea has been to use the demographic data that they already have to paint a more holistic picture of the problems they need to be solving.
Part of the success of these reports is that all the work is monitored by a DEI board that is headed by their CEO, so senior leadership has direct buy-in and accountability to these initiatives. They are also able to get high uptake from employees who are self-reporting their data, which can sometimes be a challenge when employees do not understand the data’s use. GLA partners with their communications team to conduct biannual campaigns around updating demographic information so that all employees can feel confident about how the data will be used and protected.
Since beginning this initiative, GLA has seen long lasting awareness raising around intersectional issues and has a better sense of the gaps they need to target. In 2020, Black, Asian, and other underrepresented workforce representation reached their highest levels in years at 30%.
Bigger organisations can take the employee demographic data that they are already collecting and use it in more intersectional and impactful ways. By doing so, companies and organisations can see the real gaps they have in their diversity and inclusion efforts and take actionable steps to close them.
Collecting both qualitative and quantitative data will enrich the conclusions you can draw. If possible, try to gather intersectional data throughout the employee lifecycle, starting with the recruitment process. This will ensure that you are not hindering your DEI goals from the very beginning of the employee journey.
Where to start
For more information, see enei’s Quick Guide: Gender Pay Gap Reporting.
These checklists can help you to start implementing intersectional practices, both on an organisational level (for human resources and DEI professionals and senior leadership) and on an individual level (for all employees in and outside of work).
- Start with low cost, high reward changes. Remember that intersectional practices do not have to be budget breakers. Small changes like updating dress code policies are cost effective and can make a significant impact.
- Take a bottom-up approach. Provide space for your employees to tell you what their challenges are and provide them with the opportunity to produce possible solutions that work best for them.
- Get senior leadership buy-in. To create a real, sustainable impact, it is important that those at the top visibly show their commitment to intersectional DEI work.
- Review recruitment practices. Embed intersectionality throughout the employee journey, starting with recruitment. This includes job ads, advertising placements, interview panels, and inductions.
- Consider multiple identities when making new policies. When crafting new policies, make sure that something that helps one group of people does not inadvertently hurt another.
- Update current approaches. Review your current policies and practices frequently, and make sure to update outdated approaches with more intersectional ones.
- Provide opportunities for ERGs to overlap. This will make your ERGs more effective and allow your employees to be recognised as the multi-dimensional people that they are.
- Support self-identification. Allow for more opportunities for people to self-identify and express their experiences.
- Make your data intersectional. In bigger organisations, look at data through an intersectional lens–from the recruitment process and throughout the employee lifecycle–to get a more complete picture of your workforce.
- Support workplace wellbeing. Taking wellbeing seriously is a proactive step in supporting all employees to thrive. It is particularly important to recognise that some staff will be additionally affected due to their intersectional experiences and will require nuanced and tailored support.
- Encourage learning and development. Support your team with opportunities to build confidence, skills, and knowledge, particularly with offerings designed to support those who may have faced progression barriers due to their identities.
- Show interest. Take an active interest in the identities of others and learn about the lived experiences of others, especially on issues that do not immediately impact you.
- Conduct research. Expand your knowledge on topics that you are unfamiliar with. Remember that it is not the responsibility of the marginalised person to educate others
- Attend events. Participate in organisational events that highlight identities or cultures that are different from your own. This can also mean engaging in a supportive way, like helping with administration or coordination.
- Take time to self-reflect. It is important to create space to reflect on your own biases and experiences to recognise what you need to learn and unlearn.
- Act as a role model. As the old expression goes, practice what you preach! If you are committed to making your workplace more inclusive, make sure your actions are in line with your goals and show others how they can get involved.
- Hold yourself and others accountable. You may be continuously learning and updating what you know about DEI. Sometimes this means being challenged when you get things wrong. Change comes by acknowledging this and determining how to act differently in the future.
- Calling in versus calling out. Calling someone out is usually a direct challenge when you witness or experience an act of oppression. Calling in can be an opportunity to teach, share, learn, and understand. Both have their own merits, and it is important to decide which is the most appropriate way to react in each situation.
- Step up or step aside. Stepping up can be about using your privilege to act as a shield for those who might be impacted by oppression, which can be an important part of allyship. However, sometimes it is important to step aside and recognise that because you do not have a lived experience of a specific type of oppression, you are not the authority. Remember to step aside for those who are directly impacted by the situation.
Intersectionality is a framework that recognises that people’s lives are shaped by their identities, relationships, and social factors. An intersectional approach can potentially create a better working environment for every employee by ensuring that no one is left behind.
The information contained within this resource was accurate at the time of its publication and subsequent revision. It was created in June 2022.
Additional enei resources
- Assembly, The history of intersectionality and the Black feminists behind it by Amara Ochefu, 5 May 2021
- Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, Legislation
- Gov.uk, Menopause Transition: effects on women’s economic participation
- Legislation.gov.uk, Equality Act 2010
- University of Chicago Legal Forum, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist by Kimberle Crenshaw, Volume 1989, Issue 1
- UNPRPD and UN Women, Intersectionality Resource Guide and Toolkit, 2021