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Today is International Women’s Day and the theme for 2021 is “Choose to Challenge Bias”. This is particularly important following a year of COVID-19 restrictions. These restrictions have resulted in a larger increase in unemployment for women compared to men across the UK. Moreover, the gender pay gap costs the British economy as much as £55 billion. Therefore, as we approach the light at the end of the tunnel, we need to keep Inclusion in mind. However, challenging bias mustn’t stop at gender.

What Is Intersectionality?

Discussions about workplace diversity rarely address intersectionality. Kimberlé Crenshaw, a professor of law at Columbia University, coined the term 30 years ago. Intersectionality is the idea that people have more than one identity. These identities interact with each other and uniquely affect the way someone experiences the world. For example, the workplace experience of a Black LGBT woman differs completely from the experience of a White heterosexual woman.

Why Is It Important?

It’s easy to think that addressing the gender pay gap alone is enough to challenge bias. However, discussions of gender equality often centre around the experiences of White, able-bodied women. If your Diversity programme isn’t looking beyond gender bias, then your organisation isn’t doing enough to address discrimination at its root.

A study by Catalyst showed that 60% of participants from ethnic minority backgrounds felt the need to actively protect themselves against racial and gender bias. This results in people trying to hide identity traits that feed into biases about a particular group of people. For example, it is a common experience for Black women to feel pressure to change their hair. This is due to the fact that employers often judge natural hair as unprofessional.

Additionally, the TUC found that LGBT women with disabilities are twice as likely to experience sexual assault at work as their able-bodied peers. Disabled women from ethnic minority backgrounds also experience higher levels of unemployment than any other group. Therefore, to ensure everyone’s wellbeing, local government organisations need to build Diversity & Inclusion programmes with Intersectionality at their core.

How To Improve Workplace Inclusion

As we discussed in our blog on Diversity & Inclusion, encouraging an inclusive workplace has many benefits. Making sure your staff are both diverse and inclusive increases innovation and allows them to understand the needs of everyone in your community. So how can you ensure that this culture is in place in your organisation?

It’s essential that D&I policies are inclusive of all groups of people. It’s not enough to simply address ableism, gender bias or racial bias alone. Ignoring intersectionality will prevent your organisation from truly identifying inequality. Therefore, bias training for your HR and Management staff must include intersectionality so that your organisation can take a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of discrimination.

Encouraging an inclusive mindset with intersectionality at its heart will benefit everyone in your community. Not only will this improve the wellbeing of your staff, but it will also allow them to better understand the needs of the people your organisation serves.