Despite the many inroads made of late to improve Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) in the workplace, many minority employees still find themselves hitting a glass ceiling in their careers. The question is: why?
One answer may lie in the concept of intersectionality. Intersectionality is a framework for understanding how different aspects of a person's social and political identities might combine to create unique modes of discrimination that don't exist with those individual identities.
In the first webinar in Kekst CNC’s series, “Exploring the impacts of intersectionality in the corporate workplace”, Mariko Shaw spoke with Raafi-Karim Alidina, a consulting manager at Included, a global DE&I consultancy. Raafi talked about the role played by intersectionality, the importance of data, and how it can be leveraged by organizations to address these issues, as well as what companies should be most mindful of when it comes to communicating about DE&I.
Data—understanding it and knowing how to use it in addressing key issues—lies at the heart of all organizations. According to Alidina, the importance of data in assessing and addressing intersectionality can’t be overemphasized. Often, organizations may not even be aware of the what the data is telling them. An example is the work Included did for the Bank of England, which found that by looking at the intersection of race and gender, black women, as well as disabled employees, felt less included across every metric.
Indeed, large organizations have many data sets at their fingertips pertaining to specific protected characteristics. But how can they actually measure intersectionality? Alidina noted that most organizations already have much of the data they need to address DE&I issues – data they may have already collected as part of an employee engagement survey, for example. Rather than looking at different protected characteristics in silos, the data can be combined, thereby alerting the organization to potential issues they may not have been aware of otherwise.
Be mindful in your communications
While there’s been a great deal of communication from organizations about equity, much of it is marketing driven—it’s about how the company or enterprise wants to be seen, not necessarily from the perspective of truly wanting to be an inclusive company. As a result, a communication goes public, and then the company gets called out for it.
The key for companies in communicating about DE&I and intersectionality is to think about what this means authentically: why are you communicating about it? What's your driver behind it? That can help you decide what approach you take.
If you aren't doing anything yet and you haven't really planned it out, but you recognize that this is something you want to change, call out your organization by acknowledging that it’s an issue you may not have been thinking about before, but are now. That can be a powerful experience for people from different marginalized groups.
Internally, create a psychological “safety zone”: an atmosphere where people feel safe and empowered to speak their minds and offer an opinion that differs from prevailing attitudes without fear of backlash.
Finally, how an organization responds when someone questions the authenticity of a statement regarding DE&I—when a statement is met with skepticism, whether internally or externally—is critical. Responding authentically, and not defensively, is of the greatest importance.
In our next webinar, we will explore in more detail how organizations can have more open and productive discussions around DE&I, and we will also look at the importance of language in these situations, and how to get it right.