Intersectionality and Why Inclusivity is Not Enough



A Corporate Startup Studio

As we enter Pride Month and further immerse ourselves in the #blacklivesmatter movement, it’s important to unpack what it means to be intersectional in a society that often thinks posting in solidarity of a movement on social media is the pinnacle of inclusive behavior. 

Inclusivity involves including and inviting marginalized groups to the table in spaces they would otherwise be excluded or forgotten. This takes more effort than posting on social media during a movement, or handing out rainbow swag to your employees around the office during Pride Month. It is about being intersectional in the ways we view diversity and inclusion. 

Making an Inclusive Workplace an Intersectional One 

Intersectionality is a framework that involves understanding how aspects of a person's social and political identities might combine to create unique and more severe forms of discrimination. Intersectionality identifies injustices that are felt by people due to a combination of factors. 

For example: a straight, white woman could face injustices for being a woman, but she will not face injustices for being straight or white, whereas a lesbian, white woman would then face injustices for also being a woman, but with the added layer of being a lesbian. The list of injustices continues to grow once you add race and ability into the mix. A black, trans woman will receive more injustices than the lesbian, white woman and straight, white woman combined—and a black, trans woman who is also deaf would add another layer of danger to themselves in how they are treated and viewed in public spaces. 

It is important to acknowledge our own privilege and raise our awareness about how deep the layers of injustice go, how we often leave people behind, and how a lack of intersectionality will negatively impact various individuals. This awareness extends to better understanding how your employees and clients will be affected by this in the workplace, and what you can do to help.

A diverse workplace is useless unless it’s inclusive.

Make it More Than a Movement; Make it Last 

Your participation in inclusion should not be limited to designated dates on a calendar that remind you to celebrate and support a specific group of people. It’s a practice that must be done daily and actively—and it can start with how your office operates and treats employees on a regular basis.

A diverse workplace is useless unless it’s inclusive. An inclusive workplace consists of a collaborative, supportive, and respectful environment that increases the participation and contribution of all employees.

Here are some core values that support an ongoing, inclusive work environment:

  • Representation of a diverse group of people who exist across a range of roles in the workplace—especially in leadership and executive positions.
  • Receptivity to the unique ways in which your employees work together and how to highlight each of their abilities. This can work in response to certain disabilities that employees may have, and learning how to best accommodate and empower them at work. Listen to your employees. Engage with them. Empower them.
  • Fairness when it comes to bridging the wage gap (women make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes, and when broken down by race, black women make 64 cents for every dollar a man makes), having access to career and social networks, and being given the space and power to make decisions and suggestions that will be taken seriously.
  • Education, especially on a leadership level. Executives are often the people who set the example and tone of the company culture. It is vital that leaders undergo inclusivity training, read the essential literature, and discuss and implement strategies to use as a team to improve. This is especially important for HR. HR departments must also receive adequate training, be conscious of their communication, and provide workers with a safe space to voice their concerns.
When companies take serious accountability for their actions regarding intersectionality in the workplace—beautiful, creative things can happen.

Diverse teams bring unique talents and experiences to the companies they work for. But it’s not enough to just be diverse. The company must be actively inclusive, aware of their individual privileges, engaged, and committed to lifelong learning and growth. And when companies take serious accountability for their actions regarding intersectionality in the workplace—beautiful, creative things can happen. 

Required Reading (seriously, it’s required) 

Don’t let the learning stop here. Here are some recommendations from the Coplex staff to help you, your family, and your employees take the next step to better understanding what it means to be inclusive and intersectional in your day-to-day life.

Mental Health Resources—Don’t Stay Silent

The white-centerism of the mental health field is evident across many forms of media from self-help books, to celebrity memoirs, to support groups. POC and LGBT members are often less treated, and don’t have access to resources that reflect their own experiences. It is critical to make these marginalized groups visible in the mental health community.

Everyone deserves to be heard, and it’s important to seek help from someone who can understand and empathize with your experiences. Consider the following resources for you and your company, specifically for marginalized communities:

Keep the Conversation Going

“Your silence will not protect you.”
— Audre Lorde, 1934-1992, a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet. ”

Educate yourself, stay informed, and advocate for the people who often have their voice silenced—not just during Pride Month or during Movements in history, but daily. It is not enough to simply be tolerant or check one-time boxes of a list of inclusive behaviors; it’s about putting those ideas into action each day, with each employee, and with each member of society. 

At Coplex, we’re working hard to build a better future. Let’s build that better future together—one conversation, one book, and one day at a time.