Hidden? Be radical: take an intersectional approach to employee feedback

14 Mar 21 | Blog

We all want an inclusive workplace. When you run a survey and find that one historically disadvantaged group, like women, scoring high, that’s great news! But you can’t leave it at that. Because women, surprise surprise, aren’t one homogenous group. There are a number of overlapping identities – from ethnicity, disability status, and sexuality – which will impact their working lives too. So looking even closer, or taking an intersectional approach, is absolutely crucial.

What is intersectional feminism?

Looking for a ‘intersectional feminism’ definition? Also known as intersectionality, all it means is that we all have overlapping identities. The layering of our race, class and gender affects how we experience the world. This is particular in terms of discrimination. The concept was made known by Kimberlé Crenshaw. She is a professor whose article explained how women of colour have to deal with discourses targeted at either their gender or race identity, but not both. Nowadays, intersectionality doesn’t just live in the world of feminist theories. The term is more widely used including aspects like disability and age as well. It’s a term worth familiarising yourself with, whether you’re concerned with social justice or not.

Why is intersectionality important?

Why is identity politics and intersectionality something you should consider? It might seem theoretical, but the unique experiences of intersectional identity groups have far-reaching consequences. Like how women with disabilities are 2-4x more likely to experience domestic violence than women without disabilities, for example. That knowledge gives an important context to solving the problem. When it comes to your workplace, an intersectional approach matters – because it gives you all the information you need to approach the challenge you’re facing.


Intersectionality examples in the workplace

Considering different intersectionality groups can help you better understand your people. But if you’re still unsure why it’s relevant, here’s a few examples:

  • A lot of diversity initiatives focus on supporting women in the workplace – like giving them mentorship opportunities, or trying to offset unconscious biases. But these often don’t consider women of colour, disabled women, or women from a certain class
  • Although leaders might encourage benign open about your identity, this isn’t always easy when it comes to identifiers like sexual orientation – as employees might still fear being discriminated for this, especially if they belong to another disadvantaged group
  • The well-meaning attempt to welcome identities can lead to labelling, and prejudices about people who don’t neatly fit in one ‘box’ – and can mean only the disadvantaged

Use our Platform & put intersectionality theory in practice

It’s important to consider the lived experiences of people with layered identities. This is especially the case for those who belong to a number of disadvantaged groups.

But how do you do it?

Our platform is designed to help you explore demographics with an intersectionality lens. This means you can use demographic data to compare the experience of white women compared to Black women, for example:

intersectionality example

The different experiences of people in the workplace are shown in the example data above. Here, Black women are generally scoring lower than their counterparts. This is indicated by the red and orange colouring on the data visualisation. Pain points are evident when it comes to ‘trust & fairness’, ‘leadership’, and ‘success.’

Compared to the survey feedback from white women this may be indicative of discrimination in the workplace. The next step would be investigating why they scored lower in those dimensions. You can do that by looking into the written, ‘open-text’ feedback.

Qlearsite’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) artificial intelligence can be of great assistance when examining such open response data.

Here’s another example, comparing cisgender heterosexual women with LGBTQ+ women’s experiences:

intersectional feminism

The difference in the example data above is dramatic. Reds and oranges (indicating lower scores and sentiment) much more present for the feedback from LGBTQ+ women. Straight women score low in some areas, but women who identify as LGBTQ+ have much lower scores. This indicates that this group feel much less included in a number of areas.

These problem areas may have been missed if the results had just looked at women as one homogenous group,. This might indicate that achieving inclusion in the workplace would be much more difficult.

It all starts with measuring inclusion, but making sure to take an intersectional approach.

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