Seven ways to consider intersectionality within your organisation

Resources Activism

Written by Scarlett Musu in consultation with Shannon Harmer / 06.09.2022

Gender equality is an organisational responsibility. All people should have equal access to opportunities for mentorship, leadership roles, career progression, and support within the workplace but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Gender inequality is prevalent in workplaces and plays out in many ways, including as gender discrimination such as women being paid less than men, and men dominating leadership roles due to preferential treatment over women.

In order to to address all forms of inequality in the workplace, we need to take an intersectional approach, and this blog post offers seven things to consider, to get you started on your journey.

Written by Scarlett Musu in consultation with Shannon Harmer / 06.09.2022

Photograph of three diverse people having a meeting, looking serious and deep in discussion. A young Asian woman is the focus, looking at her colleague, a young Black person with a short bleached afro. They hold notes and look like they're coming to a decision.

What is intersectionality?

It is a framework of understanding developed by Kimberlé Crenshaw that describes the way that different systems of inequality, like racism, sexism, and ableism, intersect to create unique experiences of discrimination and oppression.

For example, an Indigenous single mother with a high-school education would experience discrimination in a vastly different way to a disabled White woman with no children and a master’s degree – because of their unique identities. This means that when we address gender inequality, we must address all forms of inequality, and look at how different people experience discrimination in diverse ways, so that our solutions serve everyone – not just a select few.

Here’s seven ways you can consider intersectionality within your organisation:

1. Ground your work in the “why”

Gender inequality creates the environment for gender-based violence. Addressing gender inequality in your work without an intersectional lens that considers the barriers women with additional experiences of marginalisation (such as disability, language, religion, sexuality, social status, education, etc.) may deepen the exclusion and discrimination of some women, further entrenching inequalities. Using an intersectional lens at work provides an opportunity to address all forms of inequality in the workplace, without leaving anyone behind.

2. Keep in mind that people are not homogenous

Whilst women and gender-diverse people across the board experience inequality in the workplace through pay, representation, opportunities and more, they do not always share the same experiences of inequality. Intersectionality recognises that it is the culmination of identities that create specific, and varied, barriers to inclusion.

3. Approach learning from a place of curiosity and understand your stakeholders

Your stakeholders are the experts in their own lives and experiences. Consult with different stakeholder communities before, during, and after projects. Include disability groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, women’s groups and LGBTQIA+ communities. Approach these communities ready to listen, take a back seat as the “expert” (this is their role, not yours), and ask questions to better understand their needs and how you can meet them.

4. Use an intersectional lens when developing policies

Many organisations have developed, or are in the process of developing, policies which help to provide women with greater access to leadership opportunities and career progression. This is a great start, but women are not a homogenous group and do not all face the same barriers to access and opportunities. Consult with diverse women, as well as gender-diverse people, to better understand specific barriers to career progression, and address these in your policies and planning.

5. Train your staff comprehensively

Gender equality is essential for addressing discrimination in the workplace and ending violence against women. Provide training for all staff to understand the ways in which gender inequality impacts us all, at work and beyond, and the actions we can take to address it. We all have a role to play in achieving gender equality, and we are better equipped to do it when we understand the issue well.

If you’re not sure where to start, let us help. Get in touch:

6. Represent diverse identities and communities in your communications

Include representation of diverse genders, abilities, cultural backgrounds, ages, and body types in both your external and internal communications. Representation in messaging and media is a simple but important way to promote inclusion and combat inequality.

7. Get comfortable with discomfort

This work can be uncomfortable. It’s calling us to reflect on privilege, power and the systems we’re part of. Get comfortable with that discomfort. Recognise it, name it and work to understand it. Create safe spaces for meaningful and critical conversations about these issues, ideas and concepts, including different forms of oppression and discrimination that your staff and stakeholders may face, and aim to approach this work from a place of compassion, kindness and humility.

We all have a role to play in advancing gender equality.

Join us in taking action today and share this if you’ve found it useful.