As we celebrate Pride Month this June and recognise the contributions of our vibrant LGBTQIA+ community, it’s crucial that organisations also focus on intersectionality. 

Experiences of discrimination are not defined solely by one aspect of identity in the LGBTQIA+ community but by the intersections of multi-layered identities, such as race, sexuality and gender. This complexity must be appreciated and recognised and your organisation’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) strategy should take an intersectional approach.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is intersectionality?

Intersectionality is rooted in Black feminist activism and was first coined in 1989 by civil rights and critical race scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. She introduced the term to highlight that individuals do not experience discrimination or privilege based only on a single aspect of their identity, for example, gender, race, or sexual orientation. 

Intersectionality examines how overlapping social identities and related systems of oppression or discrimination shape our experiences and societal perceptions. It acknowledges the complexity of our identities and the factors that influence them.

Intersectionality in the LGBTQIA+ community

People in the LGBTQIA+ community often have multiple, intersecting identities that cross over race, disability and socio-economic status for example. This could include an older gay Black man or a bisexual woman with a disability and strong working-class roots. 

Intersectional identities can lead to compounded discrimination and those in the LGBTQIA+ community who are also part of other marginalised groups often face additional marginalisation. 

A joint letter to the Business Secretary from unions and campaigners in 2023 stated that “…half of working women will experience workplace sexual harassment. It is even higher for LGBT+, disabled and Black women but these figures are likely just the tip of the iceberg as 79% of women do not report their experiences.” 

Employees can face multiple forms of discrimination and microaggressions in the workplace. There can be barriers to promotion if people are underestimated, unconscious biases in hiring practices and exclusion from networks. In addition, disabled LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to experience discrimination at work. Unique challenges might also be overlooked or misunderstood because they do not fit neatly into single-category narratives of discrimination.

Constantly navigating a workplace where an individual might face several forms of discrimination can lead to stress and burnout. The emotional toll can have a detrimental impact on mental health, and feeling different or misunderstood can lead to isolation and disengagement. 

This clearly highlights the need for targeted interventions and greater visibility and representation. Viewing diversity and inclusion through an intersectional lens and creating innovative and meaningful solutions that truly include everyone is vital.

Positive impacts of embracing intersectionality

Recognising and embracing intersectionality leads to more equitable and supportive workplaces and cultures where every individual feels truly seen, experiences a sense of belonging and is empowered to achieve their full potential. 

Here are some actionable steps you can take to embrace intersectionality:

  • Allyship: Provide formal training and useful tips on being a better ally to those with intersecting identities in the community.
  • Holistic approach: Shape your policies, procedures and initiatives with intersectionality in mind to address the full spectrum of challenges faced by those in the LGBTQIA+ community
  • Networks and support: Elevate your LGBTQIA+ networks and Employee Resource Groups for valuable peer-to-peer support and awareness raising of intersectionality  
  • Give people a voice: Highlight and profile stories from those in the LGBTQIA+ community with intersectional identities, then ask allies and mentors who champion diversity to spread the word
  • Educate and inform: Incorporate intersectionality into your ED&I training. Educate everyone in your company on its origins and impact, using practical examples to build inclusivity and raise awareness

Communities are fluid and evolving and every person has a unique narrative to share. Understanding intersectionality and integrating it into your ED&I strategy will help your organisation truly understand employees’ experiences. It will also help to foster a sense of belonging and retain valuable employees who might otherwise leave.

Everyone’s identities deserve to be valued and respected – not just during Pride month but all year round. 

At Tell Jane, we can support you in taking an intersectional lens to your workplace culture and in establishing Employee Resource Groups, helping to build an equitable and supportive workplace. 

Our training workshops raise awareness of the barriers faced by the LGBTQIA+ community. They help dismantle bias, challenge stereotypes and equip you with knowledge and skills to be authentic allies. 

Email hello@telljane.co.uk to discover more – we’d love to chat.

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