Lately, intersectionality has been generating quite the buzz in HR. Increasingly, employers are enhancing their workforce diversity and inclusion initiatives by focusing on the intersectional perspectives and experiences of their employees. So, what exactly is intersectionality? And what role might it play in organizations’ recruitment and hiring efforts today?
What is Intersectionality?
“Intersectionality” refers to how multiple characteristics such as race, sex, age, disability status, or sexual orientation may combine to create a unique experience of systematic discrimination and disadvantage for certain individuals or groups. For example, being a woman and being black do not exist exclusively or separately from each other; but, in fact, these characteristics together create a unique experience for the individuals within this demographic. On a day-to-day basis, black women may face stereotypes, biases, and discrimination that are specific to women, that are specific to being black, and that are uniquely specific to being black women (that is, stereotypes, biases, and discrimination that neither white women nor black men would necessarily experience). So, the combination of being black and being a woman can create a distinct and multi-faceted layering of disadvantage for individuals within this demographic.
Legal scholar and black feminist Kimberlé Crenshaw first introduced the term intersectionality in an article more than 30 years ago (see Crenshaw, 1989). In it, she highlighted how the then-recent civil rights and feminist movements failed to address discrimination of black women. She illustrated how Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and