Discrimination. Look around and you’ll find it everywhere.


In fact, for many of those with protected characteristics and other factors e.g. being a carer different social- economic background, discrimination doubles down.


For example, an Asian woman may have a very different life experience to that of a white woman – she typically will face double barriers.


What’s more, for those who fall under various strands of difference the issue is multiplied. What’s happening here? Let’s examine the problem.


What is the meaning of intersectionality?


The word ‘intersectionality’ was first used in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a leading American civil rights advocate and a scholar of critical race theory. She introduced the idea that inequalities can overlap, rather than remaining distinct and separate. The term intersectionality comes from the intersection of these issues (such as racism, sexuality, neurodiversity and social mobility), which can amplify the discrimination that certain individuals face.


Intersectionality in the workplace


When it comes to intersectionality, the statistics are woeful. Data gathered by The Collaboratory and Race Equality Matters revealed:


  • 44% of respondents say their company’s hiring practices do not reflect an understanding of intersectionality.
  • Furthermore, only 13% said their workplace created a sense of community for people with intersectional identities.



Intersectionality in action


To understand intersectionality more clearly, we only have to look at the case of Diane Abbott, MP, who was not allowed to speak in Parliament, even though the debate focused on remarks made about her.


(Trigger warning) A Conservative donor had opined that Ms Abbott “made him want to hate all black women,” and “should be shot”.  During Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms Abbott stood up at least 46 times, but she was not invited to speak, despite being the subject of the debate. What’s more, no one acted as an active ally by offering to give up their speaking slot to her. A high-profile case of bias linked to her race and intersectionality intersectionality.


Race, social mobility, health, disability and neurodiversity


Looking at the statistics it’s not hard to see how intersectionality is affecting those who are ethnically diverse– who are already subject to barriers due to their race. For instance:


  • Women from ethnically diverse backgrounds are more likely to face discrimination and racist abuse. These experiences can lead to increased stress, hyper-awareness of difference, increased levels of psychosis and depression, decreased self-esteem, emotional distress, trauma and post-traumatic stress. (The Cabinet Office Race Disparity Unit 2014)
  • It takes Black and South Asian women at least two months longer than their white colleagues to find their first job after completing education, despite having greater career confidence, according to a new report
  • Black disabled women and girls are less likely to be offered equal access/ tools to training and education
  • Asian women are 7 times more likely than white women and men to be mistaken for someone of the same race and ethnicity


Intersectionality and microaggressions


In many cases, discrimination comes in the form of ‘microaggressions’ – slights that at best may be  annoying in isolation but over time add up to an assault on a persons mental wellbeing when experienced regularly.


Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology and Education, Columbia University, explains: “These everyday occurrences may on the surface appear quite harmless, trivial, or be described as “small slights,” but research indicates they have a powerful impact upon the psychological well-being of marginalized groups and affect their standard of living by creating inequities in health care, education, and employment.”


The impact of intersectionality


For those experiencing the tribulations of intersectionality, life can be difficult. Those who are ethnically diverse are already subject to discrimination due to their race, but may experience more slights and discrimination, due to other factors. This collection of slights and bias results in a greater negative impact than race alone. For those concerned, this can affect their mental state, and leave them excluded at work. Faced with potential exclusion, some will ‘code switch’ – in other words, wear a psychological mask in order to ‘fit in’. They may even change their accent or switch between languages to avoid being frozen out. In fact:


  • 70% of Black women have felt the need to code-switch throughout their career.
  • More specifically, 31% of Black women feel pressured to act differently in a work setting
  • 24% have changed their tone of voice, 23% the language they use, and 12% changed their name. Source


Why does intersectionality enhance bias and discrimination?


In a world where Black Lives Matter and the death of George Floyd in the US have shaken communities around the globe, why do people commit microaggressions and discrimination? It all comes down to automatic – often unconscious – judgments. Sometimes, we make assumptions about people based on the way they look or behave. Our assumptions may impact whether we feel safe or comfortable sitting next to somebody, even though we have no idea whether these biased assumptions are true. Even accents can influence our thinking:


As Dr. Pragya Agarwal says:


“When we impose our judgments about a specific person on the whole group or community that this

individual belongs to then we have a bias. Research has shown that we tend to unconsciously group people into a specific social class and prejudice against them based on their accents. By thinking that someone with a particular accent is not very smart or clever, we are showing our unconscious bias.”


Conclusion and actions


Intersectionality highlights the multi-faceted forms/nature of discrimination that needs to be addressed. Leaders need to be aware and take action to reduce the negative effects of intersectionality in the workplace and beyond. Much depends on education – improvements are possible. It all depends on whether people are really prepared to work for a better world with less bias and prejudice.

Allies need to take it upon themselves to understand these issues more, we mustn’t make assumptions and be active and speak up


What next?


Intersectionality is on many people’s list of hot topics at the moment. So we have listened and created a new series called Race And  to address this and will be looking at how to address race and additional factors that create more disadvantage and a greater uneven playing field.


We are delighted that this series is Powered by CMS



more info here https://www.raceequalitymatters.com/events/the-big-collaboration-race-june/


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