DEI Spotlight: What Is Intersectionality?
In the first of a two-part series, Jasmin Robinson introduces intersectionality and how the concept can be applied to leadership.
Legal scholar Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw coined intersectionality to define how exclusion occurs in the legal system. In the 1980s, she reviewed a case where a Black woman sued a car manufacturing company for discrimination, stating that she wasn’t selected for a leadership role she was qualified and eligible for. The courts ruled against her, claiming her accusations were unfounded because the company hired a White woman and a Black man. The challenge with this was that the courts considered gender and race separately. If they had considered the intersections of race and gender, the Black woman might have had a more substantial chance of winning. This example demonstrates how exclusion is compounded for people from multiple oppressed groups and widens inequities.
What is intersectional leadership? It’s an approach to critically examine and address how multiple oppressed groups are represented and valued. Intersectional leadership means not only considering one minoritized or marginalized identity, such as being a woman. Instead, it’s the consideration of more than one identity, such as women who identify as Southeast Asian, women who identify as Black and trans, or women who have a disability. Becoming an intersectional leader means examining whose social identities sit in the margins and leveraging that knowledge to create a more diverse workforce. It also promotes new ideas and perspectives that serve a wider range of people, serving a wider range of animals with different circumstances.
In practice, this can consist of asking questions like, “What kind of diversity is needed to represent the populations we serve? How can we support [insert identity groups here] in our organization? How do we improve our organization to support this candidate’s success?” Questions like these open possibilities to transform organizational culture and cast a wider reach for human-animal bonds.
In Part II, Robinson shares ways to incorporate intersectional leadership into your organization.
Image: Syracuse University
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