DEI in Hiring: What Employers Should Know About Intersectionality

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are essential components of a successful and ethical business strategy today. Yet DEI approaches can sometimes be hyper-focused on a specific problem area in a way that’s detrimental to people on the margins. While it’s essential to consider broad discrimination issues such as ageism or gender bias, there are many people who face multiple and compounded forms of discrimination, which can lead to them falling through the cracks of more general DEI initiatives.

That’s why it’s imperative for employers to understand intersectionality. In this article, we’ll explore the concept of intersectionality, its relation to DEI, and how employers can incorporate intersectionality in their hiring practices to foster more inclusive workplaces.

What Is Intersectionality?

Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, refers to the complex and cumulative way different forms of discrimination like racism, sexism, and classism overlap and affect individuals. It recognises that people’s identities and social positions are shaped by multiple factors that operate together, creating unique experiences of privilege and discrimination.

In the context of employment, intersectionality means acknowledging that a candidate’s experience in the job market is shaped not just by one aspect of their identity, such as gender or race, but by a confluence of many factors.

For example, midcareer professionals, often navigating pivotal points in their careers, face unique challenges that can be compounded by intersecting identities. A midcareer Black woman may encounter a distinct blend of gender, racial, and age biases, affecting her advancement opportunities, salary negotiations, or access to pivotal networking opportunities. These experiences differ significantly from midcareer peers who only face age bias.

Such intersectional challenges can lead to unequal opportunities for growth, mentorship, or leadership roles, highlighting the necessity for DEI initiatives to address these overlapping factors.

Intersectionality and DEI

DEI initiatives often focus on broad categories like race, gender, or disability. While this approach is important and valuable, it can sometimes overlook the nuanced experiences of individuals who belong to multiple marginalised groups, as seen in the example above. Intersectionality enriches DEI efforts by ensuring that these overlapping identities and experiences are recognised and addressed.

For employers, considering intersectionality in hiring practices is an essential way to account for varied experiences and to implement DEI effectively. Doing so demonstrates a commitment to fairness and social justice, which can enhance a company’s reputation and appeal to a broader talent pool. Furthermore, a workforce that reflects diverse intersections of identity can lead to enhanced creativity, better problem-solving, and a deeper understanding of diverse customer bases.

Implementing DEI in Hiring With an Intersectional Lens

Employers can take several steps to ensure their hiring practices are inclusive and attentive to intersectionality:

  • Outreach and recruitment strategies: Partner with organisations and platforms that cater to diverse groups. Attend job fairs at institutions known for their diverse student bodies and use recruitment channels that reach a broad spectrum of candidates. Partnering with Generation is a fantastic way to do this! We work closely with employers around the world to deliver a pipeline of skilled, diverse talent that is ready to add value to your team from day one on the job. Our programs create real business value for employers and lasting career impact for participants. See how you can benefit from a partnership with Generation!
  • Review job advertisements and requirements: Analyse if the language and requirements in job postings are inclusive. Avoid gender-coded words and ensure that the qualifications listed are essential for the role, not just nice-to-haves that could inadvertently exclude qualified candidates.
  • Diverse hiring panels: Assemble hiring panels with members from various backgrounds. This not only brings different perspectives to the selection process, but also helps in reducing unconscious biases.
  • Bias training: Provide regular training on unconscious bias for everyone involved in the hiring process. This should include education on intersectionality and how different biases can compound.
  • Inclusive policies and benefits: Develop policies and benefits that cater to a diverse workforce, such as flexible working hours, inclusive health benefits, and support for religious practices.
  • Feedback and continuous improvement: Collect feedback from candidates about their experience in the recruitment process. Use this data to continuously improve and ensure your practices are as inclusive as possible.
  • Representation matters: Ensure that your company’s marketing materials and online presence reflect diversity. Seeing oneself represented in a company’s workforce can be a significant factor for candidates from underrepresented groups.

Intersectionality is a critical component of DEI in hiring. By understanding and implementing strategies that account for the complex ways in which different forms of discrimination intersect, employers can create more equitable and inclusive workplaces. This not only benefits employees, but also contributes to a more innovative, adaptable, and successful organisation. As the workforce continues to diversify, employers who account for intersectionality in their hiring will be better positioned to attract and retain top talent from a wide array of backgrounds.

If you’re ready to recruit diverse and high-performing talent, consider partnering with Generation to see how we can help! Whether you’re in tech, healthcare, customer service, or otherwise, we can connect you with the highly skilled talent you need.

At Generation, our mission is to train, support, and place people into otherwise inaccessible career opportunities that can change their lives. Explore our employment programs to see the professions we support, or donate today to help us create career opportunities for our learners!