Female Empowerment Series – Intersectionality and Disadvantage
For female empowerment and social equity to occur in society, we first need to explore and fully understand the concept of intersectionality. This is essential if we are to combat the interwoven prejudices that women face in their daily lives.
What is Intersectionality?
Intersectionality recognises that there are multiple sources of disadvantage that women face on a daily basis, for example: her race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and other identity markers. It is a framework used to classify which identity markers an individual or a group has and what discriminations and disadvantages they may face.
These markers (e.g. “female” “asian”, “black”, “lesbian”, “trans”, “disabled” etc) often inform another and can compound to create even further disadvantage. For example, a black woman will face some disadvantages because she is a woman, and further disadvantage specifically because she is a black woman. These are different disadvantages that a black man, or white man or woman may face. If this woman was to then also identify as “Muslim” or “disabled”, then each of these identity markers would add a further layer of discrimination and disadvantage to her life and opportunities.
True Diversity & Inclusion
As a society, in our community and workplaces there may be a trend towards Diversity and Inclusion, however it doesn’t fully address the discrimination and disadvantage that many women face.
My career background is personal finance. As a white, educated, straight female, I am a woman of privilege and advantage. The discrimination I faced was limited. Within the finance industry (like many other industries) there is a male / female gender pay gap, where men and women are paid differently, even if they perform the same role. This inequity will also have relevance on whether a woman is hired, heard, promoted or supported.
Beyond this, there is so much more disadvantage and discrimination, not necessarily felt by me, yet I can recognise many other women face. Discrimination for a woman’s race, sexual orientation, or disability all equate to a much bigger pay gap and even greater inequity.
Over the years, I applaud the concerted “focus on female” movement designed to introduce diversity and inclusion into many industries. Yet, I cannot help but feel it is still missing the mark.
If we are to truly adopt diversity and inclusion in our personal lives, communities and workplaces, then “a focus on women” just doesn’t cut it. There must be a more dynamic conversation that recognises the differences in experience among women with different overlapping identities and policies in place to address these inequities. And this needs to happen in all spaces, communities and workplaces.
By broadening our view to consider the impact and challenge others, we begin to recognise our privileges and other’s disadvantages, and can begin to support one another towards greater equity and inclusion. When we are open to learning from one another and we work together to provide equal opportunities and share our privilege, we can achieve a much better outcome as individuals and as a community. Then, as a collective we will grow.
What can you do personally?
Intersectionality may seem idealistic, but it is actually a simple social equity framework that everyone can practice. Here are some practical ways that you can integrate intersectionality into your view and actions:
- Become aware of inclusion / exclusion
We often group people together based on a narrow definition. For example, we may say that “all women feel” a certain way or that “LGBTQ+ people believe” and by doing this we fail to recognize that each of us experience the world differently based on our overlapping identity markers.
Diversity of all kinds matter in your community and workplace. You may feel that your workplace is racially diverse, but is it accessible to people with disabilities? You may support your local LGBTQ+ organization but is there representation of LGBTQ+ people of different nationality or ethnicity?
Challenge: It can be an interesting exercise to take note of how inclusive (or not) the online or physical spaces you support are.
- Expand Your Perception
When you surround yourself with others and explore the stories and lives of those with different interlocking identities, it helps you to gain an understanding of, and expand your own awareness of other cultures, backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. When you listen to the differences of others, it often deepens your understanding of your own identity and may help you to discover the subjects you care about most.
Challenge: Take the opportunity to listen and learn. You might choose to listen to a podcast, read books or watch movies, have a conversation or attend a group or event that explores different intersections of identity. If you are really unsure about a concept or want to learn more about a specific intersection of identity, Google it, as this may help you be better prepared to enter into conversations with others.
- Reflect & Take Action
As you listen, converse and interact, you’ll hear more about issues others face, and may learn the work that is currently being done, or discover work that could be done to help bring more diversity and inclusion in your community or workplace.
Challenge: In order to make a difference in the world we must turn our knowledge into practice and take action. That action doesn’t have to be large, it can be a small step, but small steps can add up to make a big difference over time. Consider asking yourself, how am I contributing to this? Or how might I be of some support or help here? How can I be more inclusive at home, in the community or workplace?
We can improve the experiences of marginalized women by working to dismantle interlocking systems of discrimination by becoming aware of our own priviledges while acknowledging and addressing the disadvantage that other women face.
About the author
Wealth & Wellness Editor & Yogi
Lea is an award wining entrepreneur, certified money coach, wellness coach, yoga teacher and mindfulness practitioner. Global Nomad. Dreamer. Creative. Unconventional. Ambivert with a really big heart. Founder of The Mindful Wealth Movement, she travels the world hosting wealth & wellness workshops and retreats. www.leaschodel.com