Intersectionality in the Workplace: Broadening the Lens of Inclusion

 Intersectionality in the Workplace: Broadening the Lens of Inclusion

By YW Boston and Bentley University

1. Micro-inequities have compounded impact

Women of color are more likely to experience micro-inequities at work, which can have a not-so-micro impact on their careers. As the report defines, micro-inequities are “unintentional and subtle slights – acts of discrimination – that undervalue and demean people.” The term is similar to the term micro-aggression which “refers to conscious, unconscious, and often unintentional behaviors or verbal statements that undermine another person based on their social identities.” However, micro-inequities are more likely to be unintentional, and the use of the term “inequity” highlights how these acts build up over time to create large disparities within the workforce. As the report explains, “while anyone can be on the receiving end of disrespectful behavior, [micro-inequities] are directed at people with less power, such as women, people of color, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.”

Women and people of color experience these micro-inequities at work often, which means that women of color are often subject to them at a higher rate than men of color or white women. The impact of micro-inequities is compounded when there is less support provided to women of color at work, which is often the case. The report provides the example that women of color are often held to a higher standard than other at work, a pressure that is compounded by the fact they also receive fewer mentorship opportunities than other employees in their office.

The chart below illustrates how micro-inequities take a particular toll on women of color and lesbian women:

2. Experiences are not universal among women of color

Research and discussions on the intersection of race and gender often speak about women of color without recognizing the differences among them. While women of color as a whole experience higher rates of discrimination and inequity at work, women of different races and ethnicities do confront unique obstacles.

Black women are the most likely to experience micro-aggressions or micro-inequities at work, broadly, including having their judgement questioned in their area of expertise and needing to provide more evidence of their competence in order to prove themselves. They are also the most likely to feel that their contributions are ignored. As one focus group member explained, she felt “ostracized as a Black person…there’s this box you basically put yourself in to be in corporate America as a Black person. You don’t speak a certain way, you don’t mention certain things, you don’t dress a certain way, you don’t wear your hair a certain way…and you don’t want to come across as too Black and like you care too much about Black people.” In addition to feeling ostracized, Black women are less likely to have a sponsor at work to ensure that they are not wrongfully questioned about their area of expertise or ignored entirely. While the Bentley University report does not speak of this specifically, Black women are also most likely to be perceived as angry or aggressive, and therefore more likely to be reprimanded for their tone or for advocating for themselves or their work.
There’s this box you basically put yourself in to be in corporate America as a Black person. You don’t speak a certain way, you don’t mention certain things…you don’t want to come across as too Black.CLICK TO TWEET

Unfortunately, one battle Latinas face is a lack of data around their experiences at work, as much of the data combines the experiences of men and women. However, among Latinx individuals as a whole, they say that in order to succeed, they must conform to white, male standards by modifying “their physical appearance, body language, or communication styles — all components of executive presence.” Similar to the stereotypes that affect black women, “About 60 percent of Latinas surveyed as part of the research felt a backlash against expressing anger.”

As the Bentley University report states, Asian American women face unique challenges in that despite being seen as “the model minority,” Asian Americans “are less likely to be promoted to management than any other race, and women are uniquely impacted.” They often lack role models and professional development opportunities, often excluded as they are not seen as an underrepresented group. One interviewee explained “being an Asian-American woman as a ‘double whammy.’ ‘We either have to choose to be that meek, compliant Asian person or we have to be a dragon lady,’ she says. ‘There’s no middle ground.’”

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Originally posted on YW Boston

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