Intersectional Feminism in the Workplace

This article is part of a series of staff insights, observations and perspectives to commemorate Black History Month. Click here to see similar posts.

As a majority-women owned and founded firm, we embrace the ideals of both gender inclusivity and diversity. However, it’s also important that we embrace intersectional feminism in the workplace.

On January 29th, Jessica Williams, star of the podcast and comedy special, 2 Dope Queens, took the stage at the 2019 Annual Women at Sundance Celebration to discuss this year’s theme of “Risk Independence” and said:

“I know that the subject for tonight is ‘Risk.’ When I thought about risk, I thought of a few things. The first is, to be black is to be a risk. To be a woman is to be a risk. To be queer is to be a risk. To be trans is to be a risk. I’m going to take a risk tonight… I want to talk about the relationship between black feminists and white feminists.”

There is often a separation from intersectional feminist movements within the more mainstream feminist movements. This separation influences the relationship between Black feminists and White feminists. To understand the difference between these two movements, one needs to know the basics of intersectionality. Intersectionality is a concept coined by race and feminist theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw, in her 1989 publication “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics”. Intersectional feminism is an inclusive movement that considers the various intersecting systems of oppressions or discrimination that women face. Intersectional feminists acknowledge that the oppression that is attached to being a woman is not always the only, or even the greatest, oppression that many women experience.

Mainstream feminist movements often fail to take into consideration systems of oppression that are based on race. The work place is a prime example of the effects that intersectional oppression has on women of color. The Institute for Women’s Policy reported that for every dollar paid to a White man, a Black woman makes 62.5 cents, Latina women 54.4 cents, and Native American women 57 cents. Per the Economic Policy Institute, the pay gap between White women and women of color is the fastest grow pay gap in the United States. Gender and sexuality are other factors that can contribute to intersectional oppression in the workplace. For example, 27% percent of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community report being fired, denied a promotion, or not hired because of their orientation or gender identity.

Furthermore, most employees are looking for some, if not all, of the same things; a healthy and comfortable environment, a culture that promotes diversity and the exchange of diverse opinions and ideas, and fair and equitable compensation for contributions. It takes an intersectional approach that recognizes the complex identities and diverse needs of each team member to maintain a well-rounded and inclusive workplace. Jessica Williams ended her speech with the same thought that I want to leave with you: 

“Advocate on our behalf whenever you can. We need you to pull us up with you. Take the risk and hire black women darker than me, with different noses, curves for days, and hair like kinky curly clouds.”

Erice Perez, a client service intern in APCO Worldwide’s Chicago office, co-authored this article.

BHM 2019Diversity & Inclusion