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What is Intersectionality?

In short, Intersectionality occurs when a person identifies with two or more marginalized, oppressed, or underrepresented groups. 

The word Intersectionality was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989, but the concept of Intersectionality has been around for a while. We can trace Intersectionality back to Sojourner Truth's time! Are you familiar with Sojourner Truth's 'Ain't I A Woman' speech given in the 1800s? What's so groundbreaking about this speech is Sojourner Truth's awareness of the mistreatment of black women, AKA being at the intersection of race and gender. Sojourner Truth talks about being treated differently than white women but also how she is treated differently than black men. This is Intersectionality.


In the early 1980s, a group of black women sued a manufacturing company for not hiring black women. The group's case was dismissed because the laws at the time stated that no one person can benefit from multiple forms of discrimination. 

Sidenote: Crazy right? Who would consider discrimination a benefit?

Kimberle Crenshaw served on the legal team representing the black women whose case was dismissed. As a researcher and academic, Crenshaw noticed a gap in the protections black women were afforded compared to white women and even black men. The more she explored this gap, the more she realized that it was widespread and much deeper than she originally thought. Women at the intersection of race and gender 


We all have one! What's yours? 

Your Diversity Formula is just like your DNA, special only to you! Forget the stereotypes! Forget the sweeping categorizations! Let's get back to the basics of diversity: individuality and uniqueness.


To get your Diversity Formula, go through each category and write down your Diversity Element. You may find that you don't "fit" neatly into one particular element. The element at the bottom of each column signifies "Other". Feel free to use it how you want, there is no right or wrong answer. 


When you are finished, you will probably have a really long line of upper- and lowercase letters like this:

BlFeSaNvSuNpSGyOpMiChMs Yes! This is great!


Within each Diversity Element, there are various layers of privilege and marginalization. For example, in the African American community, hair texture and skin tone can be a major sources of oppression. If you have an "undesirable" hair texture, you may face additional types of marginalization. So your Diversity Formula may start to look like this:

Bl3Fe2SaNvSu2Np2SGyOpMiCh5Ms with each of the numbers representing a type of oppression you face in that particular community.


Remember, there is no right or wrong answer! Use your Diversity Formula as a way to share your individuality with your colleague or leader. We are each uniquely qualified to solve a company's most pressing issues. To learn about more ways to use the Table of Diversity in hiring, retaining, and developing diverse talent, click here!

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