From the Commissioner - The importance of intersectionality
At the Commission we frequently promote the idea of diversity. Diversity in the workplace helps an organisation develop strategies to capture a larger client base, diversity in goods and services means an organisation is able to sell to a larger client base, diversity in education means a larger proportion of the community is able to meaningfully and independently engage with society, and diversity in accommodation means a greater population has the security of a home.
Diversity inclusion is key to healthy, functioning society and achieving equality.
Many individuals need to be congratulated for recognising this in their day to day life and organisations in their policies and practices.
At an organisational level it might be things such as setting gender targets for executive level positions, amending procedures to better serve people with a disability or creating scholarships and internships to attract Aboriginal students and graduates.
All around the state organisations are changing how they think and what they do to be more inclusive of diversity and it has a trickledown effect, so the equality message transfers to other co-workers, students and members of the public.
Many in our community may be falling through the cracks because they have compounding problems due to them having an intersection of characteristics.
Intersectionality, when speaking about diversity inclusion, is a term that takes diversity and inclusion beyond the usual focus areas such as gender, sexuality, disability or race, to intersect with other focus areas for better inclusion.
Perhaps an organisation has a gender target for women, and it has an organisational focus on better serving Aboriginal clients.
The organisation then needs to focus on the intersectionality of gender and race to perhaps target women who are also Aboriginal.
International law firm Dentons recently spoke about its intersectionality initiative.
The law firm has set up a LGBTI diversity and inclusion network and has, through this network, been able to set up Australia’s first free trans and gender diverse legal centre in partnership with the Inner-City Legal Centre in Sydney.
More recently, Dentons launched DentonsABLE, a disability inclusion group and the law firm saw opportunities for their LGBTI network to work more closely to provide opportunities for people with disabilities who may also be part of the LGBTI community.
Dentons Partner Ben Allen and Senior Associate John Heard said the firm recognised that someone could cross any number of its diversity and inclusion groups simultaneously and, as a result, faced unique issues in the workplace.
This is well worth considering when it comes to discrimination complaints at the Commission. Many of our complaints are made on multiple grounds at the Commission, so intersectionality is relevant to our work here.
The Commission understands multiple grounds of discrimination often create a deeper level of inequality and disadvantage.
It is something we address in our community awareness work, so our community considers intersectionality when thinking about their rights and responsibilities.
We know someone with an ethnically diverse last name or a disability is less likely to get a job, and we know women are less likely to get higher paid employment.
Someone with all three characteristics faces discrimination on multiple fronts, even though they might be the best person for the job.
If we really want a healthy, functioning Western Australia employers need to think more about intersectionality and how they can address it.