by Sasha Song, Cassie and Jenny Junkeer

Globally, we will see revolutionary transformations in the new era. Typically, we imagine this as a move towards technology and automation. We often forget the way these global shifts will affect the actual people – outside of making work more efficient and easier. Why do we automate? If your response includes the idea of making a person’s value redundant, then you are automating for the wrong reason. The future is not centred around technological advancement. The future will be about empowering people – creating a workplace culture that inspires people to contribute innovation and substance – equally. Society is demanding more attention to be paid to empowering people – and is growing less tolerant of workplaces that do not acknowledge the principles of intersectionality.

Equal rights do not solve the problem of discrimination

in the workplace on their own.

Managers are not recognising the complexity of diversity and equal rights in business. While these days we generally accept that diversity is necessary, it is poorly managed. Equal rights in business are not just about employing a range of individuals from various ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds and orientations. The key to managing diversity is understanding the concept of intersectionality and applying credible solutions in order to manage it and use this understanding to your advantage.

Intersectionality, as developed by Professor Kimberle Crenshaw, explores the fact that there are many diverse groups, which are not isolated and there are many variations of these groups which are marginalised.

Throughout the 21st century, people have been able to watch the political landscape around diversity transform radically in just a few short decades. However, what has been ignored is the fact that all these different diversity groups are interconnected and affect each other. For instance, equal gender-orientation rights do not stand alone from socio-economic status. Many individuals face a combination of two or more generally oppressed groups such as these; this creates many unique experiences in the face of oppression. Handling diversity, one minority group at a time, does not fix the problem.

For instance, an employee in an organisation may be elderly and homosexual. This places them in two marginalised groups. Likewise, there may be a female employee who wears a head covering for religious reasons. Both face unique forms of discrimination as they have two (and possibly more) overlapping parts of their identity which are generally low on the social justice scale. Their individual experiences are going to contrast vastly from an individual who is simply elderly or just religious.

Unfortunately, the law as it stands only protects particular human rights as discrete categories. However, this does not stop managers from protecting those they employ from intersectionality-caused oppression. Intersectionality is a relatively new concept that is largely unadopted. Considering it in the workplace would be forward-thinking and allow the business to stand out. A business that cultivates an intersectional workplace not only promotes social change and positive brand recognition but creates a more efficient team and maximises the use of a diverse workforce.

Approaching equal rights from a progressive and present-day angle enhances business performance, and proves that the business is not only malleable to just political change, but to social change as well.

Rarely is there an individual who is not part of any group who is discriminated against in some way? Different societies, industries, countries and workplaces are going to have different forms of marginalization. This includes groups that are usually viewed as dominant. In some scenarios males, or people with fair skin, are going to be the ones in the minority group. The key is not to focus on the characteristics of these marginalised groups, but rather focus on the attitude and culture of everyone as a whole, within and as a part of the organisation. It is time for managers to step up and out of this social inequality rut and start planning according to the real and individualistic inequalities that are still greatly prominent in our society. After all, lack of action is a form of oppression in itself.

“We will never address the problem of discrimination completely, or ferret it out in all its forms if we continue to focus on abstract categories and generalizations rather than specific effects. By looking at the grounds for the distinction instead of at the impact of the distinction… we risk undertaking an analysis that is distanced and desensitized from real people’s real experiences… More often than not, disadvantage arises from the way in which society treats particular individuals, rather than from any characteristic inherent in those individuals.”

-(Egan v. Canada, 1995)

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