Whom Does Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Include?
By Heyward Watson
In my experience and research on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I believe the complexity of the subject can be a challenge for discussions among a nonprofit community. For example, suppose two people or two groups have a different understanding of how to best advance a commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. With differing definitions, an inclusive culture is hard to create.
I want to understand a term that I have seen used consistently in discussions about inclusivity. The term “intersectionality” is not new, but before I get into its history, let’s review its definition.
Merriam-Webster dictionary added the following definition in its 2017 edition. Intersectionality is “the complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect.” To break that down, it essentially means that discrimination doesn’t exist in a bubble – different kinds of prejudice can be amplified in different ways when put together. (International Women’s Development Agency, 2018)
Let’s talk about the history behind intersectionality. It came out of the Women’s movement focused on the experiences of middle- and upper-class white women initially. However, over time, the women’s movement expanded to include all women (including women of color). In addition, the Feminist Freedom Warriors Project created a survey in 2015 to “address economic, anti-racist, social justice issues across national borders.” You can read about this history here.
In the 1970s, black feminist scholar-activists developed theoretical frameworks to serve as models for women of color, broadening feminism’s definition and scope. (Coleman, 2019)
I am interested in how these theories and practices can create inclusive cultures designed to accept everyone from different backgrounds, sexual orientations, genders, nationalities, and members of other historically excluded groups.
From our experience in nonprofit communities, Third Sector Company believes that finding a common understanding is one of the first steps in advancing a cause in a community. Clear and agreed-upon definitions of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will help create cultures of inclusivity across groups including stakeholders and those served.
This is how intersectionality can work best in a nonprofit culture, with a common understanding and the overlap of common purpose to best serve the community.
Senior Strategist, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access
Third Sector Company, Inc.
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