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Intersectionality: Leveraging Disability as Diversity, and Diversity within Disability

July 31, 2023
Source: Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)

Today, more and more businesses understand that a diverse workforce is a stronger workforce—because it means more perspectives to draw on when solving complex problems and making important decisions. As employers, business leaders increasingly recognize that workforce diversity encompasses a wide range of backgrounds and experiences—including disability.

But, just like all people, disabled people may have many ways they identify themselves, including by their race, gender, sexual orientation and other “social identities.” The intersection of these identities truly shape who they are. For people with disabilities from historically marginalized groups, such intersectionality also often means experience with bias, prejudice and discrimination based on more than one factor, sometimes referred to as multiple marginalization. Examples may include Black and Hispanic people with disabilities, disabled transgender people and immigrants with disabilities.

To foster a truly inclusive workplace, employers should ensure their policies and practices consider not only disability as a component of diversity, but also take account of the considerable diversity within the disability community. To help, the ODEP-funded Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) offers resources businesses can use to consider their diversity and inclusion efforts through an intersectional lens. These include:

  • Disability and Diversity at Work, which provides an introduction to the concept of intersectionality in the workplace and tips for supporting employees with disabilities who are multiply marginalized.
  • Intersectionality in the Workplace, which explores how factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation and others can impact an employee’s point of view and workplace experience and steps businesses can take to ensure all feel respected and welcomed.

Indeed, respect and a sense of belonging are at the heart of an inclusive workplace culture. By understanding that employees often have multiple, intersecting identities, businesses can help communicate a commitment to such a culture—and in turn benefit from a wider pool of knowledge, skills and talents.

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