Across the country, businesses are putting in the work to have more diversity and inclusion in the workplace. It’s no longer something that makes you progressive, it’s a necessary part of a business plan because you won’t get business if you aren’t inclusive. As a triple bottom line business owner, it’s easy to understand why it makes sense to work on your diversity, because it certainly does impact your success. Here’s our advice for making your workplace diverse in an intersectional way, which leads to more efficiency and less employee turnover.

What Is Intersectionality?

Intersectionality means that diversity and equality must be inclusive. For example, if you are a feminist, does your feminism support black women? What about trans women? If it does not, it’s not intersectional because it excludes someone. A way that can be helpful to understand intersectionality is to think of an intersection. It sounds silly but stick with it. Each street coming to the intersection represents something different, maybe people of color, LGTBQ, the disabled community, or your religion. And each car or pedestrian coming to the intersection represents a certain person within that community. Maybe within the disabled community a car represents people with invisible disabilities, or for people of color it represents mixed race people. The intersection is where they all meet. So your intersection must be accessible and friendly to everyone coming to the intersection. That means your movement towards diversity and inclusion in the workplace must include everybody, not just one street coming to your intersection, and don’t forget about all the cars and pedestrians as well.

Gender Wage Gap Facts

First, why is this important? Sadly, as much progress towards equality as we are making, there is still much more to do, especially in the business world. We already know the importance of having values and ethics in business, so now it’s time to look into expanding how you define your values to make sure they support everyone and are intersectional. As of December 4, 2019, women CEOs only make up  5.2% of the S&P 500 Companies CEOs, and only 26.5% of executive/senior-level officials and managers in S&P 500 companies are women.


Catalyst, Pyramid: Women in S&P 500 Companies (December 4, 2019).

On top of women not being well represented in the business world, there is still a pay gap. It seems like a never ending battle. As of 2018, women earned 81.1% of what men earned based on median weekly earnings of full-time workers. When you look at the hourly pay data for full or part-time workers, women earned 85% of what men earned. No matter what data you look at, there is a significant wage gap and it only gets worse with age. Women age 20-24 earn 90.2% of what men their age earn, and women age 65 earn 77% of what men their age earn.

What about the Pay Gap for Women of Color?

The wage gap for women of color is bigger, especially for Black and Latina women.  Black women earn 52.3% of what Asian men earn weekly and Latina women earn 49.7%. Compared to White men’s weekly earnings, Black women earn 65.3% and Latina women earn 61.6%. These stats are appalling and looking back at the wage gap from 20 or 30 years ago, there has been an improvement, but not enough. For more information about the wage gap, check out Catalysts report on women’s earnings.

Women and the Future of the Business World

You have probably heard the slogan “the future is female” and it needs to be incorporated into the workplace. To create the most successful business and market, more women need to hold high ranking roles at companies. Roughly 50% of S&P 500 Companies CEOs should be women and they need to be paid as much as men. Collaboration is key for success. Having diverse workplaces leads to more collaboration. Diversity comes from having people of different backgrounds living different lifestyles, who bring different perspectives and ideas to the table. Sharing all of these ideas and approaches leads to collaboration because chances are that if you have a diverse set of ideas offered, there will be a few that can fit together to create a better idea. Creating a more diverse workplace helps eliminate bias as well. It’s a mandatory step to having an inclusive workplace and supporting intersectionality.

What is the Emotional Tax?

It’s hard to feel fully comfortable at work for anyone. At the workplace you are expected to be on your best behavior. But for minorities there are extra challenges in the workplace that force them to be on guard every day, such as micro-aggressions, exclusion, and bias. This all adds up to an emotional tax, which affects people based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, and level of able-bodiedness.

Having to work through discrimination day after day has effects on people both personally and professionally. Taking steps to get rid of emotional tax at your workplace can create a friendly and more effective work environment as well as satisfied and happy employees. When your employees are unhappy and dissatisfied with their workplace, there is going to be higher employee burnout and turnover. Standing out as a workplace where people feel safe, happy, and included is good for your brand and your (triple) bottom line.

Listen to Your Co-workers

The first step to getting rid of the emotional tax is to listen. That’s really the first step for anything. By listening you can understand how the emotional tax affects your employees to see what areas of the issue you need to tackle. Make sure you are on the lookout for bias to understand its negative effects. Once you understand how the emotional tax works in your office, it’s time to take action. Maybe that involves forming a team to work on creating an inclusive workplace through conversations and training. Most importantly, make sure everyone is educated and lead by example. If you want to be part of a diverse and inclusive workplace, you have to show how you are doing your part. It’s important to take initiative to show trust and support.

Lowering the Emotional Tax Burden

According to Catalyst, there are 4 steps you can take to lower the emotional tax burden for your employees

  • Step 1. Listen to your employees and coworkers to understand what challenges and biases they face at work.  
  • Step 2. Learn from what they have to say and take not of everyday acts of exclusion as well an inclusion. 
  • Step 3. Link up with your employees and coworkers to demonstrate that you believe in your team and to enforce positive collaboration and community. 
  • Step 4. Lead others by offering kindness support.  Everyone must do their part so show other how you do yours to be part of an inclusive work environment.

Try these out and see how it goes. Every work culture is unique, but following these 4 simple steps may start to make a difference.

How to Be an Inclusive Leader

Leading by example is really important for fostering an inclusive attitude in the workplace. For us at Colibri, leading by example looks like leading with love. It’s one of our values. During a setback or when receiving negative feedback is when most people can be pushed over the line and become a little nasty. So during struggles is the most important time to lead with love and be extra conscious of not taking your anger out on your co workers and controlling your actions. When others see you fostering inclusion during setbacks it will inspire them to do the same and increase productivity. Leading with love helps you avoid more setbacks as well.

Being an inclusive leader isn’t as hard as it sounds and creates a ripple effect of good in the workplace. The first step is being aware and listening. From there, take things one step at a time. For example, if you notice certain type of language in your workplace causes an emotional tax, cut that language from your vocabulary and raise awareness in others about the negative effects of it.

How to Be an Ally

Becoming an ally is the ultimate step in leading with love. Everyone can be an ally. Men can be allies for women, straights for the LGBT community, and white people for people of color. We can all stand up for people with disabilities and recognize that religious and spiritual beliefs differ.

The point is to educate yourself and remain humble. There is always more to know.  When you make a mistake as a child you are often told exactly what you did wrong and taught a lesson. But as an adult, there is not someone there telling you what you did wrong and what to do instead to avoid hurting  people’s feelings, so it’s on you to figure it out. The only information you have for when you do something that harms other people is their response, which is often minimized. You can use someone’s response to see if you hurt them, and then do research to see why and what to do instead. But, if you do your research first, you can avoid hurting someone altogether. So, become an ally, read online forums, attend local events, watch TED Talks, do whatever works for you to learn more. After learning a few things, maybe about harmful language or inaccessible infrastructure, you will start to be aware of more, and you will be doing “research” as you walk down the street and talk with others everyday.

Recognize that being an ally is not always easy. One of the primary lessons of allyship is to own your behavior. If you make a mistake and hurt someone, apologize and tend to their feelings. Do not justify yourself. If you are truly doing your best, be at peace with people’s reactions to your efforts. When you see you can do better, then is the time to start doing better.

Wrapping Up

To create a diverse and inclusive workplace you have to be aware of everyone. Your diversity has to be intersectional, which means when you are looking at the pay gap, you have to consider how it affects women of color specifically as well. Making sure you are listening to everyone and taking into account how issues in your workplace affect everyone is important. And from there, lead with love. Take things one step at a time, with kindness and inclusivity as the main goal.

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