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Crossroads of Understanding: Why Intersectionality Matters

A.J. Dronkers | April 4, 2023

April is Celebrate Diversity Month, a time to observe and honor the rich variety of backgrounds and experiences existing around and within each of us.

Taking time to explore topics that bolster equity is one way we at Paycom strengthen our knowledge and exemplify our year-round commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

One topic to explore this April is intersectionality.

What intersectionality is

Intersectionality is a detailed way of thinking about who we are. It considers the complexity within each of us — our gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and class, to name a few — and how each truth intersects to create unique life experiences.

When we take a deeper look at our own intersecting identities, we are better equipped to understand and empathize with others. It also gives us a look through the lenses of privilege and oppression.

Why intersectionality matters

Strategic efforts for DEI are critical to a healthy work environment for everyone. Although the workplace has seen an increased focus on DEI, some employees may feel the progress doesn’t impact them or does so only in theory.

In new Gallup research, 97% of HR leaders reported DEI in their organization has improved, thanks to changes made by the company. However, only 37% of employees strongly believe progress was achieved.

The truth: DEI benefits everyone.

When we increase participation in and accountability to DEI across the board, organizations enjoy the full impact of their efforts.

Although allyship is important, it’s not the only way to interact with DEI. Take a moment to consider your own intersectionality. Think about your family history, the languages you speak, your religion, where you grew up and so on. These facets influence your identity; each of us has a well of truths that make us who we are.

Intersectionality is a bridge that allows you to truly reflect on your own identity and life experience. Once you do, you’ll likely notice new avenues for empathy. You might even feel more ownership of DEI programming and have a better understanding of the systems of oppression people experience.

What to look for in a workplace’s DEI efforts

Diversity, equity and inclusion are crucial ingredients of a dynamic, future-fit work culture. But DEI is a work in progress, not a box to check.

Employees should prioritize finding a place where they feel empowered to bring their whole selves to work — somewhere they can truly thrive.

When searching for the right workplace for you, ensure that programs and initiatives are readily available and accessible to everyone.

For example, an organization’s well-being initiatives should align with DEI strategies. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Last year, Gallup’s Center on Black Voices nationwide survey of nearly 10,000 workers revealed “persistent racial and ethnic disparities in each of these areas among employees.”

Look at a company’s culture and whether it embraces different perspectives. When seeking the right employer for them, today’s job hunters may prioritize a culture offering:

  • employee resource groups
  • active community collaborations and giving opportunities for equity-focused organizations
  • avenues to voice their thoughts on topics that matter to them

Bringing us together

Intersectionality bridges the gap between passive acceptance and active participation in DEI. It offers areas where we can connect and shows that DEI is for everyone.

With intersectionality, we open a conversation for employees to explore all the aspects of their identity so they can see themselves as part of the organization.

If you’re looking to work at an organization committed to DEI, apply to Paycom today.

About the author
Author picture, A.J. Dronkers
A.J. Dronkers
A.J. Dronkers heads Paycom’s culture; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); and engagement program. In this role, he and his team maintain a DEI strategy and overall engagement for Paycom’s 6,000+ employees. This includes DEI governance, growing and maturing employee resource groups (ERGs), leading listening sessions and DEI training, strategizing process improvements to talent management, maintaining compliance, managing benefits and policies, and overseeing employee engagement. He previously worked on a DEI team that supported over 30,000 global employees and is most proud of launching an award-winning digital magazine and podcast. He has extensive experience in designing and delivering multiyear change management and strategic communications campaigns. Major influences in his personal journey are hearing stories from his father and grandparents who immigrated from Indonesia, as well as his own experience being queer. When he’s not at work, you’ll find him leafing through his collection of cookbooks, antiquing, perusing a nearby farmers market or eatery, and cycling.