Women’s History Month: How to prioritize intersectional inclusion in the workplace

Womens history month blog 2

6 mins, 14 secs read time

Every year, March is designated as Women’s History Month. This is a time to celebrate the achievements and struggles of women fighting for their rights and for the rights of underrepresented groups. It feels particularly poignant this year because of the impact of the pandemic and how it is threatening decades of progress for women in the workplace.

Nearly 3 million women have left the workforce this past year and millions more have been forced to cut back their hours to take on caregiving duties for family members. Women of color have been disproportionately affected – at the end of 2020, unemployment rates were at 8.4% for Black women and 9.1% for Hispanic women.

But keep in mind that these trends are not new – the pandemic simply exacerbated existing inequities in the workforce.

The pay gap persists

To put it simply, male job candidates expect to earn more and the offers they receive confirm those expectations. According to Hired’s Wage Inequality Report, men are offered higher salaries than women for the same job title at the same company 63% of the time. Due to external factors such as the lack of easily available compensation data and the prevalence of “imposter syndrome,” the Hired report finds women are consistently held back by this “expectation gap.”

One of the most troubling aspects of this pay gap is the fact that many men are unaware of its existence. One-third of men are not sure or do not believe there is a gender pay gap while 84% of women are confident it exists.

Further inequity for women of color

For every dollar earned by men, white women earn 79 cents and Black women earn 62 cents. This pay gap starts early and compounds over time. Over the course of a career, women lose on average $407,760, but this number jumps to $941,600 for Black women and $1,121,440 for Latinas.

The pandemic has created additional financial stress for Black women in particular. More than half of Black women – 58% – report being laid off, furloughed or having their hours reduced. This number is significantly smaller – 31% – for white men.

How can you prioritize intersectional inclusion and equity?

Lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace compounds the desperate economic impact of the pandemic. In addition to the general stress we are all experiencing, women of color continue to face discrimination and inequity. And let’s not forget the emotional and mental impact of systemic racism and social injustice.

It can all feel overwhelming, but it helps to consider this topic from several angles. There are clear and simple actions you can take to prioritize intersectional inclusion and equity throughout your company. We turned to several inspiring women at Greenhouse to hear their perspectives and advice.

Dive into your data

“One of the key ways companies can prioritize intersectional inclusion and equity is by beginning to look at your demographic data through a lens of intersectionality. Back in 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw defined intersectionality as ‘how race, class, gender and other individual characteristics intersect with one another and overlap’ to form the basis of one’s experience. For example, you may be a company that promotes gender equality within promotions, but you still don’t have a ton of representation when it comes to women of color in your management. Intersectionality is all about going beyond the surface level of what you perceive to be someone’s experience and actually meeting people where they are and giving them what they need to be successful in your organization.”

Jamie Adasi, Director of DE&I at Greenhouse

Build confidence and leadership skills

“Companies can prioritize intersectional inclusion and equity by creating opportunities to specifically address intersectional challenges. For instance, women of color face a higher emotional tax in the workplace by being a ‘double outsider.’ This strain makes it challenging to develop authentic relationships with colleagues, managers and leaders of the organization, thereby limiting their exposure to senior leaders and potential career growth opportunities. Fostering skill set development in women of color to build confidence in their abilities to step outside of their comfort zones to gain new experiences may lead to broader dialogues with their senior leadership, normalizing those interactions and creating a supportive environment where you can show up to work as your authentic whole self.”

Kristina Nieves, Vice President of Professional Services at Greenhouse

Invest in ERGs

“In the first place, leaders must accept that there is no single solution that will move the needle, but there are a number of very effective strategies that together can make a huge difference. I won’t go into the obvious benefits of hiring a head of DE&I, doing unconscious bias training or setting explicit goals for diversity within the organization – those strategies are essential. But one of the most under-appreciated strategies relates to how companies view the role and value of employee resource groups (ERGs). ERGs are powerful tools to advocate for and encourage diversity in the workplace. Employees who are actively involved with ERGs are not doing volunteer work – rather, they are helping to build a more inclusive workplace, which has incredible benefits in terms of employee engagement, productivity and retention. Companies should fund their ERGs and elevate those contributions of time and effort as work that counts toward promotions. And lastly, companies should create bandwidth for ERG leadership members to do ERG work as part of their regular workload, not in addition to their ‘day job.’”

Carin Van Vuuren, Chief Marketing Officer at Greenhouse

Limit bias with data-driven hiring decisions

“I think in our society we still have a very specific idea of what an engineer looks like – what they act, dress and sound like. Smart is glasses and a pocket protector, not a red lip. This kind of unconscious bias can easily poison interviewers against candidates who don’t fit that mold. One easy way to avoid excluding diverse talent is by backing up your conclusions with data. Take a moment to justify your decisions with evidence before deciding that they ‘just didn’t feel right’ for the role.”

Leah Scott, Software Engineer at Greenhouse

Take inclusion into account in your own product

“Companies looking to practice inclusive product development should make an effort to deeply understand the intersectional identities and circumstances of the audiences for whom they are building. There are many aspects of someone's identity (gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, etc.) and circumstances (geography, socioeconomic status, internet connection, device type, etc.) that come together to influence their unique experiences, behaviors and needs. By investigating early on in the research phase how these different factors play a role in shaping someone's overall experience, companies build a deeper understanding of their users and will be in a better position to ideate solutions that solve a wider range of problems.”

Victoria Teshome, Product Manager at Greenhouse

There are infinite ways to promote intersectional inclusion and equity – from rethinking your hiring and promotion strategies to offering mentoring and leadership training to reframing your product itself. And there’s no single right way to go about it. You can choose whatever makes the most sense for you and your company. What matters most is committing to taking specific action.

Learn more about how to prioritize DE&I in hiring and beyond by accessing our library of articles, webinars, videos and more.

Learn more about DE&I
Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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