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Amplifying Organizational Impact: The Transformative Power of Intersectionality in DEI Strategies

Diti Bhasin, MBA, Principal & Chief Strategy Officer


As the Chief Strategy Officer at Flexability, I led our team on a transformative journey to enhance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices for a prominent healthcare organization, hereafter referred to as "the Organization." Our mission, deeply rooted in aligning equity and inclusion with the organization's core business objectives, guided us through a comprehensive DEI climate assessment. Initially broad in scope, our investigation quickly revealed disparities that necessitated a sharper focus, especially on the experiences of Black women in the workforce. This pivotal shift not only underscored the essential role of intersectionality in our equity and inclusion efforts but also demonstrated how targeted interventions could drive expansive organizational change.

A fundamental aspect of our assessment involved leveraging both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, including a detailed cross-tabulation analysis. This method exposed the intricate interplay between race and gender within the organization, revealing that Black employees, though constituting only 13.04% of the workforce, were predominantly women, making up 85.71% of this group. This critical insight highlighted the significant presence of Black women in the organization and set the groundwork for a deeper exploration of their unique workplace experiences. Our goal was to understand these experiences fully and to develop tailored strategies that would not only address their specific needs but also foster a broader cultural evolution within the organization.

Our thorough examination became a beacon for change, advocating for a marginalized group while initiating a profound cultural shift within the organization. We reinforced the crucial importance of intersectionality in devising comprehensive and effective DEI strategies. This process marked a significant departure from generic, broad-stroke policies towards more nuanced, finely calibrated initiatives that promise to elevate the organization's approach to inclusivity and equity, signaling a new era of comprehensive DEI integration.

Understanding Identity in the Workplace

Identity in the workplace encompasses the unique attributes and experiences that employees bring to their organizational roles, including aspects such as race, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. Recognizing and valuing these identities is vital because they deeply influence an individual's sense of belonging, engagement, and satisfaction at work. When employees feel that their identities are acknowledged and respected, they are more likely to contribute fully, collaborate effectively, and stay committed to their employer. Moreover, diverse identities within the workforce enhance creativity, problem-solving, and decision-making, driving innovation and growth. Embracing identity diversity is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage for organizations.

Intersectionality in the Workplace

Identity holds significant power, yet singular identities do not define us; instead, we embody a combination of many. Intersectionality is a term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. It describes how systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class, and other forms of discrimination intersect, giving rise to unique dynamics, outcomes, and lived experiences. Grasping the concept of intersectionality in the workplace revolutionizes how we approach comprehensive strategies, leading to more complete and sustainable solutions with enhanced positive outcomes.

In our climate assessment at the Organization, we uncovered the nuanced experiences of Black women, distinguishing them from the broader workforce. This was achieved through meticulous cross-tabulation of demographic data and adjusting totals to focus on specific identities. This deep dive into the data allowed us to grasp Black women's unique challenges and perspectives, setting them apart from the general population's experiences. For instance, among Black women, the data revealed distinct differences in perceptions compared to the general population:

  • Organizational Culture and Climate: While 43.48% of the general staff population reported witnessing positive DEI-related changes, the responses from Black women demonstrated a stronger sense of agreement, with 25% expressing strong agreement, underscoring the differential impact of DEI efforts on Black women.
  • Inclusivity & Belonging: Black women reported a sense of belonging at lower rates than the general population. The feeling of being valued or included appears to have a discrepancy, with Black women feeling comfortable sharing opinions in meetings but not feeling as connected to the larger organizational morale. Black women's comfort in sharing opinions in team meetings was high (66.67% either strongly agree or agree). Yet, they reported a lower sense of overall belonging compared to the broader workforce (50% agreement among Black women vs. 59.83% in the rest of the organization).
Case Study 3

Comparison of Perceptions of Belonging Between Teams and the Larger Organization Among Black Women and the larger Organization.

  • Leadership & Management: The perceptions of DEI commitment among leadership were markedly different when comparing Black women to the general staff. The survey responses indicated that Black women saw less commitment to DEI, pointing to a significant disparity in perceptions that highlights a potential area for leadership development. Only 25% of Black women recognized a clear commitment to DEI by the leaders, which was notably lower than the 48.81% acknowledgment from the broader employee population.
  • Employee Development & Relations: The effectiveness of DEI resources and training was another point of divergence. Black women expressed more significant levels of neutrality and disagreement about their adequacy, suggesting a need for resources and training that resonate more deeply with their experiences. A disparity was noted in the perception of access to DEI resources and training. Black women showed significantly less agreement on their effectiveness (0% strong agreement for Black women vs. 4.94% in the broader organization).

These figures emphasize the importance of intersectional analysis. Black women at the Organization not only experience the workplace differently compared to their colleagues but also perceive DEI efforts through a distinct lens.

Solutions for Shifting Black Women's Experiences

The focused investigation into Black women's experiences at the Organization revealed that despite their strong representation within the Black demographic, they face unique workplace challenges. Their experiences with DEI efforts, inclusivity, leadership commitment, and professional development often differed from the broader organizational findings, necessitating tailored solutions to address these specific challenges.

Pathways forward cannot merely be broad-stroked but must be finely tuned to the unique challenges individuals face at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities. Such strategies could include:

  • Targeted Leadership Training: Specific training modules for leaders to understand the intersectionality of race and gender, and to recognize the unique contributions and challenges of Black women in the workplace.
  • Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs: Development of initiatives that pair Black women with mentors and sponsors who can provide guidance and advocate for their advancement within the organization.
  • Feedback and Dialogue Channels: Establish safe and structured channels for Black women to provide candid feedback on DEI efforts and for the leadership to engage in meaningful dialogue regarding this feedback.
  • Visibility and Communication: Increased visibility of Black women in leadership positions and clear communication of their contributions to enhance the recognition of Black women's roles within the organization.

By implementing such nuanced DEI strategies, the Organization can ensure its efforts resonate more profoundly with all employee groups, fostering a more inclusive and supportive workplace where every individual can thrive.

Broadening the Scope: The Ripple Effect of Intersectional Focus

In our comprehensive DEI assessment at Flexability, our concentrated analysis of Black women's experiences not only aimed to improve their work-life but also initiated a ripple effect poised to benefit the entire organization. When DEI strategies align with the most intersecting identities, such as those of Black women—who represent 85.71% within the Black demographic at the Organization—it sets a standard of inclusion that permeates throughout all levels and groups.

How Focused DEI Initiatives Create Organizational Change

The benefits of addressing the unique challenges of Black women are extensive:

  • Enhanced Inclusivity: By meeting the specific needs of Black women, the organization sets a precedent that encourages inclusivity across all employee segments. This inclusivity can lead to an overall improvement in the work environment, making it more welcoming for everyone.
  • Leadership Development: Tailored leadership programs not only benefit Black women but also prepare leaders to manage a diverse workforce more effectively, fostering an empathetic and informed leadership style that benefits all employees.
  • Modeling Equity: As DEI strategies improve the equity of opportunities for Black women, other employees will observe and experience the tangible commitment to equal treatment, bolstering trust and morale across the organization.
  • Cultural Competence: When employees witness their colleagues from various backgrounds being supported and uplifted, it enhances the cultural competence of the workforce, creating a more harmonious and respectful work culture.

Research has consistently shown that organizations with strong DEI policies—particularly those that address intersectionality—enjoy a range of benefits, including improved decision-making, higher employee retention rates, and better financial performance. Companies with greater gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies with less diversity. By addressing the intersection of gender and race, the Organization will likely see similar performance and innovation improvements.

Implementing the Intersectional DEI Framework Organization-Wide

Our nuanced understanding of Black women's experiences has several vital implications for broad organizational strategies:

  • Diverse Talent Attraction and Retention: As the Organization becomes known for its comprehensive DEI efforts, it will likely attract a more diverse pool of applicants and retain diverse talent, due to its reputation as an inclusive employer.
  • Increased Employee Engagement: Employees who see that their peers are being heard and supported are more likely to feel engaged themselves, as they recognize that the organization values diversity and individual contributions.
  • Competitive Advantage: Organizations that excel in DEI are more innovative and responsive to market changes. By leveraging the unique perspectives of Black women, the Organization can gain insights that drive creative solutions and services.

In essence, by elevating the experiences of Black women through intersectional DEI initiatives, the Organization not only supports this specific group but also advances its overall mission, culture, and success. Implementing strategies that address intersectionality is not just an investment in Black women, but an investment in the strength, unity, and future of the entire organization.


This case study vividly showcases the critical importance of integrating intersectionality into DEI strategies, highlighting a significant cultural shift within the Organization, especially from the perspective of Black women. Flexability’s in-depth analysis demonstrates that DEI efforts informed by the experiences of intersectionally marginalized groups not only address specific needs but also set a standard of inclusivity and equity benefiting the entire organization.

Implementing these targeted initiatives creates profound ripple effects, transforming the concept of inclusivity into a tangible reality for all employees. Such inclusivity fosters innovation, heightens employee engagement, and establishes the organization as a leader in equitable practices. Moreover, the case study presents a compelling argument for the strategic value of embracing diversity in its entirety, showing that valuing diverse identities leads to significant organizational and market growth.

By pursuing intersectionality in DEI strategies, the organization catalyzes a comprehensive cultural evolution, making the workplace more inclusive, equitable, and vibrant. This shift not only improves operational efficiency and employee contentment but also deeply integrates diversity, equity, and inclusion within the organization’s core principles. Therefore, this analysis does more than chart a path for the organization's progress; it serves as an inspiration for embedding DEI principles deeply within business practices, guiding others towards a more inclusive future.

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This chart displays the intersection of racial or ethnic identity with gender identity within the organization. The blue percentages show the overall representation of each combined racial and gender identity category. The pink percentages indicate each racial group's proportion within a gender identity. The teal percentages denote the proportion of each gender identity within a racial group.