The interest in diversity, gender, racial and ethnic, LGBTQ+, age, and ability, among other dimensions, has skyrocketed over the past couple of years.
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year ignited worldwide protests and social unrest, prompting governments, corporations and non-profits to re-evaluate their diversity and inclusion policies in almost every corner of the world.
The benefits of workplace diversity have long been documented.
According to a recent study by at Work Australia, businesses that prioritise diversity and inclusion are set to achieve an average of 28 per cent higher revenue, 30 per cent higher profit margins and double the net income than those that don't.
So, it's not surprising that LinkedIn data revealed a 71 per cent increase worldwide in all diversity and inclusion roles over the past five years.
On a global scale, Australia ranked second after the UK in the highest number of D&I workers. But are these initiatives working?
The recent Women of Colour in the Australian Workforce (WoCA) survey sheds light on the stark reality that women of colour face at work.
While organisations are ramping up their diversity and inclusion efforts, our survey shows 60 per cent of women of colour continue to experience discrimination and prejudices in the workplace.
Despite the rhetoric of diversity and inclusion, existing diversity and inclusion programs are clearly not working.
Gender equality and the fight for racial equality are inextricably linked and, as such, diversity and inclusion initiatives should explicitly focus on both. When gender and race intersect, it creates specific, unique challenges for women of colour.
These are too often overlooked with broad clichés that seek to advance women's representation without questioning which women are most likely to benefit, and which ones are being held back.
Corporate Australia needs to acknowledge that women of colour face additional challenges and barriers in the workplace that stem from a history wrought with racial exclusion and segregation.
Women of colour remain woefully under-represented across industries, especially in senior roles.
Only 1.9 per cent of ASX leadership roles are held by women of colour.
If your diversity and inclusion program is not helping women of colour break through the concrete ceiling, then it's time to re-evaluate, pull apart the existing policies and approach diversity and inclusion through a lens of intersectionality.
If intersectionality isn't taken into account for diversity and inclusion strategies, discrimination in the recruitment stage will still occur, wage inequality will continue to persist, professional development will not be distributed equitably, and companies will keep losing talented employees.
So, how can organisations incorporate intersectionality into their diversity and inclusion programs?
For diversity and inclusion to have a higher success rate, they must first and foremost be led by the people who will be directly affected by these policies.
Women of colour need a seat at the table to develop and shape the strategy from the outset.
Companies can start by having open conversations, and getting CEOs, senior executives and founders to acknowledge the unconscious bias and privilege that can make talent invisible to them.
They can also create a safe mechanism for employees to report prejudice and discrimination and take action, by training bystanders on how to intervene when they witness discrimination and how to become active allies.
Australian businesses should also be open to trying new approaches if their practices do not bring employees with intersectional identities equal access to opportunities.
With the rise of "woke" culture, Australian businesses must step up their game when it comes to improving diversity and inclusion policies.
A good starting point is to apply an intersectional lens at the core of their initiatives.
Otherwise, they run the risk the well-intentioned changes will be short-lived, or worse still, detrimental.
Dr Pilar Kasat is chair of Women of Colour Australia (WoCA), Curtin University.
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