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Intersectionality in Depth, Part 2: Women of Faith

A portrait of a smiling woman wearing a headscarf or hijab.

Intersectionality, a concept coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, shows how different aspects of a person’s identity can overlap and create unique challenges for individuals facing various forms of inequities and/or discrimination. As the Principal Strategist for the Women’s Employment Portfolio, and in parallel with Women’s History Month, it is my pleasure to present this three-part blog series that also features blogs on the intersectionality of women and faith, motherhood, and geographic location highlighting how these connections may influence a woman’s experience.

A “woman of faith” typically refers to a woman who holds strong religious or spiritual beliefs and is committed to living out those beliefs in her daily life. This can encompass a wide range of religious affiliations as well as various spiritual practices. A woman of faith may seek to integrate her religious or spiritual values into her personal, professional, and community life, and she may actively participate in religious or spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, worship, and acts of service.

In the workplace, women of faith offer diverse perspectives shaped by their cultural and religious backgrounds, which can enrich problem-solving, decision-making, and innovation at work. Women of faith may also possess cultural competence and an understanding of diverse customs and traditions, which is a huge asset to global or multicultural workplaces.

Below are some of the challenges a woman of faith might experience in the workplace:

  • Religious discrimination may manifest in biased treatment, negative stereotypes, or exclusionary practices that affect hiring, promotions, or work assignments.
  • Women, in general, face many challenges in securing leadership roles, and this can be compounded for women of faith. Limited representation in leadership can hinder their ability to shape organizational policies and practices, interrupt bias and stereotypes, and contribute to inclusive solutions to workplace issues.
  • Women of faith may need religious accommodations for prayer times, religious attire, religious holidays, or other observances, and their requests may not always be well understood or accommodated by employers.
  • Women of faith may feel isolated if they are a minority within their workplace. A lack of support from colleagues or supervisors can exacerbate feelings of isolation and hinder professional development.
  • Women of faith may fear retaliation if they speak out about religious discrimination or request religious accommodations. This fear can create a barrier to reporting and addressing workplace issues.

How Can NIH Help?

To the women of faith reading this blog post, as you navigate the intersection of your faith and professional life, it is important to be aware of the resources and support available to you within the NIH community. To those who manage women of faith or work alongside them, NIH also offers a wealth of tools and guidance to help you create a safe, accepting workplace environment. EDI’s Inclusion Toolkit contains resources, guidance, and tools for women of faith and managers as well as those interested in establishing an inclusive work culture.

By acknowledging and addressing challenges for women of faith, organizations can create an inclusive and supportive environment that empowers women of faith to thrive professionally while honoring their religious and spiritual beliefs. This inclusive approach not only benefits individual employees, but also enhances the collective strength and creativity of the workforce, leading to greater innovation and discovery in the fields of medicine and science.

To read my other blogs please visit Women in Rural Landscapes and The Motherhood Penalty.

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