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Intersectionality Part Three: Intentional Intersectionality

Woman with glasses giving seminar in front of group

In the past two blogs, “Intersectionality Defined” and “The Workplace”, we’ve reviewed what intersectionality is and different ways it appears in our personal and professional lives. We explored the genesis and definition of the word “intersectionality” as coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw and then discussed how the workplace shapes our identity.

In this blog, we will apply what we’ve learned more practically. Below are seven ways to practice intersectionality with intention.

  1. Recognize what intersectionality is
    • Understand that everyone has multiple identities and that we all face unique challenges because of the intersections of our identities. For example, a female scientist at the NIH who was born in the US will face different challenges than a male administrator at the NIH who is a long-term permanent resident.
  2. Create a safe environment so that all individuals feel secure sharing their stories.
  3. Bring your whole self to work
    • Show your true, authentic self at work. It takes courage to truly show who you are to your colleagues. Show your vulnerability by asking for help from others; remove self-righteousness by admitting your contributions to conflicts.
    • Remember the Authenticity Equation (Robbins, 2018): Honesty – Self-Righteousness + Vulnerability = Authenticity
  4. Raise up the voices of others
    • When you have the opportunity, raise up the voices of others around you. Respect their stories.
  5. Collaborate
    • Collaborate with others who have different backgrounds than you, have different jobs at the NIH, or are from different communities. Think of unique ways to interact with people outside your usual circle of colleagues. Collaboration fosters innovation and expands your network.
  6. Reinterpret your stress
    • If you find yourself experiencing anxiety resulting from stereotype threat, focus your energy towards succeeding at the task and breaking the stereotype. Acknowledging the source of anxiety may be enough to minimize the effects of stereotype threat.
  7. Value Affirmations
    • When facing anxiety about your identity, take a moment to write down or reflect on your personal values and what makes you unique. Share your thoughts with your colleagues and ask them to do the same.

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Read - Intersectionality Part One: Intersectionality Defined

Read - Intersectionality Part Two: The Workplace


Harris, L. (2018, August 24). Intersectionality: Two Simple Steps For Improving Corporate Culture. Retrieved from Forbes.

Robbins, M. (2018, September 19). How to Bring Your Whole Self to Work. Retrieved from Greater Good Magazine, UC Berkeley.

Ten Tips for Putting Intersectionality into Practice. (2017). Retrieved from The Opportunity Agenda.

Walton, G., Cohen, G., & Steele, C. (2012). Empirically validated strategies to reduce stereotype threat.