Driving Inclusion with Intersectionality: Workday’s VIBE Framework

In the wake of unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic and intensified by incidents of racial injustice, organizations are reevaluating their commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. One critical aspect gaining prominence in this conversation is Intersectionality, a term initially coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, which explores the overlapping layers of identity and experiences faced by individuals.

Understanding Intersectionality

Intersectionality delves into the complex interplay between various demographic and identity markers, emphasizing that different groups of individuals may face unique challenges. For instance, initiatives focused solely on “Women in Leadership” may inadvertently exclude or overlook the distinct struggles of subgroups, such as Black Women. Intersectionality aims to dissect these nuanced experiences and address the discrimination faced by specific intersectional groups.

In the context of the workplace, Intersectionality sheds light on the disparities experienced by different employee segments. Black Women, for instance, encounter a myriad of challenges, as highlighted by Leanin.org’s study on Black Women in business.

Challenges Faced by Black Women in Business

When examining leadership roles, the statistics are stark. Black Women are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions, pointing to a glaring diversity gap that needs urgent attention. However, the issue goes beyond representation.

In matters of belonging and sponsorship, the challenges deepen. Black Women often find themselves left behind, facing hurdles that hinder their sense of belonging within the organization. The most damaging aspect, however, is the prevalence of microaggressions — subtle, everyday forms of discrimination that can have a profound impact on individuals. The experience of being mistaken for someone at a lower level or needing to provide constant evidence of competence creates a hostile work environment.

Even high-profile figures like Kamala Harris, potential future Vice-President (or President) of the United States, are not immune to microaggressions, as evidenced by comments on her being “articulate.” The persistence of such microaggressions highlights the pervasive nature of discriminatory behavior.

Workday’s Response: The VIBE Framework

Addressing the pressing need to tackle intersectionality issues, Workday is taking a significant step forward with the introduction of the VIBE Framework (Value Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity). This framework is designed to provide benchmarks for inclusion and tools to measure intersectionality within companies.

VIBE Central: Analyzing Intersections

Workday’s VIBE Framework is built on a foundation of extensive employee diversity data managed within the Workday system. The VIBE Central dashboard is a customizable tool that allows organizations to analyze a variety of diversity metrics and measure inclusion through regular surveys.

The most intriguing feature of VIBE Central is its ability to create Intersectionality views. By computing what Workday terms the VIBE Score, organizations can gain insights into the intersectional dimensions of diversity. For example, the system can break down representation, hiring, promotion, leadership, belonging, and attrition across different intersectional groups, such as Female Asians, Female Under-Represented, Female White, Male Asians, Male Under-Represented, and Male White.

The color-coded metrics reveal disparities in each dimension, enabling organizations to pinpoint areas of concern. By aggregating these metrics into a comprehensive VIBE Score, Workday aims to offer a benchmarking tool that allows companies to assess their total inclusion and compare it against industry peers.

The Broader Impact of Intersectionality

While Workday’s VIBE Framework is a substantial step forward, the broader context of intersectionality is expanding. The intersectional lens doesn’t only apply to well-defined groups like Black Women; it extends to numerous dimensions of diversity, including age cohorts, gender fluidity, and cultural differences.

Consider the scenario of a large organization with hundreds of potential intersectional groups. With the right statistical analysis, companies can identify which groups are most impacted. This approach allows organizations to proactively address issues faced by different segments, enhancing inclusivity and, consequently, trust.

Trust as the Cornerstone

Trust is a pivotal element in the workplace, and addressing intersectionality is not just about equal opportunities; it’s about nurturing trust within the organization. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report underscores that trust in the government to address racial justice is waning, and a significant percentage of Americans observe racist behavior within their own companies. A workplace that is sensitive to the needs of every individual, regardless of their inclusion in defined disaffected groups, is crucial for fostering trust.

Intersectionality, as a concept and now as a measurable framework, prompts organizations to reevaluate their commitment to fairness, equity, and inclusivity. It encourages leaders to view diversity and inclusion not as checkboxes to be ticked but as ongoing processes that require continuous evaluation and improvement.

In the pursuit of a fair, equitable, and inclusive world, Workday’s VIBE Framework is not just a tool; it’s a beacon pointing towards a future where organizations actively seek to understand and address the unique challenges faced by every individual, fostering an environment where everyone can thrive. As organizations embrace intersectionality, they embark on a journey that goes beyond compliance to create workplaces where diversity is celebrated, inclusion is embedded, and equity is the norm.

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