Better DEI: Why Only Focusing on Gender Doesn’t Tend to Work

June 30, 2019

The Feminuity Team

“There aren’t enough women in tech” is a sentiment that we’ve heard repeatedly in this industry. Attracting more women* to your company can be a difficult task, especially for startups and scaleups. Meanwhile, for larger organizations with a stronger representation of women, the challenge becomes how to retain them. Any time we refer to "women,” we mean all people who identify as such.  This includes, but is not limited to, trans women, non-binary women, femmes, those who are feminine of center, or those who generally identify as a member of the Sisterhood.

The reason why your organization may be struggling in these areas may be surprising to you. You may be thinking that you’re doing everything to rectify the gender problem, but the results are still not what you imagined. This is because companies that focus only on gender inclusion as their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy commit themselves to an approach that ultimately only benefits white, cisgender, heterosexual and able-bodied women, to the exclusion of other women with more complex identities. 

In our culture, white, cisgender, heterosexual and able-bodied women are often the “default” women. They are the women who have the most representation in media and they are the women who most consumer products are designed for and targeted towards. When we consider how gender inequality impacts women but don’t consider how other factors such as their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, (dis)ability, etc., impact them, we cannot craft fulsome solutions that benefit all women.

No person possesses a single discrete identity, just as how it would be inaccurate to say that someone is only a woman, or only a person of colour, or only LGBTQ+. Everyone has a culmination of multiple identities that make them who they are. Women of colour, women who have disabilities, women who are LGBTQ+, etc., require support in ways that address their needs beyond the gender gap.

If organizations want to make their workplace better in order to attract and retain more women, they must strive to build systems that not only tackle sexism but address other oppressive institutions such as racism, heteronormativity, ableism, and classism, just to name a few.

Our team at Feminuity has developed a detailed resource guide that outlines why we need to shift beyond a gender-only approach to advance women as an industry and community. Our guide outlines the case for intersectionality, including a primer on what it means, a self-exercise, and different ways to embed intersectionality into your organization’s policies and processes. We’ve also included a glossary of important DEI-related terms to help deepen these discussions.


Check out “Shifting Beyond a Gender-Only Approach to Advance Women: The Case for Intersectionality" under "Resources" on our website.