Why Place Technology Looks at Inclusion Through an Intersectional Lens
If you're not considering intersectionality in your diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, they may be doing more damage than good.
Consider, first, what intersectionality is: According to Kimberle Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia University and UCLA who coined the term in the late 1980s, it’s a concept that centers around “the ways that multiple forms of inequality of disadvantage sometimes compound themselves and they create obstacles that often are not understood within conventional ways of thinking.”
Without establishing intersectionality as the bedrock of DEI policies and programs, inherent problems may go unaddressed or ignored. “You can’t change outcomes without understanding how they’ve come about,” Crenshaw said.
Brandon Metcalf, the founder and CEO of Place Technology, which builds financial forecasting and corporate performance management software for technology and service companies, agrees with Crenshaw’s sentiment. If a company fails to consider intersectionality, DEI policies can fall flat.
“Oftentimes, well-meaning companies implement DEI programs that only address a fraction of personal identity,” Metcalf said. “When intersectionality isn't taken into account, the results can be detrimental for individuals — think alienation, frustration and anxiety — and the company as a whole, in terms of high turnover and eroded culture.”
In short, the world isn’t black and white and DEI policies shouldn’t be either. Below, Metcalf explained how intersectionality helps shape Place Technology’s DEI initiatives, the impact inclusion efforts have had at the company and the role employees play in DEI efforts.
How does your company approach intersectionality in the workplace, and how does that help shape your broader DEI initiatives?
We want to foster an environment where every employee is positioned not only to succeed but to be their whole self at work without fear of judgment or discrimination. As a small, but growing, company, we’ve deliberately focused on taking a holistic approach to our inclusion efforts when it comes to hiring, retaining and engaging top talent.
Oftentimes, well-meaning companies implement DEI programs that only address a fraction of personal identity. Avoiding the resulting pitfalls requires maximizing the number of seats at the table and arming the folks who fill those seats with the resources they need to feel empowered.
To that end, we strive to keep as much of our long-term planning, strategy and performance data accessible as possible to employees at all levels of the company. By removing politics from access to key information, we empower everyone to make a difference and feel valued.
What has been the most impactful action your company has taken to create a more inclusive and equitable work environment for all employees?
My answer may come as a surprise, but it’s our internship program. Our interns have an impact across the company because they play a crucial role in growing our business and developing our marketing strategy. We trust our interns to take on more responsibilities than the typical company might because we’re consistently able to recruit extremely talented undergrads to join our team.
How do we achieve this? Of course, culture, opportunity, product and countless other factors play a role, but we also eliminate a huge barrier to entry for many students: We pay them.
Internship inequity is a real problem, and it’s great to see it finally getting the attention it deserves in the national conversation. Unpaid internships favor privilege over more important factors like talent, diversity of background and experience.
Long-term, universal support and acceptance of intersectionality in the workplace requires systemic change. Paid internships aren’t the sole answer, but they certainly play a role: To climb the corporate ladder, you have to start by getting your foot in the door.
Our radical candor-based approach to communication means that we embrace everyone’s individuality when we communicate.”
What role do your employees play in driving DEI efforts? And what have you done to ensure that the most marginalized voices on your team are represented, heard, valued and respected?
At our current stage and size, we rely on each employee to play a key role in every aspect of our inclusion initiatives. We take a collaborative approach to culture and hiring strategy to ensure that unilateral, single-perspective decisions aren't made in these crucial areas.
Our radical candor-based approach to communication means that we embrace everyone’s individuality when we communicate. In meetings, it’s common for folks to explicitly state that they’re looking for perspectives that differ from their own preconceived notions and biases. It’s important that this context is actually provided in key meetings and not simply implied, because assumptions like this quickly lead to marginalization — even when that’s not the intent.