Back to Blog
Diversity in STEM

Respecting Intersectionality in the Classroom

When it comes to promoting the importance of diversity, sometimes it can be easy to focus on more visible differences, like age, race or gender expression. While these are undoubtedly important and essential to protect from discrimination, sometimes, invisible types of diversity can be overlooked.

In the same way that there is much more to a person than their physical appearance, an individual’s hidden differences can be integral to their identity. A few examples of differences that may not be visible include:

  • Socioeconomic background
  • Neurodivergence
  • Religious beliefs
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Abilities
  • Culture
  • Military background

For educators in particular, it is important to remember that the many ways in which students are diverse are not always visible. Because many types of diversity are not readily seen, it can be helpful for educators to consider the importance of intersectionality in creating and maintaining healthy and supportive learning environments.

First coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, a pioneering scholar and writer who now teaches law at Columbia University, intersectionality is the idea that an individual’s experience cannot be reduced to individual attributes such as race or gender. In her seminal 1989 paper, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Anti-discrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” Crenshaw argues that a Black woman’s experience, for example, can only be understood by exploring the intersection of race and gender combined, and that separating the two fails to properly represent the authentic experience of Black American women.

Since the publication of this paper, the term “intersectionality” has continued to grow in popularity, especially after the word’s inclusion into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015. Today, it’s a concept that stands as a helpful reminder that a person’s identity is a combination of many different components.

It’s for this reason that when educators and policymakers seek to establish safe and welcoming learning environments that prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion, they must avoid making assumptions and instead promote the importance of communication and empathy.


How Do You Promote Diversity?

How do you promote the importance of diversity in your district, school or classroom? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on our Facebook page!

To stay up to date on the latest trends in STEM education, we invite you to visit our blog.

Related Articles