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How the Transformative Power Of DEI, we can embrace Intersectionality and Challenging The Status Quo

diversity equity inclusion, exclusion, unconscious bias, psychological safety, intersectionality
Diversity Equity and Inclusion

First appeared on Forbes

Today, we are going on a journey—a journey of understanding, confronting discomfort and advocating for a truly inclusive environment. As someone deeply embedded in the world of DEI, I've had my fair share of challenges and triumphs. Each experience has taught me invaluable lessons about the complex fabric of human relations in the workplace.

DEI Fatigue

You might have heard the term "DEI fatigue." It’s that feeling among employees that DEI is just another box to check off. I’ve personally heard things like, "We’re just checking boxes here," "I don’t have any biases," or "Everything is about race/gender/etc. these days." Sound familiar?

I understand the frustration. To truly practice inclusion, we need to include these feelings when we look at DEI practices. When DEI is treated like a Band-Aid solution, it's like taking antibiotics for an infection without addressing the root cause.

So let’s start applying science to our practices to reach people at their core.

The Pain Of Exclusion

Neuroscience shows that the feeling of belonging activates neural pathways associated with reward and emotional safety. And correspondingly, the brain's anterior cingulate cortex, which plays a role in emotional processing, responds to social rejection like physical pain.

This reaction is primal, going back to times when being excluded from the tribe was equivalent to a death sentence.

In modern workplaces, exclusion can be as simple as not being copied on an email or not being invited to a retirement party. These actions make employees feel undervalued and isolated, impacting their productivity and mental health. Fostering inclusion can mitigate stress responses and improve psychological well-being, leading to enhanced cognitive function.

Understanding this makes it clear why creating an inclusive environment is not just ethical but essential.

Misguided Views On DEI

Recently, influential figures like Elon Musk have made headlines with claims that "DEI must DIE," arguing that these initiatives divide rather than unite us.

This viewpoint, while attention-grabbing, overlooks the fundamental benefits of DEI. Scientific studies and organizational reports consistently show that diverse teams are not only more creative but also achieve better financial results.

By dismissing DEI, we ignore the complex and intersecting identities that people bring to their workplaces. We overlook the fact that our team members are human beings with multifaceted backgrounds that significantly influence their experiences and perspectives.

As long as we have differences in who we are, we have diversity that cannot be denied. DEI initiatives must evolve beyond surface-level inclusion and basic diversity training.

The Depth Of Intersectionality

In my career, I've encountered numerous DEI programs that merely skim the surface, ticking boxes meant more for legal protection than fostering genuine inclusivity.

This approach is flawed.

Intersectionality delves into how overlapping identities—including race, gender, beliefs, values and sexuality—impact individuals' experiences, particularly in how they perceive and are perceived in the workplace.

Recognizing these nuances will allow companies to address specific barriers that individuals face, leading to a more genuinely inclusive environment. When people feel their full identities are acknowledged and valued, they report higher levels of belonging and engagement.

Let me share a personal story. I once worked with a team member whom I'll call Ana. Ana, a transgender woman of color, faced unique challenges in the workplace that weren't addressed by our then-existing DEI policies.

Through her eyes, I saw the gaps in our approach—how our programs didn’t fully address or support her needs. This was a turning point for me. It led to a shift in our policies to better accommodate not just Ana's but every team member’s unique identity and situation.

The Power Of Belonging

Statistically, the impact of belonging is profound. According to a survey by BetterUp, workplace belonging led to "a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% reduction in turnover risk, and a 75% decrease in employee sick days." Harvard Business Review highlighted another fact from this same study: that when employees feel a higher level of belonging, their "employer promoter score" (the probability that they'll recommend their company to others) goes up 167%.

These insights suggest that DEI initiatives must be deeply embedded into the organizational fabric, going beyond surface-level diversity metrics to foster genuine inclusion.

Tailoring interventions to address the specific intersectional needs of diverse employees can help dismantle the unconscious biases and structural barriers that hinder belonging. Organizations that succeed in this are not only more equitable but also benefit from higher productivity, innovation and retention.

By exploring intersectionality within the framework of neuroscience, organizations can create more empathetic and effective DEI strategies that recognize and celebrate the full spectrum of human diversity. This holistic approach not only fulfills ethical imperatives but also aligns with strategic business outcomes by harnessing the full potential of every employee.

The Action We Need

Now, let's talk about what we can actually do to make DEI meaningful:

• Tailored Training: Develop training sessions that address specific intersectional needs and ensure that they are led by people who genuinely understand those experiences.

• Data-Driven Strategies: Use data analytics to identify gaps in support and resources. This data should inform how we tailor our interventions, ensuring they're not just well-intentioned but effective.

• Continuous Feedback: DEI isn’t a one-off training session; it’s a continuous dialogue. Create feedback loops where employees can share their experiences and suggestions without fear of repercussion.

A Call To Action

Let's not be content with the status quo. Let's challenge the narratives that seek to undermine the value of DEI. Let's build workplaces where every individual can thrive, not in spite of their identities, but because of them.

I challenge you today to take a hard look at your organization’s DEI initiatives. Are they deep enough? Are they effective? If not, it’s time to revamp, rethink and react. Because at the end of the day, an investment in DEI is an investment in the future of your organization—and every single person who walks through its doors.

Let’s make change happen, together.

You can listen to my podcast "AI Cafe Conversations" on Amazon music Apple podcasts and Spotify 


My name is Sahar Andrade, I help organizations increase their employee engagement by investing in Diversity/Inclusion practices as well as through Leadership Development Coaching.

I coach successful leaders that are stuck to reinvent their lives with courage, release their fears, get clarity on their purpose and pursue their dreams.

My teachings, my unique education and experience combined with singular approach to realizing change, form a proven system for long lasting positive transformation.

My methodology is based on human psychology, N.L.P. practices and research to break down issues, reverse engineer them, and deconstruct personal myths, while developing personal leadership skills development. It is a simple step by step program, modules, exercises, one on one and group coaching.

This is my TED TALK : Overcoming Negative Thoughts

I am the founder of “Sahar Consulting, LLC” and “Reinvent Yourself to Greatness


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