Applying intersectionality

11 Feb 2022

This guidance was developed by MindTribes in close consultation with the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector. The guidance includes advice on how to apply intersectionality for each of the obligations, podcasts showcasing the voices and lived experiences of women facing intersectional barriers, and case studies demonstrating practical actions.


The Gender Equality Act 2020 (the Act) requires Victorian public sector organisations to progress gender equality in the workplace and our community.

Section 6(8) of the Act outlines that “gender inequality may be compounded by other forms of disadvantage or discrimination that a person may experience based on Aboriginality, age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation and other attributes.” For the purposes of this guidance, the Commission refers to this concept as “intersectional gender inequality”.

By recognising intersectional gender inequality, the Act aims to address discrimination, disadvantage, and inequity. It encourages defined entities to create equitable workplaces and deliver services where all people are supported to be respected, safe and empowered in environments that are accessible and responsive to their unique and changing needs.

This web page includes some initial guidance and ideas for how defined entities can apply intersectionality to their work under the Act. It also includes podcasts and case studies to help you engage with the stories, challenges and opportunities of this work.

The Commission will add to this guidance, in partnership with experts and defined entities, as we learn over time.

What is Intersectionality?

The concept of intersectional disadvantage or discrimination is sometimes called “intersectionality”. It explains how people may experience overlapping forms of discrimination or disadvantage based on attributes such as Aboriginality; age; disability; ethnicity; gender identity; race; religion; and sexual orientation. Note, in this guidance, we refer to these attributes as the “intersectional attributes”.

Intersectionality recognises that the causes of disadvantage or discrimination do not exist independently, but intersect and overlap with gender inequality, magnifying the severity and frequency of the impacts while also raising barriers to support.

The concept of intersectionality was coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. In developing ‘intersectionality’ as a concept, Crenshaw cited a court case where a group of African-American women argued that a manufacturing company had refused to hire them on the basis on their race and gender. However, the court ruled that the company was not guilty of discriminatory hiring practices based on race, because they had hired African-American men to work on the factory floor.

The court also ruled that the company had not discriminated on the basis of gender, as they hired white women for office-based roles. What the court failed to consider was the intersection of race and gender and the compounded discrimination faced by African-American women.

Every person has multiple, intersectional identities. For some women, their intersectional identity may provide a degree of privilege, but for others, it may result in more discrimination. Some women are at higher risk of different types of discrimination, such as racism, class oppression, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, or ableism.

The intersectional approach suggests that tackling disadvantage in one group may not address discrimination and marginalisation experienced by all other groups equally. Therefore, work to prevent gender-based inequality cannot be completed in isolation from work to address other forms of discrimination.