Why Intersectionality in Service Delivery is Important

CASE TeamNews

BIPOC having a conversation around a table.

Why Intersectionality in Service Delivery is Important

Written By: Shifat Ara, Project Manager- Diversity Works, CASE

Employment experiences for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) are vastly different than that of non-racialized individuals. The issues facing BIPOC are embedded in the history and socio-economic makeup of Canada and are so deep rooted that they have become systemic barriers to employment. Policies and practices have unfairly discriminated and prevented BIPOC from participating fully in finding and maintaining fulfilling jobs. A 2020 report by New Ryerson and Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business show that “even at higher numeracy and literacy skill levels, First Nations people still have a significantly lower probability of employment (75 per cent) than Métis (87 per cent) or non-Indigenous (90 per cent) people. Notably, even lower-skilled non-Indigenous people have a higher probability of employment than First Nations people (87 per cent)”. 

Employment experiences of BIPOC are different from Caucasians because of the many added layers of barriers and discrimination that they face. Biases, both implicit and explicit, have resulted in BIPOC to experience high levels of emotional tax, change the way they look, speak and conduct themselves. Unemployment and underemployment are the greatest among BIPOC and to effectively serve this group, it is crucial for the supported employment sector to account for intersectionality in their service delivery. 

Jobseekers hold multiple social identities such as gender, race, ethnicity, social class, religion, and sexual orientation. Many of these identities can result in unique barriers that face them; overlapping identities can intensify those barriers to attaining and retaining employment. The intersectionality of race and disability is worth considering as it represents a huge (working) population in Canada. Among Canadians aged 15 years and older with a disability, 14.3% are a member of a group designated as a visible minority. Among visible minorities aged 25-64  with a disability, 49.9% have work potential and 25.2% of those who were employed, considered themselves disadvantaged in employment because of their condition (The Visible Minority Population with a Disability in Canada: Employment and Education (statcan.gc.ca)_ ). These numbers indicate that a large portion of the Canadian working population lack access to relevant supports that can help them navigate the unique challenges they have to face as people of colour experiencing disability in their employment journey. The impact of COVID has been more severe and longer lasting  on people of colour experiencing disability, causing job losses and increasing concerns about job security. Customization of employment services for BIPOC jobseekers experiencing disability looking to secure and maintain employment is imperative.  It is only by learning and understanding from the experiences of BIPOC that the supported employment sector can address the issues facing them and design programs that better support them. A one size fits all approach has never worked and this is also true for employment programs that are meant for people of all colors. 

What CASE is doing to address this issue- 

CASE recognizes and values differences such as gender, ethnicity, age, religion, ability, nationality, culture and sexuality.  CASE is committed to collaborating and engaging in research that facilitates an understanding of diversity and inclusion in relation to employment and persons who experience a disability and hold multiple identities. In that, CASE is implementing research to understand the  personal, programmatic and policy level barriers that contribute to the underrepresentation of BIPOC who experience disability in the Canadian workforce.  The research is funded by the Government of Canada’s Workplace Opportunities: Removing Barriers to Equity program.   

Over the next 7 months (Nov-May 2022), CASE will engage with over 100 jobseekers, supported employment service providers and employers across various regions in Canada to learn about the employment experiences of BIPOC who experience disability and the challenges and opportunities that exist in the supported employment sector in better supporting them.    

The research will be a key first step in increasing capacity of the supported employment sector to design employment programs that better support BIPOC experiencing disability in their employment journey. To know more about this project, please visit the project page here: Diversity Works - CASE (Canadian Association for Supported Employment). 

About the author- 

Shifat is a Project Management Professional (PMP®) since 2019 with over seven years of experience in managing international development projects in South-East Asia and now in Canada involving private sector, non-profits, and government. Her focus of work is project management, advocacy, and research. Currently, Shifat is managing a research project at CASE that aims to understand the supported employment experiences of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour experiencing disability. Her email address is shifat@supportedemployment.ca