The GAP team is committed to intersectionality as a core guiding principle for our work in gender policy research translation. In this statement we lay out why intersectionality is a priority and necessity for GAP and for gender policy work more broadly. We also outline the current state of intersectional research on GAP and make concrete commitments for better incorporating intersectionality into our content and into our work as a team. We are making these commitments publicly to hold ourselves accountable to this important work and to communicate openly with GAP’s users about our vision for the platform.
As part of our commitments that were put into action in 2020, we have updated the goals below with outcomes and continued goals in August 2023.
Intersectionality as a Guiding Principle
The GAP team is committed to strengthening our focus on intersectional research to center the needs and experiences of marginalized people and communities in closing gender gaps. The impact of gender policy interventions on women and people with other marginalized gender identities can often be obscured by research on gender that centers wealthy, White, and cisgender women.
As GAP retains its gender policy focus, we aim to provide practitioners with actionable research that identifies how gender intersects with other identities, especially marginalized identities, to create unique experiences for the people and communities impacted by policy interventions. Further, intersectionality, which is rooted in Black feminist thought, requires us to think not just about the varied experiences of people with different intersecting identities but to also engage deeply with the systems of power and oppression which characterize these experiences.
As a first step, we conducted an audit of GAP’s content in March 2021, examining intersections of gender with race, class, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion, and cultural identities. This audit is a tool for us to understand thematic areas and identity groups that are most in need of additional focus on our site. However, the audit results are a starting point and by no means represent an exhaustive list of the work to be done; the GAP team is committed to overall significantly increasing the share of intersectional content.
We will also focus on the intersections of gender and race in sourcing new content. While our audit showed gender and race as the identity intersection that was most represented in GAP’s current content, racial diversity within GAP’s content is limited and the vast majority of content does not meaningfully engage with identity outside of gender. Fully understanding the impact of racism on gender policy interventions is essential to dismantling systemic inequality and will be a key priority for GAP as we build a more intersectional database of research.
In addition, the audit’s qualitative component highlighted thematic gaps that should be focus areas for new content.
Advancing GAP's Intersectional Commitments in 2023
Our 2021 audit highlighted both identity groups and topic areas (based on the twenty topics GAP uses to categorize research) for which very little or no intersectional research is currently available on GAP. In 2023, the GAP team reviewed the intersectionality audit, and we continue to see limited experimental research summaries regarding disability, LGBTQ identities, and age, as well as the GAP topic areas Negotiation, Compensation, Competition, Political Participation, and Poverty Alleviation, which still serve as our initial focus areas for sourcing new content.
The team also acknowledges that the qualitative thematic gaps we found in 2021 are still apparent and will continue reviewing the content on racial disparities in the Maternal Health and Compensation topic areas; literature in the Poverty Alleviation topic area that focuses on poverty in high-income countries and ensuring we are literature and resources on poverty in low-income countries that directly engages with colonial legacies.
One qualitative goal that we reached was expanding the number of research summaries that focus on workplace discrimination for underrepresented groups in the talent management topic, as we now have summaries in this focus area that cover race, religion, and gender identity. Additionally, we have posted three new summaries that address women’s labor issues in the Global South, an important aspect of Talent Management that is usually left out of global diversity, equity, and inclusion conversations.
Additional goals we wish to incorporate as we move forward are 1) expanding our research summaries on Indigenous women and caste as two new areas of intersectional research translation and 2) summarizing relevant research on policy issues that would benefit from an evidence-based gender equity lens (e.g., the climate crisis, transgender and nonbinary inclusion, and migration). We have collated the intersectional summaries that have been posted thus far on GAP on the website. In line with these goals, we have added a new topic area for indigenous communities and migration, and disaggregated the race and ethnicity topic area by identity focus (e.g., Asian-American, Latinx/Hispanic, Black, Middle Eastern, etc.).
Sourcing Intersectional Research
A key constraint in developing an intersectional focus for GAP is the limited availability of truly intersectional policy research, which not only disaggregates results based on intersecting identities but also engages with the implications of disparities between groups. This is especially relevant for GAP, which focuses on experimental approaches, since intersectional methods and research have gained a more significant foothold in qualitative fields.
However, we want to provide policy makers with the tools to implement interventions that center the needs of marginalized communities even when research that uses an intersectional methodology is not yet available. When this is the case, we will aim to source studies that provide insight into a policy intervention’s effects on under-studied groups. For example, in absence of intersectional studies addressing maternal mortality in the US that break results down by race and class, we would aim to source studies that center women who experience worse maternal health outcomes, including Black, Indigenous, and poor women. Through this approach, we hope to help practitioners develop policies that adequately address the needs of marginalized communities even as intersectional research lags behind.
We are committing to action steps in two distinct but related areas: our content and work with external stakeholders, and our work internally as a team.
Content and External Engagement
- Meaningfully expand the share of GAP’s content that takes an intersectional approach to gender policy and closing gender gaps.
- To find the intersectional summaries we have added so far organized by content type, read GAP’s compiled intersectional research summaries.
- The total number of intersectional summaries is currently 65, 21% of all research included on GAP.
- GAP’s intersectional content was featured in a fall 2021 seminar series focused on intersectional gender equity hosted by the HKS Women and Public Policy Program. Many of these seminars were recorded and can be found on WAPPP's Youtube.
- Do our part to encourage broader use of intersectional research methods in gender policy research. The GAP team continues to collate resources for gender equity researchers who may be interested in approaching their experimental research studies from a more intersectional lens, including reports on intersectional research frameworks, data equity, and community-centered research practices.
- The current list of intersectional resources geared towards researchers can be found on our “Additional Resources” page.
Internal Processes and Approaches
- We will actively incorporate intersectionality into our work as a team and into our approach to advancing gender equity more broadly.
- We will continue to educate ourselves as a team on intersectional feminism, especially in the context of gender policy and research translation, by sharing and discussing resources related to using inclusive terminology when referring to marginalized groups, training new writers and editors on intersectional frameworks, and hiring and supporting a diverse team to shape GAP.
- The GAP team will continue to engage and collaborate with other research translation tools which have similar and aligned focuses, including other Harvard Kennedy School projects such as the Race, Research and Policy Portal of the IARA Project.
The original GAP intersectionality team includes Anisha Asundi (GAP Project Manager), Sophie Bravo (former GAP Research Intern) and Merrit Stueven (GAP Intersectionality Research Assistant and HKS MPP '22). This statement was crafted with feedback from the Women and Public Policy Program faculty and staff and the Gender Action Portal writers and editors. Anisha Asundi and Katarina Sousa (GAP Research Intern 2023) updated this statement with additional feedback from the WAPPP team in September 2023.