Intersectionality and diversity in social work practices

Social workers must work with people from many different backgrounds and ethnicities, especially as communities begin to become more diverse. It is important that social workers understand the many different groups of people they may find themselves working with. In addition, there is an increasing number of people that may have membership in multiple groups. Each group may have many specific issues and concerns. Social workers can provide better assistance by seeking common ground and appreciating the unique problems that these groups may experience.

What is an intersectional approach to social work?

Intersectionality acknowledges factors of sexual orientation, ethnic background or race, economic class, gender, and more. An intersectional approach to social work uses the belief that these factors come together to have an impact on the social issues faced by members of these groups. By acknowledging the differences in others and attempting to understand how these differences affect the ability of others to overcome challenges and obtain access to the resources and support they need, social workers can conduct more accurate assessments and implement effective intervention strategies.

  • Intersectionality promotes cultural awareness

Social workers sometimes face resistance when trying to make assessments and help people in communities. Some social groups may be more resistant than others. Making an effort to be culturally aware and sensitive to specific issues and concerns increases the chances that you will be able to successfully overcome cultural and social barriers.

Being culturally aware shows that you respect those you are helping and increases their comfort level when you are performing assessments. Clients are more likely to be open with those they feel have earned their trust and respect. This makes it far easier to help more people in less time.

  • Creates a more just and equitable society

Some groups may be marginalized or not given equitable treatment, either on purpose or subconsciously. Part of being a social worker is finding effective strategies to ensure everyone has the same access to resources and support. Additionally, social workers often act as advocates for those that have been mistreated.

  • Supports work with marginalized groups

When you pursue a degree in social work, there is often an opportunity to pick a specialization. Some specializations can lead to working with many disadvantaged groups. Even an online social work masters degree has a field placement requirement. A field work placement can require around 900 hours of work to complete your degree and will involve being mentored in a specific area and organization.

Challenges experienced by marginalized groups

Social workers must always look at both sides of an issue that is relevant to a specific group. If prejudice is occurring, then the worker must ask why? What is the sentiment or event that has triggered these behaviors or feelings? There are many reasons that unfair treatment occurs, and they are not always easy to see or understand.

Some challenges are much harder to overcome than others. Ensuring that both sides are held accountable for their actions is also essential. Prejudice and unjust treatment can be a vicious cycle that is hard to break without acknowledging when it happens, regardless of whether the person belongs to a marginalized group.

There are some groups that may experience extreme prejudice but may also have prejudiced feelings and practices towards other groups.

Social workers are in high demand

There is currently a shortage of qualified social workers. With a large population of aging adults, more immigration and increased recognition of marginalized groups, this demand will continue to be high. Due to this increased demand for social workers, it is a great time to pursue a career in social work. Thanks to the wide availability of online programs, it is now easier than ever to pursue a degree while continuing to work, or to meet care obligations. While much of these degrees can now be completed online, completing your field placement will require your full-time commitment prior to your degree being completed.

Wide range of specializations

As there is demand for social workers practically everywhere, those embarking on this career path have more options than ever before. Regardless of whether you are looking to work in a major city or a rural area, you are likely to find many options for a great position right after completing your degree. Even if you don’t find your dream position immediately, there are many opportunities for fast career advancement and promotion for highly motivated and well-organized social workers.

Social work is rewarding

While a good understanding and ability to engage people are highly desirable in the world of social work, enjoying the work and daily interactions is also important. At the end of the day, if you enjoy feeling that you have truly helped enrich and improve the lives of those around you, then you would be a major asset to the field of social work.


Intersectionality is an important approach to social work. By learning the challenges faced by various social groups, workers can offer more effective help to members of their community. As communities become increasingly diverse, social workers need to be ready to meet the challenges of reaching out to others and helping them to come together on common ground.

The demand for social workers is expected to be high for decades to come. As there is more crossover between different groups, social workers will need to make more effort than ever before to understand the challenges of people from all walks of life.

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Lisa Schiller