PurpleSpace Ambassador Ally from GCHQ shares her thoughts on intersectionality as if affects staff network groups
When you get up in the morning – what do you see? A question posed by Michael Kimmel in his TED talk about gender equality to make people think about their privilege. I look in the mirror and I don’t see what ethnicity I am – but I do see that I am a disabled, gay woman. Privilege is invisible to those that have it – I can’t appreciate, for example, what issues I would face if I had a different heritage.
What makes me, me?
Why have I mostly worked with our Disabled Employee Network (DEN) rather than Pride or the Gender networks? When I share my personal story, I talk about how it is harder for me to come out with a disability than it is to come out as gay – and that is my reality at the moment. I’ve had more negative experiences in my life to now (particularly bullies during the school years) around having a disability.
However – my baby has 2 mums. I’m gradually having to come out as gay more and more to challenge assumptions and prejudices (in often surprising situations), and this will only increase as time goes on. I will be looking to the Pride network for support and guidance from others – I want my child to be able to meet other children in similar ‘different’ family situations.
As a woman, I’ve moved into a more technical role and have noticed more meetings that involve more men than women. I may consider working flexibly to help work-life balance, and will be looking to the Gender network to get guidance and support on how best to fit in work and achieve my ambitions.
Why does the concept matter to us and our networks?
In a word, inclusion. Something we all strive for. We also need to work together with other networks to ensure those that are intersectional are supported and included, because it is likely that issues they face are unique.
There are opportunities in working closely with other networks too – other networks are the potential natural allies of the work we all do. My brief involvement in the Pride network’s LGBT awareness training for managers gave me the idea and impetus to create an equivalent offering on disability. Rather than spending our limited time and energy on new initiatives, working together to share what networks have learned makes a lot of sense. This was cemented when I watched Yoruba Richen’s TED talk – it’s so interesting to see the similarity in strategies and approaches employed in the civil rights and gay rights movements.
How do we get started?
In terms of our networks, how inclusive or exclusive is our network? Are we missing out on harnessing the people power of the unintentional allies of other networks? Are our networks inclusive of those that don’t fit neatly into boxes?
The good news is that I feel we have a head start. Disability is such a broad spectrum and issues that we work on can exist for more than one condition and sometimes solutions can cause unintentional conflict. Considering intersectionality broader than disability is merely taking this to the next level. Four quick considerations:
- When we arrange events and external speakers – could speakers represent more than one protected characteristic? This then increases audience interest potential and impact
- Check content before release – have other networks review the content to check what you put out isn’t accidentally excluding readers
- Sharing senior’s time. Our champions and senior supporters are busy people, but in the interest of building relationships with other networks and supporting them, consider whether to allow other networks to share appointment time with seniors
- When we work to fix problems – who are we fixing it for? Ensuring interventions and discussions are intersectional means that we have a greater chance to achieve equality for all
Thinking about intersectionality also gives us a chance to pause and reflect about our own identity. What do you see when you look in the mirror?
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