“It’s going to take each and every one of us to keep working for the people behind us”: Inspirational Soundbites from Our #IWD2021 Intersectionality Panel

March 25, 2021

To celebrate and recognize International Women’s Day 2021, our EMEA teams hosted a panel of extraordinary women from across the industry to discuss their lived experiences with intersectionality.

The conversation was moderated by our EMEA Commercial Director and DE&I Lead, Supriya Dev-Purkaystha, who continues to be an important voice for change in the advertising and marketing world, also serving as a Director of Outreach and Mentor for MEFA (Media for All).

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, intersectionality is a term that was coined in 1989 by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe how race, class, gender and other individual characteristics “intersect” and overlap with one another. So, it is not just elements of one’s identity — instead, it’s about the intertwining forms of oppression that an individual experiences.

Every person’s experience is unique, and we can all benefit from hearing one another’s stories. Below, please enjoy a roundup of five of the most influential lessons that our IWD panelists shared:

1. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. “When I used to interview for a job, I would pull my hair back, center part it, wear no make-up, and really tone myself down. And when I would walk into the interview, I would be thinking, ‘I hope they don’t have an issue with my race or my sex.’ Years later, I had a “penny drop” moment where I went for an interview and I thought, enough of this, I’m wearing my hair as I am and I am going how I am, and they either take me as I am or they don’t. And this was a moment where this message that I knew was out there really hit home for me – you can be yourself.”

Elizabeth Anyaegbuna, Cofounder, SIXTEEN BY NINE

2. Approach challenges with empathy. “My advice is that you have to be transparent with employers. If they don’t know what you are going through, then they can’t help you. And what they don’t know, can’t help you. So, essentially you have to help them help you, and bring them along on the journey.

Some of the changes that my employer allowed me to do were flexible working hours, which sounds like a given in our current environment, but ten years ago if you were not visible in the office, it was viewed that you were not working. So that was a massive struggle for me. As soon as I was transparent with my health issues, some of the employers I have worked for have set me up with home offices and WFH days in my contract. They have been really supportive, and you may be surprised how supportive your company will be when you’re driving value for them. What I want to emphasize here is that hard work still needs to be consistent, you have to know your worth, you have to be driving value, and you have to have empathy for this to work.”

Lucy Daramola, Account Management Team Lead, Adthena

3. There is power in representation. “It’s been a long journey. I grew up in a traditional South Asian family, and I am the eldest of four. When I was young, I struggled with knowing what women are supposed to do, and I noticed a lack of representation. I didn’t see women who looked like me or even sounded like me.

I thought I wanted to go into politics, but I was constantly told ‘that’s not a place for women to be’. And to be honest, I was sometimes ashamed of my identity, I always felt the pressure to fit in – I even shortened my full name to Indy. All those challenges and struggles have led me to where I am today: navigating the charity and impact sectors where there still are many inequalities in the system and individuals are navigating them without much support or insight.

My lived experience has led me to start Voices of Colour, with the goal of giving space to the next generation of leaders and changemakers to know, whatever the sector they want to go into, that there are people who look like them doing amazing work and they can do it too.”

Indy Sira, Founder, Voices of Colour

4. Be a better ally. “The best advice for people who want to be allies to others is: you don’t know what you don’t know. So, number one, start educating yourself and keep educating yourself. Allyship is not a noun, it is a verb. You need to constantly be educating yourself. Even for me, as a black queer woman, I can help the trans community because I am cis. So, educate yourself and challenge what you think you know, and uplift the people who don’t have their voices and put them in front. This is not just a one- or two-time thing, it’s something to work on every day, because if we want a sincerely just society in the long term, it’s going to take each and every one of us to keep working for the people behind us.

Mariama Wurie, Product Marketing Manager, Google

5. Growth happens outside your comfort zone. “I had some clarity somewhere along the line that I needed to make myself a little uncomfortable because I was hitting that ceiling in the corporate world. So, I stepped outside of my comfortable job to ones that were more temporary with a view of starting my own business. What motivated me to do this, apart from the entrepreneurial drive, was the fact that there are not many people like me, at my level, with a seat at the table. Seeing the impact I have on those who want to achieve that seat but think they can’t, and how I was able to help them, made me push forward in that determination. I continue to lean into these groups to make sure I do my part in shining the light on those who want to follow my path.”

Elizabeth Anyaegbuna, Cofounder, SIXTEEN BY NINE

Look out for the full replay of our IWD 2021 event, coming shortly!

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