The power of the intersection of identities
- Posted on February 21, 2022
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
In Fall 2020, the INSPIRE Black Employee Network and Adelante Latinx Employee Network began a collaborative exploration into the intersections between the two communities through Intersections: Black & Latinx, a series of four meetings where Avanade employees came together to learn how this blended history presents itself today through personal stories, cultural traditions, ancestral connections, music, and food dedicated to exploring various types of identities across Avanade. The series quickly evolved into a critical platform for education and dialogue about the commonalities, shared history, and experiences of individuals who sit in both communities. By the third installment of the series, this exploration expanded globally to include the Mixnations Employee Network based in Avanade Brazil, which focused on AfroLatino and other minority groups. While Intersections concluded in July 2021, the dialogue has not ended there. In this blog post, three members of the series’ planning team, Carrie Alexander, Cesar Ceniceros, and Robson Oliveira, share their perspectives on the impact and importance of intersections.
What constitutes intersectionality?
Carrie: Intersectionality is the manifestation of connectedness through the multi-dimensions every person has. It’s the shared experiences, backgrounds, and stories that inform culture – from food, music, and dance to dialect, clothing, and religion or spiritual practice. As illustrated throughout the Intersections: Black & Latinx series, when you take a deeper look into the history of different communities, we have more in common than we know.
What does intersectionality mean to you?
Carrie: I view intersectionality as a gateway to exploration. As an explorer, I love learning about how moments in history are directly connected to society today, especially as it pertains to the evolution of race and ethnic identity. Exploration breeds discovery, which breaks barriers. Conscious or unconscious, our perceptions of race (and its incorrect conflation with ethnicity) play a major part in how we move in the world and interact with other people. Despite living in a world that often forces people to choose one identifier, people are not monolithic. No person has a singular identity. The more people start to acknowledge the multiplicities of identity, the more visible the intersections connecting each of us become. Subsequently, that exploration – that discovery – opens minds, expands our exposure beyond homogeneity, and combats ignorance, stereotypes, and bias. I think Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman summed it up best: “…meaningful and creative shared experiences can be more compelling than all of the fears, faiths, ideologies, and prejudices that divide. And if those experiences can be multiplied and sustained over sufficient duration of time, any barrier can be undermined and eliminated.”
How does intersectionality impact the workplace?
Robson: It’s difficult to change the employment infrastructure; instead, some companies do a few diversity initiatives. Change does not happen overnight and integration into diversity is really challenging and takes time. If we want to create diversity, we must take a closer look at intersectionality. Someone who is Black, is not just Black – as we learned from the Intersections event, there could be other characteristics that make that person who they are today, like being African-American, Afro-Latinx, Latinx American, and Afro-Brazilian. Global organizations need to ensure there’s a space for open dialogue to generate empathy and better understanding between colleagues separated by country borders, languages, and time zones.
Without the concept of intersectionality, we cannot fully understand our employees and colleagues. It is the first step to do better in hiring, managing, promoting, and retaining our employees.
Cesar: Our values as a society have evolved throughout the years, and generation nowadays, we must now focus on everything that makes us the same instead of what makes us different. We tend to know what makes every one of us unique. However, we must also learn what we have in common from our pasts to understand that we all are pursuing the same things in life: to be individually and collectively happy and successful.
Throughout the Intersections events, we were able to expand our understanding and knowledge about our cultures, backgrounds, and ways of living, thus, allowing the attendees to learn that we have more things in common than we realized. This understanding is paramount in today's day and age as we now live in a truly global economy, and it allows us to have better interactions with everyone.
How did the co-hosted series Intersections: Black and Latinx connect a global employee base for 8 months?
Robson: Being part of a multinational company and mastering another language is a daily challenge. In addition, it is gratifying to have opportunities to share the Afro-Brazilian vision. Having the chance to co-host the event brought opportunities for me to improve my presentation skills, people management, communication, and increase my cultural knowledge in general. The impact across Avanade Brazil was so positive as we were able to make many of our colleagues aware of Employee Networks in other locations like INSPIRE and Adelante, and we within the Mixnations Employee Network already have new plans always considering the participation of other groups and different voices.
When people are educated on intersectionality, what happens?
Cesar: One of the great benefits of working at Avanade is that by being a global company, the chances for any one of us working alongside someone with a different background, culture, and/or beliefs is pretty much a given. Having the opportunity to learn about intersectionality from our peers is an excellent way to improve the way we all relate and communicate.
Learning about intersectionality can help anyone greatly improve their communication skills and social interactions. Additionally, it provides the opportunity to eliminate many of the unnecessary “social labels” (i.e. race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc.) we might lean heavily on.
Intersectionality teaches us the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equality for everyone, not only in the workplace, but in society in general.