February 2021 Mission Gateway

President’s Message

Elena Velarde, Branch President

It’s been a month for the history books, and AAUW is on record responding in condemnation to the shocking assault, deaths, and incitement to racist violence at our Nation’s Capitol Building. Our AAUW CEO Kimberly Churches’ text is re-published in this edition of the Mission Gateway complete with clickable links for more depth of information. Furthermore, Churches joined in a unified statement in solidarity with women’s organizations across the country dedicated to gender justice and equity. In essence the statement proclaimed: That President Trump and his enablers be held accountable for their actions.

I applaud AAUW National’s response and collective work to understand and heal our nation’s divisions. Starting now let’s focus on the cumulative effects of discrimination and oppression and dig into our online Diversity, Equity and Inclusion toolkit. How can intersectionality help us articulate, listen to, understand and value diverse experiences? Why has AAUW included it as an organizational Value?

People yearn to be their true selves at work, at school, in their lives in general — we all want to be able to embrace our full identity. But to do that, we have to understand the concept of intersectionality because who you are is a combination of many different identities. The effects of which are not always the same in every circumstance.

Legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw originally coined the term intersectionality in her work Mapping the Margins. She pointed out that scholars often look at outcomes for women or outcomes for African Americans, but never look at what happens to African American women whose lives are impacted by the ways these multiple sources of oppression (such as racism, sexism, and classism, etc.) interact. And with that, a new way of examining the experiences of people with overlapping dimensions of diversity was born.

Understanding intersectionality gives us a way of understanding the cumulative effect of discrimination and oppression on people. That’s not to say that one person’s oppression is greater than another’s; it’s simply a way of recognizing that our experiences may not be the same because inequality is a complex phenomenon.

Let’s illustrate the concept of intersectionality with an example familiar to AAUW members: Pay equity. We are all aware that men and women are paid unequally for equal work: on average, women make 82 cents for every dollar that a white man makes. But did you know that moms make 70 cents on that same dollar? Or that Latinas make just 55 cents? These are just a few examples of intersectionality and how parental status or ethnicity intersect with gender to impact pay equity.

Next month let’s further explore intersectionality and the coinciding dimensions of diversity.