For the year the 100-year anniversary of partial suffrage in UK, we are running a series of blog posts inspired by Sojourner Truth and her most famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman? “delivered in 1851 was a powerful rebuke to many anti-feminist arguments of the day. It became, and continues to serve, as a classic expression of women’s rights and we would like to take this opportunity to encourage all members of the King’s community to think critically about the media representation of women and the additional struggles faced by those who do not always share the same spotlight – BME, LGBT+, migrant, refugee and disabled women.

Our first Women’s History Month post for International Women’s Day is from Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Sarah Guerra.

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? ‘Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man–when I could get it–and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

I’ve found it interesting how many people have asked me what intersectionality is since I arrived at King’s.  Kimberley Crenshaw an academic from Cornell University who coined the phrase explains it better than I ever could and this articulation was one of the turning points in my thinking.

I have lived my entire life in the intersections. The obvious ones – I’m a black woman. I am also the daughter of immigrants – so a Londoner and a foreigner depending on you point of view. A parent – so a mother and a person. These factors were my reality from the time I was born and they influenced my life and decisions and perceptions. They also impacted how others treated me long before I was a conscious feminist or equality activist.

As I’ve developed my career new intersections have formed – from working class to middle class income. These intersectionalities was something I had to study and understand in terms of my own identity what drives me, why I think certain things, why I react certain ways.

It is still the cause of much debate in some equality circles. And the 100-year anniversary of women in the UK getting the vote underlines it all perfectly – who actually got the vote? Women over the age of 30 who either owned land themselves or were married to men with property were given the right to vote. So, whilst it is important to celebrate this milestone that so many fought for – we should also pause on Sojourner’s statement – ‘Ain’t I a woman?’  Weren’t women below 30 just as entitled or those who were married to poor men? Or not married at all?

I love to celebrate all the equality months/days – but they also bring out a degree of challenge from me.

Years ago, when I worked for a trade union one of my colleagues said to me – why do you always have to say you’re a black woman – its not important – I beg to differ until we have a fair and equal world where all of us get the chance to succeed on our merits it is important for those of us with a platform to point out our difference so that it is consciously noticed.

Last night I had the privilege of attending the launch of a new book – Racism at Work – The Danger of Indifference by Binna Kandola – the world renowned business psychologist. The book will, I’m sure warrant a blog in its own right when I have read it but for now – safe to say it through academic research and case study demonstrates racism is very much a 21st century workplace issue and that it has a gendered aspect.

So happy International Women’s Day. I encourage everyone to give some thought to what it means to you and, just as importantly, what it means to others who are different to you.