“If you do not see people who look like you, you can start to think that there is something wrong with the way you look”


I used to have a Monday morning ritual which consisted of rehearsing lines on the tube. I am not an actress, but at one stage, I was so closeted that I could have played Aslan from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

The line “What did you do at the weekend?” filled me with particular trepidation. While a pretty innocuous question, as a QPOC – queer person of colour – working within the legal industry, I undertook summersaults to rival Tom Daley’s when responding. It would take time before I realised that I did not need to shed parts of my being on entering the City. I came to understand how parts of my identity compound to form my unique experience of the world, a concept known as intersectionality.

American lawyer and activist, Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, coined the term intersectionality in 1989. She described it as the ways in which systems of inequality based on gender, race, sexual orientation, disability and class, for example, “intersect” to create unique challenges.

How do we ensure that all LGBTQI people can thrive in the workplace?

Workplaces that do not meaningfully consider intersectionality risk missing out on diversity of thought. This is the idea that there is more than one way to think about something. It is understanding that the way people interpret and interact with the world is reflective of their age, culture, life experience and personality. Intersectionality is fundamental to diversity of thought, as it encourages people to embrace the many facets of someone’s identity, while avoiding the pitfalls of pigeonholing and stereotyping.

Another useful tool for enhancing inclusion is staff networks. Over time, being visibly out became increasingly important to me. I remembered how discombobulating those tube journeys were and how the absence of intersectional role models had affected me. After all, if you do not see people who look like you, you can start to think that there is something wrong with the way you look. A major milestone was joining my then firm’s LGBTQI network. Already part of the BAME network, I organised a summer party, hosted by both networks. This enabled the networks to develop a greater understanding of each other’s objectives, to interact with people they might not ordinarily have done and ultimately, recognise each other’s humanity.

Nevertheless, the responsibility of effecting change should not fall solely on diverse employees. During Pride Month, a partner at my firm – with my consent – shared my experiences of being a QPOC on LinkedIn. This life-affirming gesture reminded me of the vital role that allies can play.

Can schemes such as the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme and Social Mobility Ambassadors help to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace across levels?

Recently, I joined the Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division committee, which engages with the LGBTQI legal community and campaigns on their behalf. I wanted to raise awareness about intersectionality and demonstrate that there is no one way to be LGBTQI.

The committee works alongside Social Mobility Ambassadors and entities like the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme. The Law Society elects a number of solicitors annually to be Social Mobility Ambassadors and highlights any challenges faced trying to enter the legal profession and proposes resolutions. The Diversity Access Scheme assists with mentoring, work experience and provides funding for aspiring solicitors who would otherwise struggle to enter the profession. Through story sharing and collecting and analysing data, schemes like these can equip leaders with the confidence and skills to support diverse employees. Public statements which acknowledge intersectionality can also set the tone, creating a culture of trust and agency.

The culture of an organisation is comprised of the varied experiences of employees. A better understanding of intersectionality may result in a rich tapestry of authenticity; where people can “bring their whole selves to work,” resulting in greater levels of equity and parity.

Jacqui Rhule–Dagher is a lawyer at an international law firm and is a member of the Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division.

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