A Case in Support of Intersectionality
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
I am writing to you almost live today. I am currently in Budapest, supporting my team with the running of a 400-attendee international conference. It’s proper madness. I have been doing sixteen-hour days, almost always on my feet. There’s always something to be done, someone to talk to or to help with something. I grab food when I can, try to drink enough water to ease the headache that comes with a lack of sleep.
As you can imagine, I do not have much time to put into the blog. It makes me sad, disappointed in myself, but there’s no point in beating myself down. This is not a blog post, not really. This is just me sharing an anecdote, something that I think some still fail to see.
Yesterday, one of our delegates complained on our conference’s app that the sponsored session they were attending had a panel of seven men. They mentioned that an all-male panel should not be happening nowadays, “especially with so many next generation in the room”... Another delegate agreed, then the conversation kind of died out. I know my team hasn’t addressed it. We don’t have the time? We don’t want to put the time? I am sure it will be mentioned again. What a shame, they must think. What a disregard for women’s rights.
I wish you could have seen the look on my face after reading the text. Haha. I laughed. It wasn’t funny.
While our outraged feminists are offended to see an all-male panel during a sponsored - that means paid for by a private company - session, nobody has bat an eye over the fact that there is almost no racial and ethnic diversity at this 400-participant conference. I counted them, I couldn’t help myself. Out of 400 delegates, and not taking into account a organized group of Vietnamese professionals that came to our conference to be able to enjoy holidays paid for by their company, I have noticed six ‘visible’ minorities.
Three of them are young professionals. Me included.
My association’s conference is no exception. Oh no, it happens in Brussels too, in all those plenaries and workshops and discussions that are taking place inside the European Union bubble. I have witnessed it again and again. My association’s conference is just another example of a bigger problem, a disregarded problem of institutional racism and underrepresentation of minorities in senior-level and leadership positions in Europe.
The reality is that Black and Asian minorities are almost non-existent at events that gather experts, academics, managers and policy-makers. Why? Because Black and Asian minorities do not hold such position. I mentioned it before, on my private Instagram account. There’s around 50 million people of a racial and ethnic minority background living in the European Union. That’s ten percent of the population. The best estimates put the minority population directly employed by the European Union institutions at around one percent. One ridiculous percent.
Thus yes, I laughed. Because I know we have several all-female panels planned during the three-day conference. And I know, oh I know that no one will complain about a lack of gender balance then. Because I am still waiting to see one, just one all-minority panel at an European conference. Because I have little hope that it will happen anytime soon. And because I have the feeling that apart from a few people, nobody even thinks about this being a problem.
Because when you are privileged, why would you care?