A Mosaic of identities: Intersectionality as the Cornerstone of Diversity!

Interview with Valentina Velandia

When speaking about change critics often counter: “I am just one person. What I do doesn’t matter anyway. Let the other start and I follow”. How do you respond to such an argument?

When reading the book "The new feminist agenda" by Madeleine M. Kunin, I found a quote that responds to this and it goes as follows:

It has been said that pessimists are usually right, but optimists change the world. Without optimism, political change is impossible. Only optimism gives us the courage to take risks... If we are to achieve a social revolution, we have to join forces and nurture our anger, imagine change, and be optimistic enough to believe that rewards will outweigh risks.

I strongly believe that there is no such a thing as a small act of kindness. Every act of kindness adds up to make up a beautiful chain of change which has a ripple effect. In other words, each individual has power and a sphere of influence within their world and it would be a pity not to use that for the good of the greater number.

What is a hands-on first step for any company to take to build a more inclusive culture?

Removing titles. Power structures inhibit freedom of expression. Also, creating a living document as a manifesto for inclusive language and behaviour can make wonders when it comes to fostering a radically diverse company culture. In my experience, cultures which allow employees to shine and choose and shape their own positions based on their skills, talents and wishes, tend to solve the sustainability of the triple bottom line!

What are the reasons you encounter in the corporate world for not moving forward in a direction of inclusion?

I do believe that, as diversity goes mainstream, the corporate world is slowly understanding the importance of investing in their people and realising that fostering a diverse talent pipeline across all levels of responsibility should be considered as a strategic objective. However, there is so much more we can do. Archaic capitalist models of operation dictate the number of opportunities that a person can have in a given culture, company and context. Hence, the more salient segments of identity, which do not fit the average persona (employee) of that given company, the less likely to be represented in their workforce.

Why can’t this topic be a top-down movement?

This topic cannot be a top-down approach because we would then be reinforcing hierarchal models and systems of oppression which maintain a homogenous group of people at the top. As long as we are not listening to/serving and representing the beautifully diverse communities we now inhabit, we will be stuck in a "fit in" mindset which does not appreciate the added value that an unlikely ally would bring to the table. As my mentor would say: 

Embedding diversity as a core competency to drive radical change and business impact from the bottom up will allow companies to better navigate the dramatic shifts in global talent mobility and political and social upheaval.​

About Valentina Velandia

With 12 years of expertise in the areas of Gender Policy Analysis, Migration and Entrepreneurship, Valentina's professional journey ranges from her native Colombia to the US, Asia Pacific and now Europe. She is the proud co-founder of Capacity, a Swiss-based NGO and startup incubator for refugee and migrant entrepreneurs. Valentina worked for organisations such as UN Women Singapore Committee, UN-CEDAW, EDGE - Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (As a consultant for the World Bank, The Inter-American Development Bank, Swiss-Re, IKEA, and other global entities), Think Yellow - Gender Lens Investing, among others. As a gender and breastfeeding advocate, Valentina is studying to become a lactation consultant and a pre-post partum coach. These efforts employ an interdisciplinary approach to fostering diversity, intersectionality and inclusion in the professional, personal and public spheres.

SPOT ON organisiert die DisruptHR Events in Zürich.


Valentina Velandia

Co-founder & Partnership Curator von Capacity Zurich

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Diversity & Inclusion