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Effective Strategies to Organize for Intersectionality

Winter Workshop 2019

Organizing the Winter Workshop this year was unique opportunity because our theme “Cultural Competence Organizing Intersectionality in the Workplace” was complex, but a timely conversation to have in AWIS. Based on insights on intersectionality, that gender focus in itself while valuable is not enough to move the needle for all women on specific issues - like gender-based pay equity. 

In the broader cultural context of diversity and inclusion in the news and in daily conversation, intersectionality is each and every one of us. Recent movements to name a few, #blacklivesmatter #womensmarch #metoo #lgbtq #charlottesville #muslimban #timesup #dreamers, reflect that each of us has an interconnected social categorization that uniquely applies. We need to be able to organize and implement in a way that helps all of us.


Our host, Boehringer Ingelheim in Fremont, is an award winning employer in Diversity and Inclusion and provided the perfect venue for the event that was kicked-off with an amazing keynote by Aida Sabo. As Vice President of Diversity/Inclusion for PAREXEL, Aida Sabo is responsible for the Global Diversity & Inclusion Strategy and for finding creative ways to execute this strategy. Aida was a leader in the trailblazing work of engaging men as advocates of change. She shared stories of her personal journey and the cultural context of her intersectionality as a Latina immigrant engineer.


Aida’s personal connection led into the #Iamremarkable workshop led by Kat Langan from Google. At the heart of intersectionality and cultural context are the social perceptions of self promotion. The #IamRemarkable initiative was started at Google as an internal workshop. The impact was so great they made the workshop and resources available more broadly to the public. The 90-minute session strives to empower women and underrepresented groups to speak openly about their accomplishments in the workplace and beyond, thereby breaking modesty norms and glass ceilings. #iamremarkable (https://iamremarkable.withgoogle.com/)  If you would like to be a facilitator, please make sure you completed the #iamremarkable training feedback. 


Over lunch we had a conversation with Bahija Jallal. Boehringer Ingelheim hosted the second workshop session of the day with a round table brainstorming of topics to support formation of diversity and inclusion groups. Topic 1 “Lessons Learned from Employee Resource Group (ERG) events - what works and what doesn’t” takeaway messages included: partnering and aligning with HR upfront, Consider having senior men in leadership as sponsors, partnering with external groups (i.e. AWIS). This group also shared their learnings that being flexible and knowing limited resources can impact their efforts were important considerations in making groups work. Other topics in the Boehringer Ingelheim session included: How to motivate your membership. How groups support their members as a group with leadership development. Gender partnership strategies; What motivates you to events/membership; and what do you admire from leaders for and how can you work to get there.


Our day was wrapped up with an interactive and conversational panel that was moderated by Danielle Tan, Scientist at BioMarin and the 2019 AWIS East Bay President. The panelists were gathered from the “new” auto industry, academia, and biotechnology to represent the key disciplines in the Bay Area including:

  • Nicole Vadivel, PhD, Sr Research Engineer at Tesla and member of the Women in Tesla Board
  • Marissa Hewitt, Associate Director Business Operations at BioMarin and Biomarin Women's Leadership Group
  • Katy Korsmeyer, Santa Clara University and AWIS Northern California Chapter 
  • Vinaya Kapoor, Senior Director Regulatory Affairs at Tricida and 2019 AWIS East Bay Vice President

The conversation with the audience was inspirational and each of the panelists shared their specific learnings to help participants of the workshop to successfully establish groups in the workplace. 

The day was powerful and we learned why organizing intersectionality is vital to our fabric as women and other dimensions of ourselves. We also developed a stronger sense of self-promotion not only to be a better version of ourselves, but to be comfortable sharing that with with world. Being comfortable enables us to lead the charge with effective strategies to have successful resource groups. 


March 23, 2019 - Authored by Sandhya Pahwa-Khurana, Secretary EB-AWIS and Winter Workshop Chair


See the Content!

Click below to see Bahija Jallal's slides presented on "Creating an Innovative Environment" on our Downloads Page.

Click for Slides