Walking in the shoes of others: Seeing and overcoming the complexities of intersectionality

25 March 2020

The workshop ‘Walking in the shoes of others: Seeing and overcoming the complexities of intersectionality’ took place at the Catalysing Gender Equity Conference on 20 February 2020. The workshop summary report follows.

Facilitators: Associate Professor Cate Thomas, Dr Colleen MacMillan (SAGE ACT Regional Network)


An action-based experience into how intersectionality affects engagement at work, and how inclusion of intersectional input can create positive change to structural barriers and improve outcomes for individuals and organisations. Specifically:

  • participants had the opportunity to actively contribute to understanding and educating others in why intersectionality is important for innovative organisations
  • participant interaction – to see intersectionality at work in individual lives through the intersectionality walk and how our organisations can make the most of diversity and remove structural barriers that have negative consequences
  • engagement of participants in a research project following the workshop, and
  • provision/use of the intersectionality walk as an educative tool in their own organisations

Workshop summary:

An overview of intersectionality in the context of the Women in STEM Decadal Plan and the Athena SWAN Principles was provided as a guide to incorporating intersectionality when considering gender equity rather than enabling a siloed approach to cultural and organizational change. The workshop challenged participants to see individuals via a holistic approach rather than components or labels of differing aspects of one’s life.  The workshop, with this new way of conceptualising human experiences and inclusivity, undertook a recently developed “Intersectionality Walk” by stepping into other personas shoes (metaphorically). These personas had several characteristics from vulnerable / minority population groups e.g. gender, age, social economic status, cultural diversity, disability, LGBTIQ+, etc. Experiencing work-based scenarios in another’s shoes (personas) and responding to how this may impact created real insights for participants. With reflection participants gained further empathy for an understanding of challenges that organisations experience around intersectionality and inclusivity, and opportunities to innovate.

Key outcomes:

  • a high-impact workshop – with many participants registering strong engagement and value in participating in the workshop
  • substantive interest from participants from multiple organisations across the national footprint to continue work and research in intersectionality
  • 29 individual institutions/organisations signed on to be involved in the research lead by the workshop authors and all requested the Intersectionality Walk for implementation in their own organisations.

Next steps:

  • Distribution of workshop materials to 29 institutions for implementation (SAGE host platform)
  • Research – analysis of pre and post workshop survey data to identify further research and publication in the area of intersectionality.