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Women in Education

September 28, 2019

Intersectionality and How to recognise it

Many students’ opportunities, career options and lives are affected by stereotyping. This is often compounded by a lack of intersectional awareness and assumptions of class, race, Aboriginality, culture, (dis)ability, language or sexuality.

What is intersectionality? It’s the way a person experiences multiple inequalities (e.g. gender, race and class) simultaneously. The term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in a research paper on the topic of the oppression of African-American women, delivered at the University of Chicago Legal Forum in 1989.

Women from a range of backgrounds shared their intersectional experiences during a panel session at this year’s Federation Women’s Conference. The aim of the panel was to help teachers recognise structural inequalities and how we can change them to be more inclusive. Each panellist spoke on being an active and visible member of their community while being a teacher/educator/leader in the public school community.

Tammy Anderson, a Biripi woman and primary school principal, talked about the ways in which her relatives and colleagues had inspired and encouraged her to have high expectations for Aboriginal students. She said she was committed to developing a strong school culture, empowering community partnerships and delivering a high-quality curriculum catering to each child’s needs.

Noor Azizah, a first-year teacher, arrived in Australia in 2003 as a child refugee. Her Rohingyan family had fled genocide in Myanmar. She will attend a global refugee forum to be held at the United Nations, Geneva, later this year and hopes to persuade governments to create stronger pledges for refugee women around the globe.

Alex Stefan, a PDHPE teacher and Wear it Purple board member, described how her focus towards LGBTIQ young people and their welfare, particularly in schools, developed. Alex explained that since the successful creation of LGBTIQ diversity mentoring group StandOut at her school in 2014, she now assists other schools in the adoption and implementation of similar initiatives for students within their own schools.

Jen Moes is a Wiradjuri woman and one of Federation’s Professional Support Officers. Jen was formerly a high school English and history teacher. She talked about her daughters and their experiences as a rainbow family and their participation in their local community. Jen also spoke about the importance of understanding how people identify, the gender fluidity they may experience and the way this has influenced her engagement in feminism.

It is important for students to see their teachers in a range of roles, across all curriculum subjects and in all leadership positions. Each panelist demonstrated this leadership and engaged the audience when sharing their stories.

While the panellists noted some of the challenges they had experienced, they also highlighted their successes. The session was incredibly moving and the discussion about structural, political and representational intersectionality was a springboard for further conversations amongst conference participants on the day and hopefully there have been more since.

— Leeanda Smith, Women’s Coordinator

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© New South Wales Teachers Federation. All Rights Reserved.

Authorised by John Dixon, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary St. Surry Hills NSW 2010

Privacy Policy