The Centre for Intersectional Justice describes intersectionality as being about:
Fighting discrimination within discrimination, tackling inequalities within inequalities and protecting minorities within minorities.
Gender intersects with other aspects of our identity, whether that be our race and ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, disability, age etc. However, too often we illustrate women as a homogenous group.
So throughout this month, we are celebrating Intersectional SHeroes – Women who are minorities within the minority and who have chosen to overcome the challenges they face for the good of others.
In challenging themselves to achieve their goals and realise their dreams they inspire us all to have the confidence to make (or keep making) change happen, and to challenge bias when we experience it.
Together we can move towards a more diverse, equitable and inclusive world, where difference is celebrated.
Our SHeroes are:
1. Dame Sarah Storey – Born with no functioning left hand, Sarah has achieved gold medals in cycling and swimming and become the most successful female British Paralympian of all time.
2. Audre Lorde – A black, lesbian poet, Audre Lorde dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.
3. Dame Evelyn Glennie – Having been profoundly deaf since the age of 12, Evelyn taught herself to hear with other parts of her body other than her ears and went on to become a Virtuoso Percussionist.
4. Kelly Knox – Born without a left forearm, Kelly refused to wear a prosthetic arm from a young age. After winning BBC Three’s Missing Top Model in 2008, Kelly has become a leading fashion model who identifies as having a disability, and a dedicated and passionate advocate for diversity in fashion. She works hard to pave the way for others and offer inspiration to those who need to develop confidence in the face of negative attitudes towards disability.
5. Baroness Valerie Amos – Baroness Valerie Amos is the first female and first non-white person to become the director of a university. She was the UK high commissioner to Australia as well as the undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator at the UN.
6. Sharon White – Sharon White was the first black woman to become CEO of Ofcom as well as the first black person and the second woman to become a Permanent Secretary at HM Treasury.
7. Sophie Morgan – Left paralysed after a car accident, Sophie is one of the first female TV presenters with a physical disability. She is radically changing how disability is represented on television – most recently joining ITV’s Loose Women as a guest-panellist. She is best known for presenting the London 2012, Rio 2016, and Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
8. Wanda Sykes – American actress, comedienne and writer, Wanda Sykes came out came out as gay in a rally against a law that banned same-sex marriages. She became an advocate for LGBT rights and was the first black female and openly gay person to host the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
9. Katie Piper – After being attached with acid, Katie suffered major damage to her face and was left blinded in one eye. After undergoing surgery to restore her face and vision, she founded a charity to support survivors of burns and scars and support them to have a brighter future. Katie took part in a documentary and has spoken openly about her experience to raise awareness of the plight of victims of burns.
10. Claudia Gordan – Claudia Gordan is the first deaf black female lawyer in America and was the first deaf person to work at the White House in a detailee capacity. She is a strong advocate for the deaf and disabled communities.
11. Margret Busby – Editor, writer and broadcaster, Margaret Busby became Britain’s first black female book publisher, when she co-founded Allison & Busby with Clive Allison in 1967. She spent three decades campaigning for greater diversity in publishing and arts coverage.
12. Liz Carr – English actress, comedian and broadcaster, Liz Carr has used a wheelchair since the age of 7. For the past 20 years she has campaigned for the rights of people with disabilities. Liz is outspoken about her disability and talks about it in her comedy to raise awareness and dismantle cliches about disabled people.
13. Kadeena Cox – British television presenter and Paralympian, Kadeena Cox suffered a stroke in her 20s and soon after was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In 2016 she became the first British Paralympian to win golds in multiple sports at the same Games since Isabel Barr in 1984.
14. Jameela Jamil – Jameela Jamil was the first solo female host to the BBC Radio 1 Chart Show. Her “I Weigh” campaign on social media promotes healthy body image and criticises the use of underweight models and airbrushed images. She talks openly about eating disorders and mental health to raise awareness among young people of the potential dangers.
15. Francesca Martinez – Francesca Martinez was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 2. She played the first disabled pupil to appear in Grange Hill and was the first woman to win the open Mic award at the Edinburgh Festival. In 2012, Francesca petitioned Parliament to stop cuts to disability benefits. She uses her public profile to raise issues about disability and fight for a fairer system.
16. Helen Keller – Having lost her sight and hearing at a young age, Helen Keller defied expectations to achieve a bachelor’s degree and inspired generations as an activist for disability rights.
17. Bessie Coleman – Bessie Coleman was the first black woman to earn a pilot’s licence and a pioneer in aviation, helping to break barriers for African Americans and women.
18. Diane Abbott – Diane Abbott was the first black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons when elected as an MP in 1987. She has been a vocal campaigner around race-relations, transparency and justice around policing, surveillance, Stop and Search, and detainment without trial.
19. Indira Gandhi – Indira Gandhi weas the first female Prime Minister of India and she played an important role in India’s fight for independence from British rule.
20. Claire Cunningham – Claire Cunningham is a Scottish choreographer and dancer who performs on crutches, having been born with osteoporosis. She creates dances and sculpture that involve crutches for people of all abilities. Claire was nominated for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award.
21. Oprah Winfrey – Oprah Winfrey came from humble beginnings, but overcame her tough start and landed a job in radio while still in high school. By 19, she was a co-anchor for the local evening news and won a university scholarship. Her hard work and honest, genuine style was popular and she became the host of Americas’s most popular talk show, a field previously dominated by white men.
22. Ketanji Brown Jackson – Ketanji Brown Jackson is the first black woman to serve in the US supreme court. Her appointment is a historic moment for America as it’s a step towards reflecting the diversity of America and because for the first time in the court’s history white men are in the minority.
23. Mae Jemison – Mae Jemison is an American engineer, physician and former NASA astronaut. She was the first black woman to go into space. She volunteered with the Peace Corps before joining NASA, and has since founded the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for excellence, which brings science education to children.
24. Hannah Cockroft – Hannah Cockroft is a gold medal-winning Paralympic wheelchair racer and 10 times world champion. She suffered two heart attacks within 24 hours of birth, which left her with multiple areas of brain damage and a collapsed lung. Hannah overcame the challenges she faced to become one of Britain’s best-known para-athletes.
25. Cerrie Burnell – Cerrie was born with no right forearm and is severely dyslexic. Since childhood, she has always refused to wear a prosthesis or hide her disability. Cerrie is an accomplished actress, singer, playwright, children’s author and TV presenter and is best known as a CBeebies presenter, where her presence has helped to raise awareness and improve attitudes towards disability and inclusion.
26. Genevieve Barr – Genevieve Barr is an award-winning deaf screenwriter and actress. Deaf from birth, she never learned sign language, and instead lip reads. Genevieve works with charities including Hear the World, Action on Hearing Loss and AFASIC, runs courses for disabled actors and has taken part in international campaigns championing diversity.
27. Libby Clegg – Libby Clegg is a Scottish Paralympic sprinter, who has won five world medals and broken various records. She has a deteriorating condition Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, leaving her with only slight peripheral vision in her left eye. She is registered blind and is an ambassador for the Royal Blind Charity. In 2020 Libby became the first blind participant on ITV’s Dancing on Ice.
28. Jessica Cox – Born without arms due to a rare birth defect, Jessica Cox used her legs to become the first licensed armless pilot. She’s also the first armless black belt in the American Taekwondo Association. Jessica travels around the world as a motivational speaker, using her own life as an example of what you can achieve if you want it enough.
29.Unity Dow – Unity Dow is a Botswana lawyer who became the country’s first female High Court judge. She is a human rights activist and successfully fought to change a Botswana law that banned women married to foreigners from passing on their nationality to their children, though men could. She co-founded the AIDS Action Trust and the Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Project and has been active in many other women’s rights groups.
30. Rosie Jones – Rosie Jones is a British comedian and actress well known for appearing on comedy shows like 8 Out of 10 Cats. She has ataxic cerebral palsy, which causes slow speech. Rosie has used her position to speak out about what it’s like to be disabled, gay and a woman to raise awareness and increase acceptance.