We are still celebrating International Women’s Day, a chance to shine a light on women’s achievements and remind us of the work left to do to create gender parity. But it’s important to recognise women’s experiences are not all the same and can be amplified when other factors such as sexual orientation, ability, religion, wealth, and other factors overlap.
This is called intersectionality.
We asked members of Colt’s LGBTQ+ and allies network, Pride Matters, to share their stories as LGBTQ+ women.
Ivana Bitunjac, Voice Trading Director
When asked about what it means to me to be an LGBTQ+ woman, I had to pause for a moment, as these days living in London, I find myself taking for granted that I have the freedom of expression, freedom to work and freedom to live the way I like.
However, when I think back on my cultural heritage and the life that I had in a very conservative Croatia, I think of the struggle to be accepted, the struggle to accept myself and the struggle to break out of the norm.
I am a 70s child, so my peers in Croatia have all followed the ‘traditional’ route of what is (was) expected of a woman. Obedience, education, marriage, kids, church on Sunday, and there is nothing wrong with that life if one chooses it. However, we must accept that some of us could not conform to that norm.
Some of us were tomboys, some did DIYing and played with ‘boys-toys’, and others wanted to see the world. Therefore, breaking barriers was my path, and although I am ‘free’ now, there is still a long and hard way for many like-minded girls and women out there.
Mikaela Rego, Marketing Business Partner Executive
This year’s UN Women International Women’s Day theme is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. I have seen technology evolve over the last thirty years, and social media has played a positive and negative role.
When I came out back in my school years, there weren’t many (if any) role models paving the way for LGBTQ+ women. But now, through social media, these role models are more easily accessible, and communities are being built to help LGBTQ+ women find like-minded people. And thanks to social media, we finally have more visibility and easily accessible information on issues faced by LGBTQ+ women.
But it’s a double-edged sword, and being on social media can take its toll!
I have been exposed to old stereotypes and seen myself and others feel pressured to conform. For example, I remember feeling down if my selfie didn’t have as many likes as other women’s. However, Instagram recently enabled a new feature that allows you to turn off your like count because of its effect on women’s and girls’ mental health.
As a gamer, I have been exposed to online hate and stereotyping. Sadly, there is still much hate towards LGBTQ+ women in gaming. Due to the pressures we face, I’ve seen women unintentionally create new environments of discrimination. For example, I’ve heard female gamers say, “I am not like other girls. I can game like one of the boys”, but this perpetuates the stereotype. Sadly, many people liked this comment.
With that being said, most of my experiences have been positive. I enjoy gaming and social media for the most part. However, I am careful about who I expose myself to and my social circles. And when I hear discrimination, I try to report it and stand up for other LGBTQ+ women.
Equality for women and LGBTQ+ people in the digital world is crucial. I recommend taking breaks from social media, trying not to let ‘keyboard warriors’ get to you, and standing together as women to look out for each other. It will not change overnight, but we can only continue to try.
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