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Intersectionality and the power of understanding

Ellie Krug shares how changing perspectives can lead to familiarity and inclusion

An important component of Securian Financial’s diversity and inclusion framework is the understanding that creating an inclusive culture where everyone feels valued is not a destination.

Ellie Krug
Ellie Krug

There’s no arrival point where we can say we’ve reached our goal and we’re “done.” Rather, it’s a continuous journey, and we’re committed to it.

A recent example of helping employees learn how they can build inclusion into the DNA of our company was an engaging presentation by guest speaker Ellie Krug. With more than 100 civil trials to her credit, Krug was the first Iowa lawyer to ever transition genders and is one of the few attorneys nationally to try jury cases as separate genders. She has trained on diversity and inclusion to court systems, law firms, Fortune 100 corporations, and colleges and universities across the country.

Comparing her own life experiences and perspectives as a white male trial lawyer and then a transgender female, Krug spoke about intersectionality, inclusivity and how we can all help each other survive the human condition.

Securian Financial’s D&I office and its Women in STEM Alliance, Women RISE, Pride and Securian Multicultural Network employee resource groups sponsored the event. More than 350 employees attended.

Key takeaways

1. Question your grouping and labeling habits. While grouping and labeling can help humans build their identities, it can also prevent us from interacting with anyone we consider “different” or “other.” Krug suggested a key to preventing harm is to ask ourselves, “Are you aware you’re grouping and labeling, and are you going to allow your grouping and labeling to marginalize another human?”

2. Asking questions creates connections. One way to offset labeling and create real change within a culture is to become familiar with each other. Krug said we can do this by asking simple questions, which leads to connections. “It’s the power of getting to know another human’s story, the power of understanding you have things in common,” she said. “I believe human familiarity is the only way that we will [make progress]. Without becoming familiar with ‘other’ we’re not going to get there.

This is also where intersectionality and recognizing each other’s many layered identities, life experiences, privileges and oppressions can be uncovered.

“We have to talk about all attributes we have and examine where we’re similar, where we’re different and how we can understand one another’s unique perspective,” Krug said.

3. There’s hope in the human condition. Krug pointed to two human characteristics that can build understanding and inclusion: empathy and reset buttons. Krug believes we all possess empathy, but we ignore it too often. “When we’re given a pathway to exercise our empathetic hearts, however, humans show up in droves. Do not underestimate the power of your empathetic heart.”

She added that people have the ability to change. “There is a reset button deep inside every human. It takes demolishing our ego to get to that button. My question to you is, ‘Have you reset your button, and if not, what will it take for you to do so?’”

About Ellie Krug

Ellie Krug is the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change (2013). In 2016, Advocate Magazine named Ellie one of “25 Legal Advocates Fighting for Trans Rights” and in 2019, OutFront Minnesota conferred Ellie its Legacy Award. She is also a monthly columnist for Lavender Magazine and a weekly radio host on AM950 radio. Her monthly e-newsletter, The Ripple, reaches 9,000+ readers and can be found at https://elliekrug.com/. Ellie presently lives in Minneapolis and is the founder and president of Human Inspiration Works, LLC.

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