We sat down with diversity, equity and inclusion specialist Natasha Porizkova, an attendee of our Who Am I? LBTQ leadership retreat and now We Create Space team member, to hear about her experience and how she's used our teachings to drive change in her own life.
Who are you?
My name is Natasha Porizkova and I am a queer, Latinx woman with hidden mental health disabilities and a love for humans. We are all deserving of compassion and kindness, and I am a firm believer in the idea that what you put out into the world is what you will receive.
I’ve always joked that I have “nothing going for me” because I’m not a man, not white, not straight, and grew up low income. Despite having “nothing going for me,” I have had a remarkable life.
For work, I am in the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion with an emphasis on
disrupting systems that do not serve underserved communities. With a background in marketing and content creation, I shifted from one industry to the other with a mission to bring the two together; maximising impact and change.
Detaching from work completely is vital for me and my well-being. I believe that we're not on this planet to work. We are on this planet to live and embrace our passions and loves. I love my family, dancing, building with LEGO, beach time, doing puzzles, gardening, and traveling–to name a few! And while I love traveling, I love most being at home with my fiancé and our sassy pup Kody in our home in Boston, MA, or back home in my parent’s cozy abode in Dallas, TX.
How did you find yourself doing what you're doing?
I’ve always been a big music fan and wanted to work in the entertainment industry growing up. When I went off to school, I successfully worked in the music industry, which led me to an incredible job post-college working for a performing arts centre.
Working at the centre was an exciting experience, and I loved my time there, but it was during that time that I discovered DEI. I had no idea DEI was a career path. I thought the work of DEI was a moral imperative, a passion project. Once I saw the work of DEI, I could not un-see it, and I decided to shift my career path.
What have you learnt along the way?
I have learned even in the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion, there are people just trying to make a dime. I realise income in the for-profit (even non-profit) space is key to continue to function, but I don’t believe profits should be the sole focus.
This work is about lasting change. Disruption. It’s not about what is industry standard and what everyone else is doing. It’s about being the change you want to see for the betterment of all employees.
Not everyone is in the space for the same reason or has the same beliefs. Just because someone may claim to be passionate about the work of DEI, it may not always be the same in practice. While I know that now, it was a difficult and important lesson for me to learn and experience.
Why did you join the "Who am I?" programme?
Michael and I connected via LinkedIn
in late 2020. He and I decided to meet one another for a virtual coffee because I was interested in the work he and We Create Space was doing, and when I met him, I instantly became a fan. He was (and is) genuine, working to make positive change for the LGBTQ+ community. When I heard about the “Who am I” programme, the experience sounded impactful and exhausting in the necessary way for self-growth. Not long after that, I met Maylis and knew that I personally needed to be a part of the programme.
Did you make any changes based off of the "work" you did?
After my retreat, I decided to invest in myself again by returning to therapy. I had been in therapy before and wanted to return but hadn’t taken the leap. My retreat was the push I needed to invest in myself in that way once again and continue to work on maintaining a healthy mental health.
What relationship do you have to the LGBTQ+ community?
I identify as lesbian or queer. I’m not that fussed about the labels; I know that’s not the case for all, but as a straight-passing individual, I'm most keen on people knowing that I'm a proud member of the queer community.
For my fellow LGBTQ+ community, I find it is a breath of fresh air to realise you're not alone. There is comfort in community. For those who are not in the community, it’s imperative for me to share because representation matters.
In the U.S., 59% of non-LGBTQ+ employees believe it’s unprofessional to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace (data from CATALYST). I strongly disagree. Without representation, this belief will never change and society will continue to expect LGBTQ+ individuals to look a certain way. There isn’t just one-way to look queer, be queer and live queer, and I want to show that.
What's the biggest challenge you're currently working through?
Currently, I have been working through what are my next career steps. I'm in a beautiful limbo at the moment with endless possibilities. There are several doors opening and opportunities presenting themselves. I feel wildly lucky for all that the universe is bringing to me, but I need to sit and decide what I need and the right path to take. I will say it’s a very fortunate challenge to work through!
Have you learnt anything new about yourself since the retreat?
For me, the retreat reaffirmed an important piece about myself. A necessary reminder that I need to trust myself. I have always been a confident person, and I wish I could spread the gift to others. It’s a beautiful gift to have, but I wasn’t owning it as much as I should have. The retreat reminded me of my confidence and that I know what I need. I need to listen to myself and believe in myself; exactly the same thing I need to do to decide the next steps in my career.
How do you continue to "Create Space"?
The retreat was a truly spectacular experience for me because it brought to the forefront the need I have for movement. Zacha’s somatic movements and flow from movement to drawing to writing was a beautiful experience that left me uncomfortable and enlightened. Movement creates a space for me to express myself, let go, and be one with myself. After the retreat, I continue to practice moving. Whether by myself in the living room or a dance or yoga class, I let myself move as I need.
Are you interested in joining one of our retreats?
Our 'Who Am I?' retreats take place throughout the year. We have tailored iterations of the programme to suit the needs of differing identity groups. Each person can attend the group that feels right for them. To stay updated about upcoming workshop and retreat dates, please subscribe to our mailing list here.