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Woman to Woman: Learning from a Trans Activist.

Updated: Mar 26

Lesbian executive Nancy Di Dia poses questions to transgender activist Eva Echo on workplace allyship, sexism and the common struggles cis and trans women share.

Black and white photos of Nancy Di Dia, a white lesbian woman and Eva Echo, an East Asian non-binary trans woman, enveloped in pink speech bubbles.

At We Create Space we're passionate about forging connections and solidarity across different identity groups. In this new series we're pairing together different change-makers from our Global Leadership Collective and asking them to interview each other, sharing wisdom from their careers, personal lives and lived experiences as Queer Leaders.

Eva Echo is a highly respected trans activist, writer, and public speaker with a passionate focus on transgender rights and mental health. Eva is well-known for their courageous legal action against NHS England in the High Court, challenging the unlawful waiting times for trans patients, and for her vital role on the Crown Prosecution Service’s hate crime panel.

Nancy Di Dia is a highly accomplished corporate executive with over 25 years of experience in the field of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Belonging (DEIJB). Nancy is known for her leadership and expertise in creating inclusive workplaces. Throughout her career, Nancy has been a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, particularly as it relates to patients and healthcare.

Nancy: What are some successful strategies for building and maintaining allyship across multi-faceted identities in workplaces?

Eva: Call me old-fashioned but I firmly believe that the most successful strategies are the simplest ones. Why? Because they’re overlooked and under-utilised. We are all human, it’s impossible for everyone to get along all the time. The sooner we stop trying to force some kind of utopia, the sooner we can focus on respecting one another’s boundaries, and who we are. Yes, there’ll be exceptions, and they can be dealt with through formal procedures.

Making space for each other, to listen to one another, is essential. Allyship comes from understanding that we have more in common with those around us than we realise. So why aren’t all companies and organisations marking time for that? A multi-faceted workplace will always naturally be more successful because of the diversity of lived experience. It’s so obvious, when you think about it.


Nancy: Can you highlight and share some of your own experiences navigating and confronting discrimination? How can we work towards mitigating discrimination and promoting inclusion at work?

Eva: In an age where hate crime and discrimination are widely talked about, much of the negativity in the workplace comes in the form of microaggressions. Subtle digs and comments, designed to undermine a person’s confidence and belonging. I’ve experienced so many over the years for the colour of my skin, my religion, and the way I present. They don’t get you down straight away, but they chip away at you as a person. It can even look like proactively excluding certain people based on bias, whether conscious or not. 

When I was employed full time, I was held back from promotion over and over simply because I didn’t fit the mould. My lack of conformity made me uncontrollable in management’s eyes, but I was simply being me: expressive and autistic. I got the job done but not in the way they wanted. 

It’s important to remember and acknowledge that a person can suffer from more than one form of discrimination. Just focusing on a person’s gender identity, for example, but not the colour of their skin or sexuality, means diminishing that individual’s experience. It’s important to reflect upon why one person may be more targeted than others. Allies must be encouraged to speak up when they see discrimination taking place. To create change, we need to break cycles – including being a bystander or thinking it’s not our problem.


Nancy: The intersectionality of ageism and sexism have impacted how our workplaces look today, particularly concerning the underrepresentation of older women in leadership positions.  How do you think we can better leverage the 5 generations across the workforce?

Eva: Visibility and representation are so important, it’s incredibly difficult to aim for something if we can’t see it. Historically, men have not only dominated leadership positions, but they’re seen as wiser, more mature, and therefore more capable. Even now, women continue to be discriminated against because of their age and going through menopause. There is a deeply ingrained belief that women are somehow less capable as we age, and these attitudes need to change. There is no place for sexism or misogyny in the workplace, or in any community. No ifs, no buts.

We only have to look at female actors who are paid less and offered less opportunities, simply because they’ve aged. But men age too! Why is ageing a negative for women? As much as it’ll pain them to admit, the older generation needs to listen to women more. Less of the entitlement or arrogance, and more empathy and tolerance. Fact is, the world is always evolving, and it’s ok to admit that you may not be up to date - but that doesn’t mean you get to talk over or even silence those who are. Listening and sharing experience will create such a powerful workforce, one that is more able to adapt and to lead.


Nancy: What are some of the challenges faced by individuals across cis and trans identities when navigating hormonal changes like menopause or gender-affirming hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in the workplace? Why is it so important to accommodate diverse health needs and provide support for employees undergoing such transitions?

Eva: Both menopause and medically transitioning are shrouded in mystery, which gives rise to so much misinformation. In reality, cis and trans people share so many common struggles when accessing HRT, whether it be getting started or living with the life-changing effects. There’s currently a lot of talk about providing more assistance for cis women experiencing menopause, to ensure they can still thrive in the workplace, but little to no enthusiasm for trans people getting the same. A one-size-fits-all approach will simply diminish a person’s identity. Instead of gatekeeping who and why, we should be focusing on solutions that are individual-led, and for other employees to realise that nobody gets special treatment. Happy employees are more productive employees, and by supporting and investing in individuals, we are not just committing to them in the long-term, but we’re sending an important message: that they matter.


Nancy: As you reflect on personal experiences and lessons learned throughout your illustrious career journey, what advice would you offer your younger self on navigating workplace dynamics, overcoming discrimination, and fostering inclusion?

Eva: Before I came out, I was so afraid to be seen and judged. I remember going for a job interview years ago where I wore nail polish. After the interview, I had a call from the agency. They would normally call to ask how it went. This time, the first thing they said was “Were you wearing nail polish?” News travelled fast. That experience caused me to cease any further efforts to express myself. 

I honestly wish I could tell my younger self that it’s ok to put yourself out there, to stand your ground and to be the one that starts to rock the boat for change. There will always be those who oppose inclusion or have very close-minded views of the world, but don’t let them hold you back. If anything, their views hold them back. To anybody that may feel like they don’t have a place or that their voice isn’t appreciated, do it anyway. Take that space because if you don’t, someone else will claim it. You could be paving the way for or even liberating someone, without even realising. Above all else, be your own kind of beautiful. Just by existing, you are playing a huge part towards change.

Check back soon for part two, where Eva interviews Nancy.

A headshot of Eva Echo, an East Asian non-binary trans woman. She has long dark hair and wears a red flowery dress. Her neck is heavily tattooed and she wears a nose ring and large hoop earrings.

Eva Echo (she/they)

Eva is an accomplished leader, serving as the Director of Innovation at Birmingham Pride and Trans In The City. Eva is passionate about workplace allyship, intersectionality, and mental health, and has a wealth of knowledge on language and terminology, identity, trans rights and healthcare.

Find more information about Eva here.

A headshot of Nancy Di Dia, a white cisgender lesbian woman with short grey hair. She is wearing a blazer and smiling at the camera.

Nancy Di Dia (she/her)

As a gay female, Nancy has a deep understanding of the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community and served as a Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for over 20 years. Her extensive experience and expertise make her an invaluable resource for organizations looking to improve their DEIJB efforts and create more inclusive environments.

Find more information about Nancy here.


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