Tolu Osinubi: Navigating Intersectionality in Technology | Director, Deloitte UK

Learn about Tolu Osinubi’s journey as a British Nigerian lesbian director in the technology industry, navigating intersectionality and advocating for diversity and inclusion.

Tell us about your accomplishments to date?

It never occurred to me that I would become a director when I decided to transition into technology over ten years ago. Not only am I the only Black director in my team, but I’m also one of the few female directors in my business area. It’s an achievement in its own right without considering the impact of gender and ethnicity.

I’m very proud of the recognition I’ve received over the last few years through the nominations and awards. A couple of things that have stayed with me in the change work I do.  After speaking on a Lesbian Visibility Week panel a few years ago on being out at work, someone in Nigeria reached out to me on LinkedIn. They messaged to say that seeing someone who was Nigerian and openly queer was amazing and gave them so much hope. The other occasion was following being featured on the OUTstanding LGBT Future Leaders List. Another individual, living in Nigeria, reached out to me with a message that thanked me for my visibility and work, and also that I was a source of inspiration for many like them in our community. The nominations and awards are much bigger and more significant than a personal accolade. As much as it is an honour to be recognised, it’s the impact and widening of my reach that is meaningful, for other people like me.

I was 1 of the 51 Black women selected to write for The Voices in the Shadow – Volume 1 an initiative by Global Tech Advocates – Black Women in Tech. The book spotlights Black women who’ve impacted the technology industry, emphasising the various intersectional identities in the Black experience. The book is distributed through libraries and schools to inspire the next generation. I feel proud to have contributed to something which documents my own and other amazingly talent Black women’s stories which often don’t get championed.

On a personal note, I think back to when I used to work continuously with early starts and very late finishes. I’d tell myself that I had to keep going. My stress levels were quite high which affected my health, the impact of which was the catalyst for the changes that I needed to make. I still have busy periods but I am more intentional about creating space and taking time out. Work doesn’t take precedence, my friends, family and chosen family are what I focus on.

What are the barriers in representing many intersectional identity groups?

I’m a British Nigerian lesbian working in technology. This means that I represent multiple intersectional identities. Both my Blackness and queerness influence me equally. Both identities have shaped my life and experiences.

I was born in Nigeria. My name, Tolulope, means” To God be the Glory” in Yoruba. I moved over to the UK with my family when I was 5 years old, to Greater Manchester.  I grew up in a traditional Nigerian and Christian household that was focused on education and working hard.  My parents made it very clear that I had no time for boyfriends (they were right!). The expectation was that I would be a doctor, lawyer, engineer… or family failure.

Seeing myself represented would have meant everything to me as a young person. I had a sense of feeling like I did not belong in the Nigerian community, and faced a lack of understanding of LGBTQ+ identities. Within the LGBTQ+ community, I experienced racism and sexism, compounding the feeling that I didn’t fit in anywhere.

I’ve been on a journey of unlearning harmful stereotypes, and myths, and discovered that my sexuality was not a choice, and I was not letting anyone down by embracing it.  Understanding Kimberle Crenshaw’s framework of intersectionality, and describing the effects of multiple marginalisations helped give me the language to make sense of my experiences.  The framework proposes that people’s identities are inextricably linked and are wrapped in systems of power. I now see that the issue lies not with the identities themselves but with the individuals who gate-keep identity, marginalising people and making them feel like they do not belong

Do you think acceptance is improving?

We are in really difficult and challenging times in the world we are seeing the repealing of human rights which is having the greatest impact on the most marginalised. This is very evident in the deprivation of LGBT rights across the world. Therefore I struggle with “Acceptance” being what underrepresented groups deserve.

Dominque Jackson, the actress playing Electra in Pose, said something that I completely agree with: “ I don’t want you to accept me. I may want you to understand me. But as far as accepting me, that just means that I believe you are greater than I am. Or I believe that you have some kind of privilege or authority over my life.

And….no way!”

What does been nominated in your category mean to you?

To be shortlisted in the Top 12 Trailblazers feels like such a moment for me. It’s an honour to accept the nomination, and I am very grateful to the British LGBT Awards for creating this space for the recognition of the contributions of queer people in the UK. Storytelling is really powerful. I find strength in flipping the narrative I had growing up, believing that being Black, British, Nigerian AND queer was not a possibility. The phrase ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ really resonates with me. That is why it is so important to have intersectional stories recognised.

There is still so much work to do to get to a place where LGBTQIA+ folks don’t have to come out or navigate barriers in their workplaces. It makes the work to push the dial on the many inequalities and inequities so critical. Amplifying the voices of queer leaders gives people hope because representation truly matters. My hope is that sharing my story makes it easier for someone like me to be who they are and build a successful career in technology. This is why I continue to do the things that I do. My presence is disruptive and I’m going to take up space.

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