Privilege. Is it a dirty word? You might think so given the way some people respond to being told they have it. Many of us have multiple layers of privilege, and we shouldn’t feel guilty about this. Afterall, it was likely delivered to us at birth – we didn’t ask for it. That said, we have a responsibility to recognise that we have privilege and do work to remove the barriers that others face.
Privilege, or the special advantages you might receive as a member of a particular group, can make it challenging to be aware of the experiences of others, which will differ from your own. Our perspectives, in addition to the instincts we use to make decisions, are influenced by our experiences and the people around us. Expanding our perspective necessarily involves reflecting on the privileges we hold, and how they may affect our behaviours and perspectives in the workplace.
Doesn’t privilege just feed into identity politics? I like the way Lee Jourdan frames his response to this question in the Harvard Business Review:
“Because it can raise awareness about advantages and disadvantages, it challenges norms that might work against underrepresented groups, and leads to a more diverse and inclusive culture, which ample research shows is a competitive advantage.”
By thinking about your privilege regularly, your capacity to support Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace develops by building trust with colleagues and creating a safe space where everyone can succeed.
Diversity and Inclusion training is an important first step towards understanding privilege. If you value Diversity and Inclusion, it’s vital to seek out opportunities to expand your perspectives and learn practical ways to identify and remove barriers to inclusion. At Bree Gorman, we offer online courses and training to provide you with the skills to improve Diversity and Inclusion in your organisation.
Additionally, you can develop the way you think about privilege through Internet resources, such as articles and videos (start with my blog!). You may also find it useful to follow people or organisations that promote different lived experiences to your own on social media. Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, in particular, can be excellent sources of anecdotal information. Some of my favourites include Indigenous X, Hannah Diviney and Gloria Tabi.
Too often we make decisions based only on our perspectives, or maybe those of our team members. And, often, our teams are full of people who think like us. One of the things that can reduce our reliance on our biases and narrow perspectives is introducing a framework to your business’s decision-making processes. We know we need to slow down, involve diverse thinking and ensure we are using a structured set of criteria to effectively avoid our biases. This allows critical and logical thinking to drive the end decision.
For example, one scenario you might consider implementing a decision-making framework for is your workplace’s recruitment process. The recruitment process in many businesses is impacted by bias at each stage, from job design to induction, which may impact the decision to hire a particular candidate. By referring to a detailed decision-making framework – this may take the form of structured selection and assessment criteria, requirements around diverse panels and making shortlisters aware of their biases as they assess CVs – you’ll be better placed to avoid the bias-induced decisions your business may have made in the past. For more info, take a look at my guide to mitigating recruitment bias.
Remember, inclusivity is a learned skill. And it’s a skill that can’t be developed in one Diversity and Inclusion training session. To broaden your standpoint and see things you might not normally see, you’ll need to actively seek new information and perspectives that differ from your own./
Privilege can work with affinity bias – the unconscious tendency to prefer interactions with people who are similar to us because it can be easier to relate to them – to make it difficult to discern the experiences of and barriers faced by people who are different to us.
So, it’s important to actively look for opportunities to build our communities and make meaningful connections with people who have lived experiences that differ from ours. Try joining a club, sports team or volunteering for a local organisation that does work you admire. These contexts will provide an opportunity for you to meet with people outside of your immediate social network. Confronting privilege in this way can improve your ability to recognise barriers that others might face and support you to value difference.
Looking for a community to be a part of? At Bree Gorman, we run monthly networking events for people interested in Diversity and Inclusion. Join us!
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