Empowering Those in Positions of Privilege and Power to Create Positive Change.
This month in our member-only session, we discussed the complexities of privilege and power that come with being a straight, white, able-bodied male working to create inclusion.
I won’t lie, I was very excited for this important discussion but also conscious of the difficulty of the discussion.
We had a great turn out, and people came with some strong differing opinions and reflections on the topic.
There is a definite combination of privilege and power attached to being white, able-bodied and male. White men still hold the majority of positions of power within organisations, and therefore have the opportunity to create positive change (or not!). But how should they wield that power – when should they take charge and lead change and when should they be stepping aside to amplify the voices of others?
In some organisations that are taking progressive steps to create inclusion for people from marginalised and underrepresented communities we see white men becoming disengaged and resistant to this work. In my opinion, we need to recognise this and be working proactively to engage them in the conversations, help them understand that DEI work improves the workplace for everyone whilst also getting them to recognise the privilege they have and how that plays out in the workplace.
But what about white, straight men who are DEI professionals, or leading DEI work?
I believe it’s great when men seek to break down the structural barriers that exist in workplaces for people with different lived experience to them. It also helps work against biases – they are more likely to be listened to! The potential for positive change is high. However, it is important for all of us who work in this space, particularly white folk to recognise that privilege, to know when to step aside and hand over the microphone. We must always center the experiences of those we are working to create safer and more supportive spaces for, after all that’s what this work is all about.
Advice from our network members
In the session many network members shared their thoughts about what DEI professionals needed to keep in mind regardless of their experience or backgrounds. We should:
This is a tricky space, we have to lean into that discomfort though and continue to engage and work with privilege and power to initiate change. Even though our ultimate objective is to dismantle the systems that create the privilege in the first place!
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