10 Jun 2021

Is a conversation about privilege counter-productive to equity at work?

Is a conversation about privilege counter-productive to equity at work?


We at Belonging Pioneers have been inquiring into Privilege recently.

A lot is being said about white privilege…and it is causing a lot of polarisation…which we find counter-productive.

Privilege in our view is held by all human beings…maybe not all the time…but definitely at some points during each human being’s lifetime.

For example, I as a brown, South Asian, female, Muslim, single mother, would, if I was working in certain States in America, have privilege over my Trans and Gay colleagues.   In some States in America, a colleague can legally be fired for being Trans or Gay.  I would then have a choice about whether I do something about that…or whether I say something like “well, those are the laws of the State and I have to just accept that” or whether I wanted to be anti-homophobic about that.

My point is that it is a useful inquiry for each of us to reflect on our own privilege…whether that be our race, our gender, our age, our physical ability, our height…the list goes on.  (Height is an interesting one…did you know that the average height of a man in America is 5’9” and that the average height of a Fortune500 company CEO is 6’? ...I wonder if there is a correlation between height and the ability to successfully lead a Fortune 500 company?

What we know is that our history gives us privilege.   It could be based on some of the following:

  • Man or Woman
  • White or Melanin rich
  • Old or young
  • Trans or Cis
  • Gay or straight
  • Married or single
  • Parent
  • Differently abled
  • Different Faith

My belief is that you may be an accident of your history…that does not mean that you have to be your history.

So, if you are open to reflecting on where your history gives you privilege, and how you might like to start stewarding your privilege, here are a few questions you might like to start with:

  • What are the assumptions that were passed on to you by virtue of your family history?
  • When and how often do you experience ’belonging’ as opposed to feeling in the ‘out-group’?
  • Which social systems support you?  What access do people in non-dominant groups have to these systems?
  • What is outside your norm that you reject or disparage?
  • To what extent are you confident and comfortable…oblivious to what others may be dealing with?
  • To what extent do you expect that your neighbours will be good to you…that your difference will not count against you?


My colleagues and I have been reflecting on these questions and will be sharing our insights over the next few weeks.

By the way…did I let you know that I am thrilled to have welcomed two new colleagues to our team last month?  Aminat and Kira joined us through the Kickstart scheme…they are just the most inspiring young women…and will be sharing their privilege stories with you in our next two blogs.  Please do look out for them.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts on privilege and how it impacts equity at work?

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