“Privilege is not the presence of an advantage. It’s the absence of an impediment.”
Last night, the first woman of color was selected as a candidate for the Vice Presidency of the United States. Whatever your politics, take a moment to appreciate her path in the context of the above statement. Appreciate what she had to overcome to get to this stage as a black and brown woman, born to immigrant parents, from Oakland.
Oftentimes when we speak about privilege in the workplace there’s a misunderstanding. What advantage do I have some think? It’s not that you are given an advantage per se. It’s that your colleagues are held back by impediments providing you a relative advantage.
Those impediments are many:
They are rooted in our psychology: Unconscious bias prevents us from hiring women and minorities when they’re the best candidate for the job.
They are rooted in our history: The gatekeeper effect perpetuates white men hiring and promoting others who most resemble them as they attribute their success to their likeness.
They are rooted in our society: Socioeconomic backgrounds determine access to education, healthcare, and other determinants of success.
Take a moment to check out the two quizzes below for a window into privilege.
The first is the American Dream score. It a short quiz that asks you a series of questions about who you are and what factors, such as health, education, race or gender, may have contributed to your success ― or created barriers to it. It’s meant to challenge the narrative that our success is only a function of our hard work when in reality a number of other factors play into achieving the American Dream. I know that’s been true for me.
The Second quiz does a better job of giving you a sense of what privilege is. You don’t have to take it (although it’s quick and interesting!) but if you simply read the questions you’ll understand how many factors you might take for granted that are an impediment for others.
I know reflection can seem like a lot of work. But I hope it gives you a few things: Gratitude for what you’ve had to overcome to achieve what you’ve achieved. Empathy for what your friends, family, and colleagues had to overcome to get to where they are. And a mutual respect that while all of our paths are different, what we have most in common is striving for a better life, a better society, and a better world, together. And on that note, here’s a link to my TED talk on gender equity which touches on many of the topics discussed above