Privilege in the workplace
I recently had a conversation with a senior leader on privilege
‘Do you think privilege has helped you in your career’ I asked
‘What?! No!’ He replied – flabbergasted.
‘I have worked very hard and I am really good at what I do’ he replied
‘I never questioned your hard work'
'Let’s look at it another way...
How did you come to join your current company?’
‘One of the Executive’s used to be my boss at my old company’
‘But I did a full interview and panel’ he added quickly.
So you had a good relationship with your boss and kept in touch?
‘Yes we used to play, and watch football , and he doesn't live too far so sometimes we would meet for a few drinks - you know how it is' ...
We talked more about his career since joining his current company and he shared how he worked on some brilliant projects, made possible by many of his senior advocates – who he built fast relationships with.
This was made easier because of some common interests – and LOT's of networking.
It was clear he was very talented at his job - but that he also had very strong relationships with influential people.
‘So let’s say ... you had the same skills and worked just as hard – but didn’t share the same level of connection with the senior leaders or the same amount of networking'
'Do you think you would be in the same position as you are today?’
'No... networking and my relationships have been key'
'Right... and I am assuming these senior leaders were , similar to you in terms of gender, background, and other characteristics...'
'So I ask again - has privilege helped you in your career'
‘I never thought of privilege in that way…
In that case you're right - privilege has helped me’
Privilege doesn’t take away from someone's hard work, or talents.
But it can mean that doors and opportunities can come by easier.
It doesn't mean that they don't deserve their role
But it can mean that someone else just as deserving missed out
Privilege comes in many forms....as illustrated by the wheel below
From your gender, ethnicity, being able - bodied..... we all have some level of privilege
Be aware of your privilege.... and how it shows up
Use it to open doors for others ...
Image: Wheel of privilege