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What is Privilege? 

Privilege is a controversial word that has been used and abused in many different contexts. Whether you are a person of color or a white person, a man or a woman, or a person with a disability or not, the concept of privilege can be a tricky one to understand. 

Privilege refers to the advantages, benefits, or access that a person or group of people has based on their social identity. These social identities can include race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, and more.  

For example, a white person may not have experienced the same racial profiling that a person of color has experienced, or a man may not have experienced the same gender discrimination that a woman has experienced.  

These experiences are shaped by privilege, which is often invisible to those who have it. Privilege can operate subtly or blatantly in everyday interactions, and can be difficult to identify without critical reflection and self-awareness. 


Understanding Privilege and How it Operates 

One common way that privilege operates is through systemic oppression. Systems of oppression are social structures that limit certain individuals or groups from accessing rights, opportunities, and resources.  

These structures perpetuate privilege for some and marginalization for others. For example, a school district that has high property taxes favors wealthier areas and limits access to quality education for those who live in low-income areas.  

Since wealth and education are strongly linked, this system perpetuates privilege for some while marginalizing others. 

Another way that privilege operates is through subconscious biases and stereotypes. These biases can work to privilege certain groups while disadvantaging others.  

For example, a job interviewer may unconsciously favor a job candidate who looks like them, has a similar background, or shares their hobbies, even if they are not the most qualified candidate for the job.  

This subconscious preference perpetuates privilege for those who are similar to the interviewer while marginalizing those who are not. 

Unfortunately, privilege often operates silently, leaving many people unaware of how it is shaping their lives and the lives of those around them.  

The first step towards dismantling privilege is to acknowledge its existence and the ways in which it operates in our society.  

We can do this through critical reflection, honest dialogue, and actively seeking out perspectives that challenge our own biases. We can also take steps towards challenging and dismantling systems of oppression through activism, advocacy, and education. 


The Consequences of Privilege in the Workplace 

Privilege can often cause negative effects in the workplace. Some of these include: 


Blind spots and biases 

People with privilege often have a limited perspective on the experiences and struggles of those who lack it.  

This can lead to blind spots and biases that affect their interactions with others and their decision-making.  

For example, a wealthy person may not understand the challenges faced by someone living in poverty, while a white person may not fully appreciate the discrimination experienced by people of color. It's important to recognize and acknowledge these blind spots in order to build more inclusive and empathetic communities. 


Entitlement and ego 

Another consequence of privilege is the risk of entitlement and ego. When zomeone is used to receiving special treatment or having their needs catered to, it can be easy to develop a sense of entitlement and superiority over others.  

This can lead to arrogance, condescension, and an inability to empathize with others. It's important for those with privilege to remain humble and recognize the ways in which they've been given unearned advantages. 


Lack of empathy and accountability 

When people with privilege are unable to empathize with those who lack it, they are less likely to hold themselves accountable for the negative impacts of their actions.  

For example, a wealthy person may not recognize the ways in which their consumption habits contribute to environmental degradation or exploit low-wage workers. Similarly, a man may not realize the ways in which gender norms and expectations contribute to systemic sexism. 

Holding oneself accountable requires a certain level of awareness and empathy, and it's a critical component of allyship and community building. 


Opportunity hoarding and exclusion 

Finally, privilege can lead to an unequal distribution of opportunities and resources. When certain groups have more power and influence, they may use it to hoard opportunities at the expense of others.  

For example, a company may only hire from elite universities, excluding talented individuals who were not fortunate enough to attend. Similarly, a predominately white neighborhood may use zoning laws to exclude diverse residents.  

This type of exclusion perpetuates and reinforces existing power dynamics, making it harder for those without privilege to succeed. 


Use inclusio to Stamp Out Privilege in the Workplace 

Companies that are looking to stamp out privilege in the workplace should consider using inclusio. It is a cloud-based, AI-powered platform that offers powerful diagnostics, allowing companies to gain a better understanding of how employees resonate with D&I practices, and what steps companies can take to reduce privileged practices and make a more inclusive workplace.