Privilege impacts our daily lives in multiple ways, especially in the workplace, but it’s a social force that’s widely misunderstood.
Privilege is often treated as something negative—an indicator that you might be racist, sexist, or biased in some way—while the absence of privilege is treated as an absolvent, removing you from those same negative categories.
Yet having privilege doesn’t automatically mean you’re biased against those with less privilege. And a lack of privilege doesn’t mean you can’t be biased yourself.
We need to destigmatize how we view and talk about privilege, and one of the best ways to do so is to raise awareness. By creating this list, we hope to raise awareness about both the benefits and obstacles people can face in the workplace.
As you review this list, keep a tally. Note any items that surprise you and make you wonder, “Does anyone actually face this challenge?” Consider facilitating a discussion about that topic at your own workplace, perhaps at a team meeting or over lunch. Discuss ways you can be more understanding of people with less privilege, and how you can foster a workplace environment where everyone can do their best work and thrive.
And now on to the list:
- You’re white.
- You’re male.
- You identify as the gender you were assigned at birth.
- You’re referred to by gender pronouns with which you self-identify.
- You’re under 40.
- You don’t have disabilities, visible or otherwise.
- You have a college degree.
- You attended an elite university.
- You’ve paid off any student loans (or never had them).
- You were born in the United States or you’re a citizen of the USA.
- If not a US citizen, you have a green card or work visa that’s independent of your employer.
- English is your first language.
- You don’t receive comments about your accent or the way you pronounce certain words.
- You’ve never felt passed over for a job based on your gender, ethnicity, religion, age, body shape or size, or sexual orientation.
- You feel comfortable speaking openly about your significant other.
- You’re not the primary caregiver for someone else.
- You feel welcome at networking opportunities, regardless of your gender, ethnicity, age, body shape or size, or sexual orientation.
- You aren’t asked to do menial tasks that colleagues of another gender or skin color are asked to do.
- Others don’t routinely assume you’re a lower seniority level than you are.
- You feel comfortable actively and effectively contributing to meetings you attend.
- You’re rarely interrupted or ignored in meetings.
- You’re confident that if you raise an idea in a meeting, you’ll be credited for that idea.
- Your manager maintains eye contact when speaking to you.
- You’ve recently received feedback about a technical skill you need to learn.
- You have spare time to spend on open-source projects or learning new technologies.
- You haven’t been told to wait your turn for a promotion or plum project assignment behind an equally qualified peer.
- You haven’t missed out on a promotion because of concerns you wouldn’t be able to handle the required travel.
- You can talk about politically-oriented extra-curricular activities without fear of judgment from colleagues.
- You feel welcome on projects, regardless of your gender, ethnicity, religion, age, or sexual orientation.
- You’ve never been called a “diversity hire.”
- When meeting people at technical events, they assume you’re in a technical role (versus the partner of an attendee or that you work in a non-technical role).
- At events, people don’t mistake you as a member of the catering staff.
- You don’t receive unwanted sexual advances at work.
- You haven’t had to change teams or companies because of harassment.
- You feel physically safe at work and at professional events.
- You feel safe leaving work late at night and going home after evening events.
- Your commute is less than an hour.
- If you lose your job, you’re confident you can land another one without worrying about paying bills.
- You can afford to join out-of-office lunches or after-work social activities.
- You’re not financially supporting a parent, grandparent, or sibling.
- You have a partner who takes on a large share of household and family responsibilities.
- You’re rarely, if ever, late to work or miss work because of a child’s illness or family emergency.
- You don’t have a long career gap on your resume.
- You feel comfortable with co-workers knowing your religious beliefs.
- People don’t ask if they can touch your hair.
- You’ve never taken snacks from work because you can’t afford to buy food for the weekend.
- You’re comfortable speaking in meetings, without worrying someone will find a flaw in your logic and prove you’re not qualified to be there.
- You don’t receive abusive comments on social media.
- You don’t remember the last time someone was condescending or overly pedantic when explaining a topic to you.
- And last, but not least: You don’t depend on a sponsor, mentor, or any other ally to be taken seriously.
That’s it—50 ways you might be more privileged than your co-worker.
Now that you’ve reached the end of the list, we encourage you to think about what you can do to support those with less privilege who work alongside you. How will you act as a better ally?
This article was originally published by Better Allies on Women 2.0. It has been republished here with permission.
Photo of co-workers in meeting courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.