The Impacts of Privilege

More on privilege, and the uneven playing field.

I have already posted a definition and some characteristics. There are also a number of posts and articles that provide examples of how privilege shows up:

Privilege unexamined and unchallenged, pits groups against each other, because they are treated differently by society, organizations and institutions. Members of different groups experience the world in different ways…and operate on different realities. Let’s say that I have worked in a large corporation for a number of years and gender has never been an issue for me. I do not even consider gender, it has never led to me sticking out, and I have never felt that the way I have been treated and judged by others was being filtered through the lens of gender. I feel that I am treated as an individual, not based on the social groups that I belong to. Gender is a non-issue for me.

And then I hear a co-worker talk about how gender has always been an issue in her professional life. Maybe she says that she has had to work harder and be better than her male peers to be taken seriously, has always had to go the extra mile as she has not had the benefit of membership in the “old boys club.”

Based on my experience of gender as a non-issue, it is pretty easy for me to be doubtful. I do not think people are treated according to gender, I think they are treated as individuals…because that has been my experience. I might even be offended by what she says because I have worked hard, nothing has been given to me. I might think she is playing the “gender card,” trying to game the system.

Examining and challenging privilege requires empathy. It requires that I have healthy, candid relationships with people of different identities and experiences. I have to have a relationship with my co-worker which includes conversations about her experience in our organization as a woman so that I am able to understand ways in which we are treated differently.


Do you have relationships within your organization with people that have different identities and experiences than you do?

Do you have relationships that are healthy enough to have conversations about different experiences related to race, gender, age, orientation, etc.?

Do you think that the employee experience in your organization is different for people based on things like race, gender, age or orientation?

Be good to each other.

  1. Mary Schaefer

    Joe, excellent points. The more light we can show on privilege, the better. AND, love love love that tennis court image. Mary

  2. Michelle Dill

    Privilege is an interesting topic these days. The four areas you covered are intriguing. thanks!

  3. Frank Zupan

    I really appreciate this series on privilege. It challenges me in many ways. Thanks.

  4. joe gerstandt » Privilege, Justifications and Expectations

    […] my last post I started to explore the impacts of privilege. Privilege does not require any bad intentions or […]

  5. On Being an Idiot! « Systems Savvy

    […] I ended up reading not only the post she pointed me to, but four others that preceded – and were related to – it. The issue Joe was writing about is one that is near and dear to my heart; that of privilege and how little most of us understand its presence and power. He was specifically writing about the privilege that inures to men in a patriarchal society and, even more specifically, about how many men don’t even see the privilege we enjoy and, therefore, become bystanders to (and enablers of) gender-based violence and injustice. You really should read his stuff. Start here! […]

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