As leaders, we know hard questions and uncomfortable conversations are part of the job, but what if we challenged ourselves with difficult questions?
How drastically would work-place culture change if leaders had the tools to be advocates for those who are underestimated?
Is it possible that by ignoring our own privileges we're unknowingly stifling the creativity, innovation, and equity on our teams?
On episode #40 of the Love in Action podcast, I sat down with Mikaela Kiner to talk about her new book, Female Firebrands: Stories & Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace, where she writes about privilege other workplace injustices.
Her book discusses how a person can have privilege in some areas while being oppressed in others. This unearned societal advantage can actually apply to many areas, such as race, sex, social class, sexuality, ability, and age.
Kiner believes when managers and leaders make the commitment to understand their privilege -- putting it to work by creating a culture built not only on diversity but more on inclusion, acceptance, and growth -- they are likely to see employees who are more engaged, more loyal, and more productive.
Putting Your Privilege to Work
Understanding your privilege and biases is something that can be both painful and eye-opening, and yet is key to creating change. Kiner believes it is the responsibility of those with privilege to recognize the advantages it provides, and to use it to boost and join forces with those who don't share the same privileges.
Here are six ways to use your privilege for good, as outlined in Female Firebrands.
1. Identify unconscious biases.
Seek out assessment tools such as the Implicit Association Test, a free online tool that allows you to assess your biases in a myriad of categories, including gender, race, religion, disability, and age.
2. Act on your best intentions.
When you don't know where to start, ask. Dedicate yourself to learning and creating change. Being privileged doesn't mean you're arrogant, entitled, or have done something wrong. What matters is being aware of your privilege and using it for good.
3. Make mistakes and accept accountability.
If and when you say or do something that results in an unintended impact, push away the desire to become defensive -- and instead become curious. Ask yourself, or others, what can you learn, how can you help, and what you can do differently next time.
4. Reject stereotypes.
It is important to identify our unconscious biases and stereotypes in order to consciously resist them and to begin seeing people as individuals instead of fixed identities. The result? Fewer boxes, more opportunities.
5. Open doors to create opportunity.
Become an advocate by doing the research, asking the questions, and creating space at the table for diverse opinions, voices, and backgrounds.
6. Address inappropriate comments.
Silence is not an option. It can be difficult to find your voice or an appropriate response when you're on the receiving end of hurtful or derogatory comments; help give your peers, employees, and other leaders strength in difficult situations by showing up when it's needed.