How often do we complain that “white men” hold all the cards when it comes to society and the workplace?
Looking at many of the senior roles, the line-ups at conferences, on panels, and many positions within organisations we see that white men dominate.
There is however one place that we don’t find the seemingly ubiquitous white man, and that is when it comes to conversations around diversity, inclusion and privilege. Then we find the room and conversations distinctly lacking in this demographic. Here we find women and people from marginalised or underrepresented communities filling the rows.
I am not for one moment judging or tarring every person of privilege with the same brush. I know of many men, many of them who are also white, that want to speak up and have a voice. So I ask, why are they in the minority?
When attending seminars and conferences all over the world I have seen the same pattern repeated – when we are talking about gender or racial equality, the room was 90 per cent women – where were the men, the very people we need to listen and to take action?
It has been said that when someone has been used to privilege all of their lives, then equality feels like oppression. Is this the problem we are trying to overcome, trying to engage with the people who hold the power and privilege so that they are not threatened, not feeling that the “woke brigade” wants to steal a slice of their pie?
Or is the problem that many white men simply don’t know how to have these conversations? Do they themselves feel excluded, worried that they may be seen as the problem and not the solution, are concerned about not feeling authentic?
For me it is important that we are all involved in these conversations. Without those who hold the power and the privilege actively engaging, we will constantly bounce around in our own echo chamber and not drive the necessary organisational culture change.
If we continue to storm the castle of the privileged, telling those who are hoarded up that they are the problem, then the drawbridge will remain firmly up. We may even find the defences of arrows and boiling oil are deployed from the ramparts above to drive us away.
To make headway we need to get this drawbridge lowered, not make anyone feel threatened or believe that they are the problem. Demonising those with privilege is not the answer.
Let us reframe and see those who hold the power and privilege as part of the solution, working together to create equitable outcomes where everyone feels they can contribute to the change.
Joanne Lockwood (she/her) is an inclusion and belonging specialist with SEE Change Happen
Originally published in The Herald Scotland