Think Pieces

A blog about privilege in leadership from Jamie Lowe

Navigating shifting perspectives: understanding privilege in business leadership

By Claire Ebrey · August 6, 2023

In the realm of business leadership, it is important to recognise and navigate the complexities of privilege.

Whether it’s gender, race, physical ability, or sexual orientation, privilege can significantly impact the dynamics of leadership and influence the experiences of individuals within organisations. By exploring the concept of privilege and its effects, business leaders across sectors can gain valuable insights to foster inclusivity and equity in their workplaces.

I lived as a woman for 31 years before transitioning. And having experienced both sides of the coin, I can tell you hand on heart that male privilege exists, and its effects are far-reaching.

Just to note, male and female are not the only genders. However, the idea of binary is deeply rooted in our society. The more masculine I present, the more I experience male privilege; and the opposite when I’ve presented as very feminine.

I’ve worked with many men who ruled the roost and firmly believed that male privilege was a myth. I’m not suggesting that they didn’t work hard, however, there’s an unearned entitlement that comes from being male.

The more time goes on, the more I feel worthy to ask for more. People take me more seriously and respect my opinions more readily in professional and social settings. I used to feel naturally apologetic to ask for opportunities or tell people how great I was, especially in the workplace. I’d try and ignore it and reach out for the opportunities but it’s hard to do something that feels unnatural. My male colleagues were constantly talking about their accomplishments, even when they were the same as my own, but they were acknowledged more.

Let’s explore the dynamics of privilege and its impact on leadership; I’ll offer insights for business leaders across sectors to navigate this complex landscape.

  1. Awareness of privilege: As business leaders, it is crucial to cultivate awareness of the privileges we may hold. We can be conscious that privileges are not earned but bestowed upon individuals based on their gender, race, or sexual orientation. By acknowledging the existence of privilege, it allows us to challenge its influence and work towards creating more equitable and inclusive workplaces.
  2. Humility and empathy: With newfound awareness of privilege, it is vital to approach leadership roles with humility and empathy. Recognise not all team members may experience the same privileges and be mindful of the diverse perspectives within your organisation. Encourage open dialogue, actively listen to the experiences of others, and foster an inclusive environment where everyone’s voice is valued.
  3. Leveraging privilege for positive change: Having privilege presents an opportunity to effect positive change within your organisation and the broader business community. Utilise your influence to amplify underrepresented voices, provide equal opportunities for growth and advancement, and challenge systemic biases. By actively leveraging your privilege, you can contribute to a more inclusive and equitable business landscape.
  4. Building Inclusive Practices: Create policies and practices that prioritise diversity, equity, and inclusion. Foster an environment where individuals from all backgrounds feel safe, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives. Implement inclusive hiring practices, mentorship programs, and professional development opportunities to ensure equal access to growth and advancement.
  5. Continuous Learning: Recognise that addressing privilege and fostering inclusion is an ongoing journey. Commit to continuous learning by staying informed about social issues, attending diversity and inclusion training programmes, and engaging with diverse communities. Embrace feedback and be open to self-reflection, as it is through constant learning that we can become more effective leaders and allies.

As business leaders, it is our responsibility to understand and navigate the dynamics of privilege, including male privilege. We can cultivate awareness, practice humility and empathy, leverage privilege for positive change, build inclusive practices, and commit to continuous learning. By doing so, we can create environments that celebrate diversity and empower all individuals within our organisations. Let us embrace the challenge of shifting perspectives and work together to build a business landscape that is equitable, and inclusive, and fosters the growth and success of every individual, regardless of their background or identity.

Jamie Lowe

Jamie is the director of True Self Wealth Ltd, a financial planning practice that provides specialist financial advice to the LGBTQ+ community. He is trans and non-binary and approaches his work without judgment of anyone’s experience of financial matters, or their circumstances. Jamie spends a lot of time helping people with their retirement, investments planning and protection insurance (like life insurance). He works with individuals, couples, families, and companies.

Outside of that, he runs an LGBTQ+ business network in Manchester Big Queer Business Meet-Up, and he runs a Social Enterprise, Trans Support Hub, which organises LGBTQ+ clothes swaps and is about to launch an app that will help people find the right private gender clinic for them.

True Self Wealth Ltd is an Appointed Representative of and represents only St. James’s Place Wealth Management plc (which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) for the purpose of advising solely on the group’s wealth management products and services, more details of which are set out on the group’s website

SJP Approved: 04/08/2023