Intersectionality: acknowledging privileges and power for future-fit leadership
As the next 8 years will shape the next 10 000, our decisions will impact dozens of generations ahead. The converging crises of our time are stressing us towards quick and unmindful decision-making. We are asked to choose with urgency the miracle solution that will solve all our challenges alone.
The one size fits all solution does not exist. The wicked problems we face require us to slow down and step back to truly understand how we lead and the direction we are heading towards. Leading from and for the future means that decisions need to be informed through the place we operate. This includes truly understanding the multiple facets of our personalities.
What power has been given to us? For what reasons? What is our legitimacy to influence the lives of others? What responsibility do we hold to serve others?
This article deep dives into the notion of intersectionality and privilege. It is an invitation to acknowledge your position in society and better understand how your leadership can positively influence others.
Diversity in the making
While diversity has become a trendy topic, we have a long way to go to truly acknowledge its meaning and underlying patterns. Everyone talks about it but very few understand what it truly means. Moving away from quotas, we need to foster cognitive diversity where individuals feel and act from various places. It is about leveraging the lived experiences of individuals and the wealth of multiculturalism. In order to do so, we need to start by understanding our identities as well as their influence on the role we have been given in society.
This concept is called intersectionality and has been coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw. It looks at the multiple identities we hold moving away from siloed characteristics. It acknowledges the complex relationship between social identities and systems of power and oppression. We all have social identities that intersect with one another and define our personalities.
Looking at today’s reality, we clearly see how privileged individuals are overtaking leadership positions. The white, middle age, straight, and educated male has become the default option for today’s leadership. It is also one of the greatest causes of the challenges of our era. This western European domination is the result of centuries of colonisation. It represents an inherited mindset of top-down power given to the most privileged.
From climate consortiums to investment boardrooms, the ones leading often have had the greatest preconditions to access positions of power. As the world we live in has never been as uncertain and volatile, we need to come to a greater awareness of the place we operate from to make better-informed decisions. This is key in co-creating equitable solutions serving the generations to come.
Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.
A privilege is a special right or advantage given to a particular individual or group. Privileges have always been part of our lives — whether we benefit or get affected by others having them. For centuries, privileges have been transmitted from one generation to the other. This is a non-exhaustive list of questions you can ask yourself to better understand where you seat on the wheel of privilege (see illustrations below).
- Gender: are you a man, a woman, or a transgender, intersex or non-binary?
- Citizenship: do you hold citizenship, a permanent residency, or do you have no official status?
- Skin colour: are you white or a person of colour?
- Formal education: do you hold a degree, received a high school education, or have no formal education?
- Ability: are you able-bodied, having health issues, or living with a disability?
- Sexuality: are you heterosexual or lesbian, gay, queer, or bisexual?
- Age: are you middle-aged, youth, or elderly?
- Language: do you speak English, another international language, or do you speak another language?
- Indigenous: are you non-indigenous, or indigenous?
- Professional situation: are you part of the upper class, middle class, or working class?
- Housing: do you own a property, rent a place, or are homeless?
Putting your privileges in service to the world
After considering where you seat on the wheel of privileges, now is the time to acknowledge the unique power you hold. This power is part of who we are and how we lead. While it can be harmful to others when used unconsciously, it can also become a force for good when we start being conscious of it. Holding such power means having the responsibility to put these privileges in service to the ones in need.
What if you could use your power to support a cause that needs more visibility and support?
What if you were inviting others to co-create solutions informed by multiple experiences and social identities?
We have the responsibility to co-create equitable solutions serving the many. Acknowledging our identities and the ones of others is key in fostering equity.
It is only together that we will be able to co-create a thriving future for all.