In the complex tapestry of human existence, our identities play a significant role in shaping our experiences and interactions. Identity is not a singular concept; rather, it is a mosaic of various facets that intersect and intertwine to create a unique and multifaceted self. This intricate web of identities is not only personal but also deeply connected to broader social structures, influencing the dynamics of power and privilege.
Identity is a complex interweaving of a multitude of dimensions which make us who we are. Identities are both influenced by and influence the social structures around us and shape our experiences and interactions. Power and privilege are closely tied with Identities. Understanding identities gives us a sneak peek into how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us.
To understand identity, imagine a flower with petals, where each petal represents an identity. Populate the flower with the various aspects of your social identities like gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status, state of origin etc. Each of these identities meets other identities creating the unique and complex individual that you are.
The Identity flower is a great too to understand the concept of identity. On the left is a flower with various identities filled in. Two of the petals are left blank intentionally for you to fill in the identity that means the most to you. On the right is the blank flower for you to fill in your identity e.g. Education level should be your educational qualification, Age is your actual age etc.
The concept of intersectionality, coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, emphasises the different identities that are at play compounding the impact of discrimination or privilege. In her paper, she talked about how the experience of an African American woman is different from that of a Caucasian American woman, both being women. Recognising these intersections is foundational in understanding the complexities of privilege and power dynamics. The interplay of identities has the ability to amplify the privilege or heighten the marginalisation.
The identity flower that you created for yourself would indicate your intersectionality.
Privilege: the unearned advantage
Privilege refers to the unearned advantages and opportunities that individuals may experience based on aspects of their identity. It is essential to recognize that privilege is not a personal achievement but rather a result of systemic inequalities. Privilege is invisible to the person holding it. A man born in a middle-class family where both the parents are educated and had stable jobs has a definite advantage over another man, born in a poor family where both the parents did not have the opportunity to go to school and used to earn their living as daily wagers.
Understanding privilege is a critical aspect of fostering a culture of Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in an organisation.
Power Dynamics at the workplace
Power is a pervasive force that operates at individual, institutional and societal levels. The intersections of identity significantly influence power dynamics, as certain identities are often granted more privilege than others. Acknowledging one’s privilege and understanding how it operates within systems of power is a crucial step towards fostering an equitable workplace and dismantling oppressive structures.
Identity, Power, Privilege & DEI at the workplace
The connection between identity, power, and privilege is closely intertwined with the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging in the workplace. Embracing diversity means recognizing and valuing the various identities that individuals bring to the professional environment. This includes aspects such as gender, sexual orientation, age, state of origin, mother tongue, and even the cognitive diversity.
Privilege is systemic and shows up in institutions in the most unexpected ways. What seems to be normal could be the result of the discrimination that certain groups may be experiencing because of their identity. Recognising privilege helps deconstruct stereotypes, foster an equitable environment,
In the workplace, power dynamics often influence who holds decision-making authority and access to opportunities. Individuals with certain identities may experience privilege, while others may face barriers. Recognizing and addressing these dynamics is crucial for fostering an inclusive work environment.
To understand how identity, power and privilege play out at the workplace, watch out for our next blog
Power and privilege can be a huge bottleneck in bringing about Intentional Inclusion in your organisation. We can help you with tools to sensitise your employees to explore identity and the power and privilege that come along with it. Do write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org