As the person responsible for our approach to fairness in the organisation I am often struck with a sense of imposter syndrome, because the fact is, I’m a middle-aged white dude with a decent education who comes from a stable, supportive, nuclear family. Privilege you might say.
I have a great job, in a well-established, well respected business, that affords me the means to live in a nice house, drive a nice car and keep rabbits! How middle class could I be? Not to mention the fact that – for anyone that missed it – I referred to myself as a dude in the paragraph above!
So, when I’m asked to talk about our efforts in the area of equality or fairness, whilst I’m happy to do so, I often feel like a fraud. Let’s face it – what would I know about how it feels to face inequality?
Yet the portfolio remains mine and I continue to work hard to educate myself and push the agenda as part of all the work that we do – despite the niggle…
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
But recently, that sense of being an imposter has started to change, thanks to a couple of snippets from what is fast becoming one of my favourite podcasts – The Guilty Feminist. If you have an interest in this subject, you really must give it a listen. It’s funny, honest, sometimes brutal (particularly if you’re a man), yet always enlightening.
The first moment came from a show just after Christmas and a piece by Jackie Hagan, a playwright, poet and performer who came out with a wonderful quote: “the fight for equality is not between men and women, it’s between people and dickheads”. I have to say this really struck a chord!
I’m confident I sit in the former category, and as such, felt much more comfortable in my role as a champion for fairness and equity.
My second moment came when the show’s host and founder, Deborah Frances-White, spoke about privilege, and some of the guilt that comes with it. I’m paraphrasing but the essence of what she said was beautifully simple. In so far as, if you have privilege, in whatever form and from wherever it comes, there’s very little you can do about it – it’s part of you. It’s what you choose to do with it that’s important…
Let’s face it, if you have that privilege, you’re more likely to be heard, more likely to have access to people who, if they hear you, can influence further – and that, is how change begins.
So, as the title of my piece proclaims: ‘It’s not what you’ve got … it’s what you do with it’. And so, I feel much less like an imposter, albeit I do have rabbits and use the word dude far too often!
And here’s an interesting little sidebar about privilege in terms of leadership and coaching. Leading, in any way, shape or form, is a privilege.
As is being offered the opportunity to coach someone, and yet, how often do we hear people bemoan the challenges of leadership. They talk about their teams as if they’re an inconvenience – something that gets in the way of being able to finish their work?
As if email is work!
To those people, I say – GET A GRIP! It’s not a challenge, it’s a privilege. Treat it as such, or step off and let someone else ‘at bat’.
If you have been affected by the issues discussed in this article, you may find the following resources useful ……
Harvard Business Review Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Psychologist Ricard Magnusson about The Imposter Cycle
Psychology Today Leading is a Privilege Not a Right
RSPCA Keeping Rabbits
Frank Clayton on treating people fairly Vive La Difference