Who can you introduce?


Hi. My name is Tom. I’m 53, white, male, tall, straight, middle class, university educated, professionally qualified and a native English speaker from the developed world.

Every single one of those reasons gives me socio-economic privilege, put them together and the relative privilege I have by accident of birth alone is quite staggering.

I also have both conscious and unconscious biases. By the nature of the terms, I can look to take action from aware of my conscious biases, but addressing unconscious bias is more difficult.

Today an idea around a way any of us can look to address unconscious bias in support of others who don’t look like us.

An “unnatural selection” process takes place whenever someone is considered. Considered for what? Virtually anything, from a place at university, a job, a promotion, elected office, even getting served in a pub, offered a seat on the tube, and in business for the person who attention goes to in a meeting.

On that last one, I cannot possibly tell you how many times I have been at a business meeting with a colleague who is one or more of female/non-white/short/young/older and the attention of those meeting us automatically goes to me rather than my colleague, irrespective of which one of us is leading the meeting, more senior / expert etc.

So, I’m aware of my white male privilege, so what?

Well, “FAIR” is a core value to me and whenever someone exhibits bias, whether consciously or unconsciously, it causes a reaction in me. Sometimes I can hide it in the moment, though recently I was at an event where someone made a ghastly remark showing bias and I physically flinched and the person sitting next to me noticed and we talked about it later.

So, again, so what?

This is a huge topic, today I’ll just give one idea.

Introduce someone.

This week I met with an inspiring business leader who is having a huge impact with hundreds and thousands of entrepreneurs in their home country. The thing is, that business leader is young, very young. Even I find myself thinking of them as young.

Starting at high school on the path they are on, they have gained a stunning amount of experience and success in a few years.

I learned a lot from time with this leader.

I also understood and learned more from them about how they have to first get past people’s biases about their youth before they are taken seriously.

From this, and my own awareness of my privilege in terms of social unconscious bias, I made them an offer.

I offered that, any time they want to go into a business or organisation led by people who look more like me than them (and, let’s face it, the world is still run by the “pale, male and stale”), I will go with them as their colleague. Inevitably the room will focus on me (unconscious bias is powerful). I will listen carefully, then, rather than give my own opinions, I will then give a clear, powerful and relevant introduction to my younger colleague and shift the energy and focus of the room to them.

I’ve done this for many people before. It works, it snaps people out of their unconscious biases.

One tip. Make the introduction STRONG. Make it unequivocal, clear, relevant. Unconscious biases are really powerful, so you need a radical introduction to cut through bias. For example, make it clear how brilliant and awesome your colleague is when you introduce them and how you are grateful to be able to work with them and learn from them.

So, two “asks” of you:

  • Be honest with yourself, what is your privilege? then ;
  • Who can you introduce?

Also published on Medium.