We are often taught to see prejudice only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on the privileged groups. So one of the great privileges many of us have is to be oblivious to our own condition of privilege.
If you visited one of our offices in Brazil in the last two months, you would have had a chance to change this status by learning, discussing and sharing the 47 items of the "Male Privilege Checklist", which was posted prominently on our walls.
At ThoughtWorks, we advocate passionately for social and economic justice and we seek to be always aware of our own privilege, striving to see the world from the perspective of the oppressed, the powerless and the invisible. As a technology organization, we recognise the gender imbalance in our industry and commit to make amends.
This simple deed was not a single act, but one of the many initiatives of our Brazil Gender Justice Group, a ThoughtWorks group that promotes justice in an attempt to make the technology industry better for all.
The idea of displaying the list came up on one of our weekly meetings when we were discussing ways to get more people engaged on removing stereotype barriers and empowering women. One of the points brought up was that some people didn't feel like helping because they were unaware of the daily fights one is engaged in by just being born a female. We thought that it would be important to show that some of the privileges are not only invisible to most men but could be also unintentionally perpetuated by just not being discussed.
Starting at the end of May, every day a new item of the Male Privilege Checklist was added to the walls of our Porto Alegre, Recife and São Paulo offices.
Done in a nice template and posted in high traffic areas, the posters sparked interesting conversations, contributing to an increasing awareness and more understanding to the need of gender justice.
When #4 was posted, which reads: "If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a negative mark against my entire sex’s capabilities" - we talked about the news of a female football referee’s mistake caused the local news to discuss the role of women in sport.
The day we posted #12, which points out that "If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home” - we started talking about bringing to Brazil the concept of daycare at work that we have in one of our offices in India.
And we added #14 reminding us that: "My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true." We celebrated the fact that we have a female president in our country now, but also started to discuss how to get more women in leadership positions within our company.
A couple of weeks ago, when the final and 47th item was posted to the wall, the privilege of being unaware of the privilege of being a man was no longer an option for our colleagues and visitors.
You can join us on our fight for gender justice by downloading this list (we translated it to Portuguese) and posting in your community and/or creating your own version of the original in English.
We would love to hear your feedback and ideas on how we can keep working to empower women and advance social justice by creating a society with no gender privilege!