I grew up subscribing to the ideals of meritocracy.
I was born in Singapore, a tiny island-city-state founded on the principle that if you work hard, your gender, skin color, and socioeconomic status won’t matter.
I worked hard all through school, attended a top university in London, and then went to the world’s most recognized graduate school for a master’s in journalism.
Frankly, I had a naive view of the world: if you work hard and are smart enough, you could overcome any chips that are stacked against you.
Then I entered the workforce.
More than ever before, I saw gender and racial bias in full form — not cloaked in any way. It was particularly egregious in the technology industry. To give just one example: a leader’s entry-level, all-white millennial, female team was referred to as his “harem.” 🤢
I had no idea when I entered the workforce that I would be discriminated against. I now recognize my naiveté as part of my privilege as an Asian woman — few Black, Indigenous and Latinx women I’ve spoken to in the United States harbored the same delusions.
My own views on meritocracy and privilege changed dramatically after my experiences. This mindshift is why I wrote Inclusion on Purpose.
And when I read this story from reader and fellow Singaporean Dayla S., my heart soared. We do not know each other, by the way.
THIS is why my work — and the work of the women of color whose stories are in my book, the work of so many DEI leaders before and with us — matters.
It matters because we can and do change.
I share Dayla’s and my stories here because we can all learn and grow. No matter your background, the time you grew up in, or your own personal experience, you can learn to identify bias and privilege and work to undo it. Whether you have experienced it personally or not.
You can learn to see meritocracy for the facade that it is, and dismantle it through your actions.
I am not exaggerating.
Dayla, thank you so much for your openness, candour, and vulnerability in sharing your personal journey and realizations. I am so moved that Inclusion on Purpose is part of your learning and growth. Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing!
What’s an experience you’ve had that shifted your perception of privilege, bias, or meritocracy? (It doesn’t have to be my book! I’m not fishing for compliments 😉. In fact, I’d love to hear what’s opened your mind so I can add them to my read/watch/listen list.)