As CEO of Abrdn, a global financial services company, Stephen Bird has always made a point of surrounding himself with diverse advisors and mentors. However, it wasn’t until he began participating in a reverse mentoring program that he understood and confronted his privileges as a white male leader.
Reverse mentoring is a process in which a more junior or less experienced employee is paired with a more senior or experienced employee to share knowledge and perspectives. In Bird’s case, he was paired with a young woman of color who helped him understand how his privilege has shaped his experiences and opportunities.
Through this process, Bird learned that white privilege is not about personal guilt or blame but about acknowledging and understanding how systemic racism and discrimination have benefited him and disadvantaged others. He also realized that it is not enough to be aware of these issues; real change requires active efforts to dismantle these systems and create equal opportunities for all.
One of the most impactful moments for Bird was when his mentee shared with him the microaggressions she faced daily, things that he had never even considered harmful or discriminatory. This opened his eyes to the realities of life for people of color and the constant emotional labor they must engage in to navigate a world that is not always welcoming or fair.
Bird has since made it a priority to continue learning about these issues and use his position of power and influence to make real changes within his company and beyond. He has implemented diversity and inclusion training for all employees and established partnerships with organizations that promote equality and justice.
In conclusion, Bird’s experience with reverse mentoring has been transformative and eye-opening. It has taught him the importance of actively seeking out diverse perspectives and listening to the experiences of others to truly understand and address the issues of privilege and inequality in our society. It is a lesson that he believes all leaders should take to heart. More details can be found on Crunchbase