The New York magazine put out an article about nepo-babies, basically people that have benefited from nepotism.  The article was centered around Hollywood but I thought I would pull it into the corporate world.  

Now, I wouldn’t doubt that the article was somewhat intended to be a shaming highlight on how unfair that industry is and why certain people are successful.  I am not a fan of shaming. And a frequent result of being shamed is defensiveness.  But the responses thus far continue to add to the problem not really discuss it.  Let’s look at a few examples:

  • “You had access because of your parents.”  This statement doesn’t speak to anything regarding your talents, ethics, etc.  
  • “You had visibility and doors opened.” This statement doesn’t speak to anything regarding your talents, ethics, etc.  
  • “You are a nepo-baby”.  This statement doesn’t speak to anything regarding your talents, ethics, etc.  

And yet, so many respond defensively highlighting their talent, ethics, challenges, etc.  And these statements do not say nepo babies have no struggles or even different struggles because of their connections.  I don’t like the idea of shaming anything.  I really don’t like the idea of shaming people receiving help.   Public shaming (or what feels like shaming) does lead to defensiveness.  But defensiveness only further creates a disconnect to the real topic at hand (not to mention the additional harm done often in the responses). 

Most families hope for being able to give their children a leg up in this world. I certainly do.  Heck, if one of my children wants to go into the computer software industry, I would absolutely use my connections and access to open doors.  Without hesitation.   

AND I would also want my children to recognize this privilege. Yes, their hard work will carry them forward to success or failure.  But they absolutely had a head start because of me. I would want them to recognize and respect that truth.  Not for gratitude towards me but for the realities of why inequalities are very present in any workplace.  To recognize that there are some nepo-babies that are not hard-working, etc, and yet are continued to be lifted up solely based on their parents is extremely frustrating for others.  To recognize that access and visibility give a huge head start for people.  To recognize that not recognizing this privilege typically results in microaggressions toward others. 

But if these statements were said to my children (after I helped), I would want them not focused on defending themselves.  Their actions should speak to their talents, ethics, etc and they very well may have extra expectations because of me (this is the cost of the privilege).   I would want them to acknowledge this reality and help to create a world where others are getting help too.  I want them to be humble, aware, and respectful of the realities of this world. And, even more, I want them focused on a commitment to pay forward opening doors for helping others (not just family).  I would want them to continue to forge their own names and results and this might be difficult…but I know they could do it.    

These statements are not a judgment on a person, they are truths (if a parent did help).  Pointing out inequity or privilege doesn’t mean losing something or there are no struggles – it can mean an opportunity in the bigger picture.  The question is what are you doing with this privilege?  

How can you help open more doors for people?

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick is a leadership and organizational advisor. Her transformational leadership at all levels of an organization, ignites growth of leaders and high performing teams to deliver quality outcomes. Tricia has more than twenty years of experience in the software development industry. She is a highly-rated trainer, coach, facilitator and motivational keynote speaker. Beyond her extensive knowledge and skills, her biggest offering is inspiring people to believe anything is possible.

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