It’s all about perspective

How a conversation with her daughter changed Billie Tan’s view on privilege
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Last month, Charlene Thomas, UPS’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, shared her book recommendation, No Ceiling, No Walls by Susan Colantuono.

But Billie Tan, president of international sales and customer solutions, admits she’s not much of a book person. Instead, she recommends meaningful conversations – in the workplace and at home.

“I learn differently. I learn by listening. I learn by watching. I learn by talking to people,” she said.

This month, Billie shares a meaningful conversation she recently had with her 23-year-old daughter that taught her something about her own privilege:

We were talking about diversity and inclusion and all the things going on in the U.S. right now.

She said, ‘Hey, Mom, do you realize that we were privileged in Asia? Especially in Singapore. And having that privilege means it's at someone else's expense.’

That kind of struck me. I was like, wow, I never thought of it that way. I’m here in the minority listening to the news and getting upset and angry, but I didn't realize that when I was back home I was part of the privileged group.

I lived in Asia all my life until I came to the U.S. two years ago. For 50 years of my life, I never realized that I was really the majority, and I had privilege simply because of that. That was the way of life I grew up with. And I would say I took things for granted.

Each of us has an identity that shapes how we see ourselves and others.

Understanding and engaging in self-reflection and discussions about privilege is an essential step to addressing systemic inequities in our society. The focus should be to use our privileged positions to challenge the systems in which we live.

The world is not an equal place, and people are suffering. This has become a very intentional topic. People are talking about it now, which is good.

Throughout Billie’s 25-year UPS tenure, she’s built teams where UPSers can work, learn and grow together, whether in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore or the U.S. 

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