Benevolent Prejudice - Definition and Explanation

Benevolent Prejudice – Definition and Explanation

Benevolent Prejudice


Benevolent prejudice refers to attitudes or beliefs that appear positive or well-intentioned towards certain groups but still perpetuate stereotypes and inequalities. Unlike overt forms of prejudice, such as explicit discrimination, benevolent prejudice is subtle and often disguised as goodwill or positive bias. This type of prejudice may stem from paternalistic or patronising attitudes towards marginalised groups.

Exploring Benevolent Prejudice in DEI:

In the realm of DEI, benevolent prejudice can manifest in various ways, hindering genuine progress towards inclusivity:

  1. Stereotyping: While seemingly positive, benevolent prejudice reinforces stereotypes about certain groups, such as assuming that individuals from underrepresented communities are inherently less capable or in need of special assistance.
  2. Tokenism: Employing tokenism as a diversity strategy can reflect benevolent prejudice. Placing individuals from marginalised backgrounds in positions solely to fulfill diversity quotas without providing meaningful support or opportunities for advancement perpetuates the notion that their inclusion is merely a token gesture.
  3. Microaggressions: Well-meaning comments or actions can still carry undertones of benevolent prejudice. For instance, complimenting a person of colour on their English proficiency implies surprise or low expectations based on racial stereotypes.


Consider a scenario in a workplace where a female employee is consistently assigned administrative tasks or sidelined during important meetings under the guise of protecting her from stressful situations. Despite intentions to shield her, such actions reinforce gender stereotypes and hinder her professional growth. This exemplifies how benevolent prejudice can manifest within organisational dynamics, perpetuating inequalities despite ostensibly positive intentions.

Addressing Benevolent Prejudice in DEI Efforts

To combat benevolent prejudice effectively, organisations must adopt proactive measures:

  1. Education and Awareness: Foster understanding among employees about the subtleties of benevolent prejudice through workshops, training sessions, and open dialogue.
  2. Policy Review: Evaluate existing policies and practices to identify areas where benevolent prejudice may be inadvertently perpetuated and implement changes to promote fairness and inclusivity.
  3. Empowerment and Support: Provide marginalised groups with meaningful opportunities for growth, advancement, and leadership roles to combat tokenism and paternalistic attitudes.

By recognising and addressing benevolent prejudice within DEI initiatives, organisations can foster truly inclusive environments where all individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered to thrive.


Benevolent prejudice poses a significant challenge in achieving genuine diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through awareness, education, and proactive measures, organisations can dismantle these subtle yet insidious barriers, creating workplaces where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.


Werhun, C. D., & Penner, A. J. (2010). The effects of stereotyping and implicit theory on benevolent prejudice toward Aboriginal Canadians. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40(4), 899-916.

Ramasubramanian, S., & Oliver, M. B. (2007). Activating and suppressing hostile and benevolent racism: Evidence for comparative media stereotyping. Media psychology, 9(3), 623-646.

Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2001). Ambivalent stereotypes as legitimizing ideologies: Differentiating paternalistic and envious prejudice. The psychology of legitimacy: Emerging perspectives on ideology, justice, and intergroup relations, 278-306.


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