WHY WE CALL OURSELVES WHITE MEN AS FULL DIVERSITY PARTNERS

In many organizations today, the role of white men in diversity and inclusion efforts often goes unexamined. This is a serious missed opportunity with consequences that can disrupt or derail well-intentioned diversity initiatives.

We believe that an effective diversity and inclusion effort that leverages what every individual has to offer must include white male leaders for the unique perspectives they offer, and because of the influence they hold in an organization.

When the subject is race, the focus is almost always on the experiences of people of color. When the issue of gender enters the picture, the focus is on women. Sexual orientation almost always focuses on what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. One unintentional result of this standard framing is that the dominant group (the group that has largely sets the “way things are”) goes unexamined, which avoids focus on what it means to be white, male, and heterosexual.

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This mindset can create tension, misunderstanding and, more important, backlash that can result in resentment, ineffective work partnerships, and an environment where diversity is disparaged, rather than leveraged. It also belies the main point of any diversity effort, which is to recognize, respect and fully leverage the differences that each individual brings while finding alignment with the similarities.

Our mission is to inspire leaders (especially, white men) to examine their mindsets and assumptions, in order to shift behaviors that create sustainable and inclusive work cultures, which in turn drives business results. When the dominant group realizes they have self-interest in diversity work, they see how inclusion benefits everyone, including the organization.

NEGATIVE NOTIONS IRREVOCABLY TIED TO A TROUBLING PAST

We choose to call out the term white men—in our name and in our work— because it’s about inviting white men to step out of shadows of the past. Their participation gets them involved in shedding light on their cultural blind spots, and positions them in the critical role of, first, educating and engaging their white male colleagues; then reframes critical partnerships across white women, people of color, and those of other differences.

For decades, corporate diversity and inclusion efforts have disproportionally focused and relied on historically marginalized groups—white women, people of color or visible minorities, and LGBT folks—to carry the burden of driving diversity and inclusion discussions. It is ironic that diversity work has focused on the needs of every group while ignoring white men, arguably, the most influential group in affecting transformation in the workplace.

The net effect is many white men do not see how D&I efforts are about them and their group. This suggests to white men that their efforts are not only, not about them, but that they have everything to lose from the gain of others.

We believe that excluding white men from diversity conversations is not a sustainable proposition because it breeds apathy in white men; frustration, fatigue for women and people of color; and for all, contributes to more of the status quo.

ENGAGING WHITE MALE LEADERS CREATES ENHANCED PARTNERSHIPS WITH WHITE WOMEN AND PEOPLE OF COLOR

When we engage white male leaders it frees up white women, people of color and those of different nationalities from the fatiguing work of helping and coaching white men to understand their world, and that of others. This then helps white women and people of color examine and then shift their own mindsets while building skill.

The challenge global companies face related to employee engagement, morale and representation is not simple fix-it. It is infinitely more complex and involves managing a vast array of dynamics to help people first believe in themselves, and then work efficiently across the complexity of humanity coming together­­ in global organizations unlike any we could have imagined only thirty years ago.