Historically, many diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in organizations have focused on everyone except white men. When the topic is race, the focus is on people of color. When the topic is gender, the focus is usually on women. When the topic is sexual orientation, the focus is on the gay, lesbian and bisexual population. One unintentional impact of this framing is that the diversity dimensions of heterosexual, white and male go unexamined. This dynamic has several strong implications for organizations:
- Heterosexual white men don’t think diversity and inclusion is about them. Diversity is about “those people and their issues.” The result is that many organizations struggle to engage white men in their organizational diversity efforts.
- White men don’t see what their self-interest is in diversity. What do they have to gain? They often think diversity work is about white men losing and others winning. They develop a negative attitude about diversity and remain suspicious of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
- Since there is no examination of what it means to be heterosexual, white and male, there is relatively little insight into how their experience is different from that of white women, people of color, and other groups. The result is often resistance to hearing, understanding or validating the experiences of others who are different. White women and people of color often feel misunderstood or invalidated, i.e. “you just don’t get it.” Parallel to that is the assumption that all white men are the same (which of course they are not).
WMFDP breaks out of the traditional way that diversity and inclusion issues are addressed—relying on women and men of color or white women. When you have organizations that are 70-80% white men, that approach is unsustainable and can lead to burnout for our colleagues across difference. WMFDP provides a missing link, bringing to organizations a focus on white men that complements traditional diversity work. When diversity really does include all people, then everyone can contribute to creating an organization that brings out the best in everyone (including white men) and thrives in its business ventures.