Seriously? Am I out of my mind?
Wait. Before you jump to conclusions, and start thinking Donald Sterling, who has certainly made headlines recently for his view on race relations, white men DO belong in diversity discussions.
I presented recently at the Executive Resource & Inclusion Council meeting, and was asked to speak specifically about engaging white men in diversity discussions. Research and my own ideas and experiences led me to several cornerstones of the presentation:
We all function with an “Unconscious Bias”, a term that helps explain how we all make choices that discriminate against one group and favor another, without even realizing it; against our own conscious belief that we are being unbiased.
Additionally, as many stereotypes as we may harbor about non-white males, there are just as many stereotypes of white men. And while I certainly am not suggesting that the stereotypes are as damaging, the truth is that we are all different. Within any one racial, gender or socioeconomic grouping, we need to recognize that stereotypes across the board are harmful to productive conversations.
In truth, white men don’t often participate in diversity conversations because they don’t see themselves as diverse.
Bill Proudman, writing in Profiles in Diversity Journal, states, “Assumptions equate diversity as about everyone other than straight, white men. The result is that many white men think diversity is not about them. Full inclusion cannot occur without full engagement of everyone, including white men”.
The key seems to lie in looking for those areas where we have commonality: beliefs, actions, aspirations. Checking our own assumptions about others is a useful first place to start, whether in the business or the personal realm. Sharing who we are and being able to tell our story can help to dispel myths associated with unconscious bias, create dialog and begin to build meaningful connections.
Including white men in diversity discussions starts with inviting them. In recognizing that we are not all alike, despite pressure to conform.
As a white man, I’d much rather be part of the solution. Moving forward inclusively is in the best interest of us all. Too many talents under-appreciated, too much time wasted already.
Perhaps the most important thing we can do is to reframe the discussion on diversity, bringing everyone to the table and setting aside our unconscious biases about others, as well as the ones we harbor about ourselves.
And if your organization needs help in getting started, my presentation, as well as a number of tools on diversity conversations are available to assist you. Check us out at boxeradvisors.com.
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Boxer Advisors, LLC, is a full-service consulting, training and coaching firm with more than 50 professional consultants, facilitators, and coaches and carefully selected partners providing services to Federal agencies and Fortune 1000 companies since 1996.
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Photo credit: www.uwmaryland.edu
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