Thursday, November 12, 2009

White Men in Workplace: A 'Problem'?

Too many companies' diversity and inclusion efforts treat white men as problems that need to be "fixed," instead of partners who need to be engaged, according to "White Men: Enrolling the Dominant Culture in Diversity and Inclusion," a new report issued by the Network of Executive Women, Consumer Products and Retail Industry.

White males, who hold the vast majority of leadership positions in corporate America, are too often misinformed, misunderstood, underestimated or stereotyped, the report concluded. "Successful diversity and inclusion efforts have real bottom-line advantages for every business person," says Alison Kenney Paul, president of the Network of Executive Women and a principal at Deloitte LLP. "But not enough white men are given the opportunity to both understand their role in diversity as well as participate as partner in the solution. Diversity programs often miss the chance to enroll white men in the process. "

Many white men do not appreciate the hidden advantages granted by their gender and skin color or understand the invisible barriers faced by women and people of color, the report noted. An online survey last August of 635 NEW members and supporters revealed nearly eight in 10 believe white men have an advantage in hiring and promotions in the consumer products and retail industry.

Thirty-seven percent believe white men have a clear advantage, while another 40 percent believe white men have "somewhat" of an advantage. The remaining 23 percent believe "the playing field is level."

Seventy percent of survey respondents, all affiliated with the consumer products and retail industry, were white women. Sixteen percent were nonwhite or Latinas , 12 percent were white males and 1 percent of respondents were nonwhite or Latinos.

Nearly half (45 percent) of NEW survey respondents believe the performance of white men on diversity and inclusion issues in their organization "needs improvement." Nearly as many (42 percent), however, rated white men's performance in this area as "good."

Another 9 percent believe white men's performance in their organization's diversity/inclusion efforts is "excellent," while 4 percent rate their performance as "poor." One way to help white men better identify with their diverse colleagues, the report says, is to educate them about their own diverse characteristics, such as ethnic heritage, age, religion, veteran status and political views. This approach moves their perspective from white/black and male/female and encourages a better understanding of the multicultural and multigenerational workplace. That leads to more open communication, stronger teamwork, more creative solutions to business issues and greater input from diverse perspectives.

Only 5 percent of NEW survey respondents believe the consumer products and retail industry is doing an "excellent" job at implementing diversity and inclusion as a business strategy. More than half (53 percent) believes the industry is doing a "good" job.

Nearly 40 percent, however, said the industry "needs improvement" in regard to diversity and inclusion efforts. Another 2 percent believe the industry's implementation of diversity and inclusion programs is "poor."

(This thoughtful Facebook response to the post from Shawn Tickle: To even mention the kind of privilege enjoyed by Roman Senators in the same discussion as the current position of white men in our society is at best a bad joke; at worst, an insult. Take a careful look at the stats in institutions of higher education some time. Those aged about 50 or 60 are almost all white men; those aged under 50 are almost all... Read More female, minority, or both at the same time. I have seen this phenomenon with my own eyes at several institutions. All of my white, male friends with PhDs are either unemployed or working outside their fields of study. I am lucky; I get to teach college-level English classes to advanced High Schools students. If I had finished my dissertation, I would probably be unemployable myself.”)

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