One barrier that companies continue to face when trying to implement diversity and inclusion initiatives is engaging white men in the effort.
More than one-third (35 percent) of the 1,000 U.S. full-time employees responding to a 2017 Ernst & Young survey said the increased focus on diversity in the workplace has overlooked white men. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of the men surveyed said they felt personally excluded in the workplace (compared to 41 percent of women.) The most cited reasons these men and women felt excluded were gender (38 percent) and ethnicity (38 percent).
What can be done to foster an environment where white men embrace diversity?
1. Foster dialogue that is honest, frank and straightforward and gets at the underlying role each employee may play in perpetuating stereotypes and discrimination. White men need to listen to the concerns of women and colleagues of color and should digest the information without trying to respond, defend or deflect. It is also crucial that D&I training educate, but not alienate, white men. The White Men’s Leadership Study by Greatheart Leadership Labs found that conflict is inevitable when implementing D&I initiatives, so organizations should prepare themselves for some level of resistance. If resistance is to be overcome, these candid and honest conversations must continue.
2. Share data and research regarding D&I initiatives and their potential impact to eliminate any confusion about their value. Using quantifiable measures that assess D&I success is necessary to reduce uncertainty regarding the initiatives’ purpose.
3. Make clear why D&I efforts help men advance their careers. Management — in particular white male management — may not be able to see the value in championing D&I if they do not recognize the direct payoff in their jobs. To see results, organizational diversity goals should be linked to pay and promotion, with other rewards integrated to commend those who achieve these goals.
4. Provide opportunities for employees to develop relationships and bond white men and women and employees of color. A white man who has a work confidante that is a person of color is much more likely to mentor, promote and sponsor employees of color. Providing a plethora of events for employee bonding and developing interpersonal relationships can also reduce employee turnover.
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