Posts Tagged ‘white men’

Diversity Councils and Employee Resource Groups – Not “either / or,” but “both / and”

Blog author Stan Kimer enjoys facilitating the Employee Resource Groups and Diversity Councils best practices sessions at the National Diversity Council’s DiversityFIRST certification classes.

This past July, the large global public accounting firm Deloitte caused quite a stir in diversity circles when its chairman shared that it was going to disband its employee affinity groups (often call employee resource groups – ERGs or business resource groups) and replace them with inclusions councils. The logic is that the inclusion councils can still focus on underrepresented groups but also involve many more white men in the diversity and inclusion discussion. (Link to an article about this announcement from Diversity Inc.)

A few weeks after Deloitte’s announcement, Erika Irish Brown, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Bloomberg LP wrote a rebuttal titled “Why employee resource groups still matter” (LINK). Ms. Brown shared that their ERGs add significant value to their business and focus on Bloomberg’s five key pillars of commercial impact, recruiting, leadership development, marketing and communications, and community engagement.

I myself now serve on the faculty of the National Diversity Council’s DiversityFIRST Certification Class and two of the modules I facilitate are Best Practices in Employee Resource Groups and Best Practices in Diversity Councils. I have now added a discussion about Deloitte’s recent actions to the class.

I strongly believe that diversity councils and ERGs are complementary, and both structures can co-exist and work together. It does not have to be one or the other. Here are 5 reasons why both structures are needed and should co-exist.

1) Diversity Councils are management sponsored and led with supporting the corporate business goals through diversity and inclusion as it main objective. ERGs are employee led, and though ERGs very often support the business, the primary impetus is addressing the workplace needs of the various diverse constituencies.

2) There are still many issues around underrepresented groups within American business, and so a focus and “safe space” for diverse communities to discuss their issues and collaborate to grow professionally are really needed.

ERGs can very effectively represent companies at constituency events like “OutRaleigh!” where I celebrated my 60th birthday.

3) You do not need to dissolve ERGs and form new inclusion councils if the goal is to increase involvement of white men. One best practice is to have a Men’s ERG so everyone is included in the ERGs structure. And white male leaders can be advocates, advisors, mentors and executive sponsors of the ERGs. (See my past blog from 2016 “Diversity and Straight White Men – 4 Key Thoughts.”)

4) ERGs are still a very effective may to connect a business with diverse community outreach and philanthropic activities and constituency markets.

5) Structured properly, ERGs and Diversity Councils can cross-pollinate and work closely to assure their goals and activities are aligned.

Often leaders make errors in trying to replace one structure or solution with another when actually the two co-exist and support each other. And so it is with Diversity Councils and Employee Resource Groups.

Diversity and Straight White Men – 4 Key Thoughts

This groups certainly does not look very diverse and is not indicative of today's diverse business environment.

This groups certainly does not look very diverse and is not indicative of today’s diverse business environment.

Diversity and Straight White Men – this topic indeed does deserve some discussion. How do straight white men fit into the diversity and inclusion discussion?

So often straight white men may feel left out or marginalized in diversity and inclusion discussions. Some may even feel that they are be targeted as “the diversity problem” or feel under appreciated or even discriminated against. I would like to offer 4 points for consideration, and have added links to two related online articles at the end.

1. You are diverse as a straight white man! Every single person in an organization is diverse and unique, and brings their own special mix of background and experience to the table. Though some people may view straight white men as a monolithic group, there is a huge mix of diversity including age, marital / family status, education, thought processes,economic upbringing, etc.

2. Accept your privilege. White men (and I am one of them) need to realize that we have been in control of most of the organizational leadership and processes in the US. It has been easier for us to progress into senior leadership within a system with the incumbent leadership looking like us. We now need to accept that with a wider pool of diverse candidates now getting their fair shot at leadership, we truly must be the best qualified to deserve that next promotion.

3. Realize that straight white men face their own diversity challenges. For example, as both parents are now take a stronger role in raising families, some managers may still excuse a woman when she needs to leave work early to pick up a sick child at school, but look down at a man with the same request as “less than” and questioning why his wife does not pick up the child. And there are also single fathers, men with responsibility for aging parents, etc., that need strong work-life balance practices without feeling that they are somehow “less manly.”

A white male business leader can be an active diversity ally by mentoring a diverse set of employees.

A white male business leader can be an active diversity ally by mentoring a diverse set of employees.

4. Be a strong active diversity ally. We need to reject any thoughts or discussion that white men are the cause of diversity issues. Instead, we can take the lead and be a major ally to promote diversity and inclusion as a critical strategic initiative within our organizations. We can mentor diverse candidates and help insure they have full access to the tools to help them get head and contribute their maximum to the organization. And we can network among our own peers and speak passionately about the value of diversity.

Yes, I know many people may disagree or not even like this blog, but dialogue on diversity items like this are important. In fact, here are two more in depth articles you can read on this subject, I may not agree with them and instead make my above 4 points, but it is always good to consider all aspects of a complex discussion:

I thank my business partner Marie-Louise Murville of Delight Me for sending me the Washington Post article, “Workplace diversity policies don’t help – and make white men feel threatened.”

And one I found via LinkedIn, “Diversity Talk Makes White Men Anxious, and Other Reasons Diversity Programs Fail.”

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