Diversity and Inclusion – does it divide us or unify us?

As a diversity and career development consultant since forming my business in 2010 after retiring from IBM, I have been publishing 2-4 blogs each month, many of them about a wide range of diversity topics.
• I have discussed that racism still does indeed exist in “Facing the Truth – Racism Stills Persists in the USA.”
• I offered some hard-hitting solutions to addressing gender discrimination and sexual harassment in “Five Provocative Recommendations to Address Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.”
• I had assistance from members of diverse communities to assist with blogs addressing negative stereotypes of Muslims and Hispanics in our country. The blog Five Common Misconceptions of Muslims in the USA introduces the Muslim topic and has links to additional blogs. And then also look up Seven Misconceptions or Stereotypes of Hispanic People.
• The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Community continues to be misunderstood and maligned by a huge number of Americans, including legislators, and I have written extensively on this topic.

And there are many other areas of diversity that grab our attention: Veterans, People with Disabilities, Diversity of Thought, and even straight white men are part of our diversity mix that adds valuable perspectives and variety.

But what concerns me are the negative comments and misunderstandings about diversity and inclusion. Last week, I wrote “Economic Diversity and a Sad Tale of Misused Privilege,” addressing the recent scandal that hit the news about affluent Americans using wealth to cheat and bribe their children’s admissions into top colleges they may not qualify for. I normally promote each blog on my business Facebook page, and invariably, several people will post negative reactions, often decrying diversity.

This blog was no exception. One reader wrote, “We need to dump all this “diversity” horse crap, it’s not working and only creates more strife. Focus on unity instead, what do we have in common? You should also quit whining about “privilege”. Life is what it is, and crying because someone else has it easier won’t change a damn thing. Do what you can with what you’ve got and you will be much more content with your life.”

At least he did not call me names, bully me and use four or five expletives like many people do. But I felt compelled to reply.

Appreciating each person’s diversity shouldn’t divide us … it unifies us and makes us stronger!

Like many, he misunderstands the value and intent of diversity and inclusion. Focusing on diversity is not meant to divide us, but instead to raise the awareness that every single person is unique and different, and brings value to our society. Embracing differing views, ways of thinking, creativity and talents will build a stronger, richer entity; whether it be our country, community, or business. Learning to understand the challenges various people face and assisting everyone in overcoming these challenges will make everyone stronger. I shared with this reader one of IBM’s diversity taglines, “None of us is as a strong as all of us.”

I do hope that everyone can stop, take a breath, and open their hearts and minds to understanding that appreciating and leveraging the diversity of each person will enhance our lives as individuals, as communities, as nations, and indeed as all humanity. The diversity and inclusion discussion is not a “we vs. them” but an “all of us together” discussion.

Peace, Shalom, Namaste!

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.”