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Oil Companies, White Women and Diversity

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Ask the White Guy Luke ViscontiQuestion:

I see there are no oil companies on your Top 50 list, not that I expected there to be. I work for an oil company; the leaders talk about diversity and we have many diversity groups; we even have a diversity council. However, I’ve worked here for some time and I hear the talk but I don’t see any action behind it. The diversity groups are powerless to do anything other than sponsor and facilitate diversity functions. When my company’s leaders talk about diversity and want to give numbers or statistics, they talk about how many women they’ve promoted into management/executive positions mind you, these are white women. What are your thoughts on companies that proclaim diversity based on their hiring and promoting of white women, despite the fact that the numbers for other groups in these positions are low or nonexistent?

 

P.S. Please do not print my name. Individuals in my company subscribe to DiversityInc and would recognize me. The repercussions would not be favorable for my career. 

 

Answer:

There has not been an oil company on any of The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity lists, including the 25 Noteworthy Companies, since 2004.

 

I travel to many diversity events each year, am a trustee of Bennett College for Women (an HBCU) and Rutgers University, am on the foundation board of New Jersey City University (an HSI) and am on boards of several other diversity-related organizations and I almost never see oil-company participation.

 

With record-breaking multibillion-dollar quarterly profits, their absence is quite noticeable, and as the price of gas goes up, it’s irritating as well.

 

Concerning the rest of your e-mail (about white women), there is a reason why you’re seeing that behavior in your workplace: In my opinion, the overwhelming majority of white-male executives have never developed a relationship of trust with a person of color. I also think that most white-male executives have not trusted a woman in business. However, since most white-male executives have mothers who are white, and most white-male executives are married to white women, the first people white men extend trust to is white women. That “trust” is conditional and isn’t as strong as trust relationships with other white men: The gender-pay gap and glass ceiling are well documented.

 

So, for the executives in your company, where promoting a woman is a noteworthy and unusual accomplishment, it’s understandable that it would be accompanied by a lot of hearty self-congratulations (“Hooray, we joined the 1980s!”). Without proper diversity management, they not only don’t see but also wouldn’t understand the annoyance and frustration this causes among those not in the majority. Hopefully, you won’t be called “articulate” and “clean.”

 

My hunch is that the oil industry may come to the table soon. We’ve begun hearing concern from technology/engineering firms that retention for professional, young white-male employees is not as good as baby boomers used to be when they were the same age. This is because recent white-male college graduates were raised in an era of plurality (women’s rights, gay rights, the post civil-rights-era education environment) and they value the inclusive environment that proper diversity management brings to the table for all human beings, including them.

 

When they don’t find that environment, they move on.

 

Speaking of “moving on,” you may want to look at our career center. Unlike mainstream job boards, which have a diversity page overlaid on their general job postings, our job postings are from companies specifically looking for people who appreciate diversity.

 

Your company doesn’t post jobs on our site. Surprised?

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