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Stereotypes: Embrace Them or Deny Them?

Ask the White Guy Luke Visconti

Question:
Suppose someone possesses some of the stereotypes that are attached to their race, gender, orientation, ability and/or age. Do you think this person should embrace or deny these qualities, especially regarding perpetuating stereotypes and advancing in careers?

Answer:
Stereotypes are used to fit people into limitations comprehensible to the majority culture. Small-minded people cling to them as a means to make the large world digestible to their limited perspective. Even stereotypes that might seem somewhat positive—the “studious Asian,” for example—end up being self limiting: “studious but not leadership material.”

If you’re in an environment where the leadership embraces stereotypes, playing into that will only lead you down a cul-de-sac. If you have the means to leave, I suggest you do so—even if you’re a straight, able-bodied white man. Retro environments bring retro results.

If you’re in a progressive environment, playing into a stereotype is probably not going to mesh well with what the leadership is trying to accomplish.

My feeling is that people should embrace culture and celebrate differences. That is based on respect and appropriate treatment..

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.

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