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The WSJ Gets It Wrong: White Men Don’t Legitimize 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 am interested in your thoughts about the following article provided to me by a colleague: “Diversity Programs Look To Involve White Males As Leaders”

“Diversity programs abound at companies across the country, but something new is happening in an effort to get the programs off the sidelines and into the mainstream. More and more companies are turning to white men to champion diversity efforts. Having a white male in charge of diversity efforts lends legitimacy to the effort and brings other white males on board. It is also helpful if the white male in charge is from operations rather than human resources. PricewaterhouseCoopers, Georgia Power and Coca-Cola are three companies that have enlisted white males to manage their diversity efforts.” (The Wall Street Journal, 07-May-2007, Central ed., p. B4)

Answer:
I don’t think that “more and more companies are turning to white men to champion diversity efforts” nor do I think that a “white male in charge lends legitimacy to the effort.”

Pasting a white male head on a program that isn’t respected doesn’t change anything. In my opinion, a company cannot “lend legitimacy” to a diversity-management effort unless there is strong, visible, consistent and heart-felt support from the CEO—along with the CEO holding his/her people accountable and having formalized communication channels, metrics and personal involvement.

Our DiversityInc Top 50 Stock Index documents that diversity management has business legitimacy that transcends human resources as well as the race/culture/gender/orientation/disability or age of the executive leading the program. Over the past three years, we’ve seen an increasing trend toward diversity management being considered a line-management position. However, an organizational-development background is logical for any diversity executive, and we see many very effective diversity executives who report to the senior HR executive.

I’m glad The Wall Street Journal reporter didn’t go as far as to say that Steve or Frank (the long-term white CDOs of and Georgia Power and Coca-Cola) are “articulate” and “clean,” although that would have nudged this article from poorly conceived to comedic.

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