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Why White Men Must Attend Diversity Training

Diversity training's purpose is to help people develop relationships to people who are not like them. So why should chief executives demand support for diversity training especially from those who may think it doesn't apply to them? The White Guy explains.

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.


Question:

I have just been invited to (my company's) first ever Diversity & Inclusion meeting and training pilot tomorrow morning. It will be a 4 hour session managed by an external training vendor. Attending will be several "diverse" and female senior managers in addition to a few HR managers.

Can you give me a couple of bullets on what should be included in a standard session and how is a successful rollout managed? Given that this [is] a first for (my company) I am hoping it is well received and receives C-level support.

Answer:

In my opinion, diversity training that is not immediately tied back to profitability and the business case is doomed to marginalization and/or failure.

Please read this: How Effective Diversity Management Drives Profit

Please read this too: Why Do Diversity-Management Departments Need Budget?

Am I correct in understanding that your diversity training is only targeted for non-white people? If so, white men should be included by mandate (not by voluntary action).

Ultimately, diversity training should help people develop relationships to people who are not like them. This is tied to economics. In 1951, the average bank (for example) could afford to discriminate against everyone but white men because the labor force was segregated and white men had all the high-paying jobs. In 1951, women had the right to vote for only 31 years. "Gay? Good for you, I'm happy too." You get the point.

Today, the average bank cannot afford to redline anyone from their business operations; without even discussing programs mandated by the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, the economy has expanded to the point where our workforce will be 70 percent women and/or Black and Latino by 2016, household income for Black, Asian and Latino households is rising at twice the rate of white households (and has been since 1990), more people with ADA-defined disabilities have college degrees than people without ADA-defined disabilities, white people will be less than 50 percent of our population by 2043, and now that DADT has ended and DOMA is no longer being defended by the president, gay marriage and equal rights are right around the corner.

You shouldn't be "hoping" for C-level support. Any CEO with his/her head out of the sand will be demanding support for diversity-management excellence. Why?

A person's ability to build equitable relationships is directly relevant to their effectiveness in business.

If you think about it, white men are the LEAST likely to have trusting business relationships with people other than white men. Think about this carefully: A Black woman executive (for example) will HAVE to have built trusting business relationships with many white men to be promoted. The reciprocal is simply not true for the majority of white men; almost every single white man at the top of a Fortune 500 company got there without having to have a trusting, deep business relationship with anyone other than white men (they may have chosen to do otherwise, but it wasn't necessary to get where they are in the overwhelming majority of companies).

If you consider the rapidly moving marketplace and the condition of white men and their interpersonal relationship experience, the inevitable conclusion is that diversity training MUST involve everyone in the company-especially white men.

I also think language around diversity should be very carefully phrased. Does your company's CEO have a "vision" for profitability? Does the bearing assembly in the main shaft of a jet engine have an "aspirational" diameter? Does the vice president of sales task her/his salespeople with an "ideal" for a sales goal? Not in any business that's successful.

Diversity management must be discussed in the same precise terms as any other important business process.

Finally: Please do not use "diverse" as a euphemism for everyone but white, Christian, heterosexual men with no ADA-defined disabilities. If you do, you send the signal that they are "normal" and everyone else needs "help."

If you've read this far and are not bored to tears with me yet, please read this: Why Do 'Differences' Matter?

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