Ask the White Guy: Work for Companies That Get It

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on 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.


I was at the NSHMBA Breakfast meeting in Birmingham, Mich., on June 12 wherein you mentioned (or at least I took it that way) that if a person had a job offer from two companies, one with a diversity program (i.e., a company that “gets it”) and one without (i.e., one that does not yet “get it”), based on the concept of not being a “free professor,” that such person should go with the company that has the program.

While I know that we shouldn’t have to be “free professors” on the issues of diversity, the two questions I have are this: Doesn’t somebody have to be the first, and what are your thoughts on working for change from the “inside” (i.e., getting hired into the company that doesn’t get it and working to get change from the inside) as opposed to from the “outside” I don’t necessarily disagree with you, though I don’t fully agree either … just curious as to your thoughts on this.


That’s an accurate paraphrase of what I said.

I will temper my response to your question by recognizing that people have factors in their lives that limit their job choices, such as childcare, eldercare, partner job choices, mobility issues and economic limitations.

However, in my opinion, if you have a choice, all people (including white men) should take a job at the company that has a robust diversity-management effort over one that does not.

You’re right, somebody has to be first to get a diversity-management program going in a company that does not have one. However, it’s 2007, so it if the CEO isn’t taking that responsibility, you have to ask why.

Diversity management encompasses a number of business factors that are so significant that a CEO who has not seen the light on this subject is just as obtuse as one who refuses to use e-mail.

1. In general, companies with a robust diversity-management program outperform companies that do not have one.

We have an open competition once a year (which is not connected in any way to business conducted with this company) to determine companies with the most effective diversity management: The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity. Top 50 companies are very unusual; for example, they average 24 percent people of color in management, while the national average is only 15 percent people of color in management, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We convert the Top 50 list into a stock index and our index outperforms the Nasdaq, Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 on a long- and short-term basis.

2. The rate of change of global business is accelerating. The smart money is already there: According to Barron’s, 88 percent of mutual-fund inflows from this country went to international funds. The growth of BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are outpacing our economy at the same time the growth rate of our labor force is dropping like a stone as the baby boomers retire.

When people achieve economic power, they can command respect. People who are not subjugated are not interested in melting into a pot. Diversity management is the process by which companies can successfully relate to people (employees, customers, investors and suppliers) on a pluralistic basis. If a company cannot relate to people as they are, their product and service will be reduced to a commodity by customers who reciprocate their lack of concern and respect.

The second part of your question involves changing a company from within. If you find yourself with limited job-change options in a company that does not have a diversity-management program, I suggest you stick to communicating facts and figures. DiversityInc is a good source of information written for a line-management audience. However, I would not advise someone to take a job at a recalcitrant company with the intention of “changing them.” Leave that to the consultants who are paid to take on the challenge.

Keep in mind that our career center has more than 30,000 jobs put there by companies that value diversity and want you to work for them. We are the largest dedicated diversity job board. Outside of the career center, you’ll notice that our web site and magazine’s advertising is almost 100 percent recruitment ads. They’re put there by companies that value diversity. Think about it: Only people like astronauts are being paid to be pioneers.

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