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Ask the White Guy: Can a Diversity-Management Question Kill Your Career?

The White Guy responds to a reader's inquiry by breaking down how data on retention rates can be analyzed, but he warns about discussing diversity topics in certain professional circles.

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.


Understanding that "DiversityInc does not divulge specific demographic data of any company...." do you offer information on retention/attrition rates? Were you able to calculate an average? Is it possible to receive this information as a percentage? Also, does trend data exist? For example what was the women's retention rate of the top 10 companies, 85%, 95%????


I think the actual percentage is not meaningful because retention rates vary by industry; for example, the retail and pharmaceutical industries have vastly different overall retention rates.

Trending the lists from year to year is also meaningless; the companies on the lists change every year as do the number of companies participating. In general, however, what I think is important to know is that some companies who participate in The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity competition have achieved unbiased retention rates between white men and all other groups we measure (we collect race/age/gender retention information, but companies cannot collect data on orientation or disability).

Statistically even (or unbiased) retention is a remarkable achievement—most companies we measure have better retention of white men than any other group. Unbiased retention means the company is treating people equally enough to retain them equally. Our data does show a correlation between unbiased retention and high overall retention when comparing companies in the same industry. This makes sense; a company that develops a culture of treating people well will have an advantage as they make sure they're treating everyone equally well (in the recipient's judgment).

It's very interesting to compare retention (by race, gender, age) for companies within the same industry. This is one of the things we do in our benchmarking consulting service and the correlations you can see between best practices and retention rates is extremely informative. Because we have more data on corporate best practices of diversity management than any other entity, we can draw more correlations—and have enough data to support conclusions on those correlations. This link will take you to a brochure on our benchmarking practice, which now includes access to, our all-management website that includes a vast webinar library and distance-learning courses on mentoring, succession planning, employee-resource groups and other subjects that will help your company manage toward equitable retention.

Managing people so they are equally retained logically means they are equally engaged and productive. This is a critical component in the "Business Case for Diversity," as our country's workforce will be 70 percent women and/or Black and Latino by 2016.

The increase in equitable retention correlates with the dramatic rise in key CEO engagement factors, percent of employees in employee-resource groups and structured mentoring in recent years (see the June issue of our magazine for more information; a link to the free online edition is here).

Please note: If you bring this up at your company, you may be hitting a raw nerve. I was recently invited to speak at an engineering company's diversity-week event, the kind of "dog and pony show" that I see at companies that are stuck in the past. Hearing about a "diversity week" brings up an obvious question: If this is diversity week, what are the other 51 weeks? A hint to the question's answer is on their own website—out of 18 people listed as "leadership" on their website, 89 percent are white, 11 percent are Black (12 white men, four white women, two Black women), and no apparent Black men, Latinos or Asians. The audience for "diversity week" was almost exactly the opposite of the leadership team: almost no white men. Read Do White Men Really Need Diversity Outreach?

I don't know what this company's retention rate is by race, gender and/or age. It's not among the 587 companies that participate in the DiversityInc Top 50. However, I can give you an indication of what they're thinking: At the last minute, I was paired with an attorney who was, in essence, anti-diversity. He's the kind of guy you hire to justify the biased outcome in the flawed processes you have. I'd guess he was supposed to be a counterpoint to the best practices I discussed in my presentation. You can always find a lawyer to hide behind, but that's not going to help you improve your human-capital performance, is it? So, before you bring retention and race/gender/age up at your company, look very closely at your company's culture. I'm pretty sure bringing up the wrong question at this company would result in your being sent to the career gulag—or worse!

Depressing? Doesn't have to be. Keep in mind that there are thousands of jobs in our career center,

The Conversation

Alaska Airlines Under Fire for Separating Gay Couple on Flight to Give Seats to Heterosexual Couple

"We could not bear the feeling of humiliation for an entire cross-country flight and left the plane," David Cooley said in a Facebook post.


Alaska Airlines is apologizing for an act of blatant discrimination against a same-sex couple, but the damage is already done as #BoycottAlaskaAirlines is circulating social media.

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Howard Schultz Steps Down as Chairman of Starbucks

From the #RaceMatters campaign in 2015 to optional racial-sensitivity training last week, Starbucks is failing in diversity and inclusion.


Howard Schultz is stepping down as executive chairman of Starbucks, the company announced in a press release Monday.

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Two Different Cups of Joe: How The Coffee Bean and Starbucks Handled Racism

In an age of increasing racial confrontations, a business must have zero tolerance for discrimination.

In the Trump era, there has been a proliferation of Islamophobic and racist incidents across the country. When discrimination occurs at a place of business, it's apparent if the company's leadership and workforce support diversity and inclusion. A Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf café barista refused to serve a racist customer; meanwhile, a white manager at a Starbucks called the police on two Black men for no reason.

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Executives from Nielsen, New York Life, TIAA and Toyota Motor North America talk about communicating their commitment to D&I management and backing it up with actions that get results.

At the 2018 DiversityInc Top 50 event, more than 400 people were in attendance during the day to hear best practices on effectively managing diversity and inclusion.

Moderator: Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc


  • Angela Talton, Chief Diversity Officer, Nielsen
  • Kathleen Navarro, VP & Chief Diversity Officer, New York Life
  • Steve Larson, Senior Director of Diversity & Inclusion, TIAA
  • Adrienne Trimble, General Manager, Diversity & Inclusion, Toyota Motor North America

We White People Need to Own This

Martin Luther King has been dead for 50 years and Donald Trump is our president. Who is responsible?


We will be deluged by Martin Luther King articles and columns today. Some will be excellent, like the one Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote. But most will be saccharine sweet and not say what needs to be said.

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A Latina trailblazer, Lisa Garcia Quiroz, senior vice president and chief diversity officer at Time Warner Inc., and president of the Time Warner Foundation, died Friday at age 56 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. An advocate of diversity and inclusion, education and the arts, Quiroz created a dynamic legacy.

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The Chief of Staff Needs to Get Off His Privileged Racist Ass and Do Some Homework

And his draft-dodging boss needs to put his juvenile visions of military dictatorship out of his head.


There have been many disturbing days over the past year. I found yesterday to be particularly troubling. Chief of Staff John Kelly called people who had not already signed up for DACA to be "too lazy to get off their asses."

Our journalist, Kaitlyn D'Onofrio, wrote a very good story about this.

I was emotionally rocked to learn from her article that it costs $495 to sign up for DACA. I didn't know.

I think there are times in most people's lives where $495 is simply a bridge too far. Can you imagine being in another country, brought there as a child, without documents? What kind of job would you have? How much money would you have in your pocket? Not being able to open a bank account — having to hide your little savings someplace while you work at your menial job. $495 is a HUGE amount of money.

I'm embarrassed that I didn't know about the application fee. The chief of staff for the president of the United States has no excuse, especially when he's going to be a racist and demean an entire group of people that lives among us. There are days when I feel embarrassed to be an American.

Aside from this debacle yesterday, draft-dodging Trump also told our military he wants a grand military parade. (Trump is also known as Cadet Bone Spurs, a great nickname coined by former assault helicopter pilot Sen. Tammy Duckworth.)

The founders of this country were against a standing army — James Madison: "A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people."

This was on his mind because our country had just beaten the global superpower (England). Here is our Third Amendment: "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

Why was this the Third Amendment? The British would kick your door in, throw you out on the street and put their troops in your house, anytime they felt like it.

I have served our military, in several capacities, for most of my adult life. I think a military parade in Washington, other than to celebrate the end of a war, is anti-American; Trump is either talking out of ignorance or simply lying about the strength of our military. At one-third the size it currently is, it would still be the planet's largest military by far. His focus on nuclear weapons makes me believe that unilateral nuclear disarmament is the only safe way for our planet to proceed.

If Donald J. Trump doesn't make you a believer in that philosophy, you're not paying attention. Most people aren't. Let's face it, we can't intimidate a backwards hermitage nation with 1/1200th of our GDP. Something is seriously wrong with our leadership and how we're spending money.

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Papa John's CEO Fired After Criticizing NFL Players and Becoming Loved by Nazis

John Schnatter is axed by the board. Crappy pizza, not protests about law enforcement injustice, to blame for declining sales.

John Schnatter, founder of Papa John's International and basher of NFL protests and the Affordable Care Act, will step down as chief executive weeks after the brand was coined the "official pizza of the alt-right."

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