A Forbes article I read recently explored how white men feel excluded from Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. As suspected, the statistics were concerning: nearly 70% of cisgender white men feel “forgotten” when it comes to their company’s DEI strategy. This feeling of being “forgotten” stems from the nature in which DEI strategies have been executed in the past, shaming the identity of white men, which can create a sense of being attacked. This feeling only gets reinforced by years and years of Man Box rules: “men know it all” and “it is a zero-sum game” to name a few.
Part of the work I have been doing for 22 years is to help white men become allies in the workplace, but this cannot be achieved if we keep excluding them from the conversation. As a white, cisgender man myself, I know the spotlight is on us and I understand that it might feel like we are being demonized in the workplace and in society. I understand the temptation to respond with defensiveness. Especially when it seems like rhetoric indicates that white men do not care….because we do! But instead of retracting and detracting from the creation of a more inclusive world, let’s show that we care by showing up as allies and advocates for others.
In my experience, most white men want to become better leaders, husbands, fathers, and humans. In fact, 42% of white cis-gendered men believe that DEI is “extremely important.” It is not that white men don’t care, but they might be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, so they do nothing, which unfortunately signals complicity. There are also some men that want to do the right thing, but don’t know what that is. It is important to meet men where they are; some might feel scared, excluded, uncertain, or threatened. This is often perpetuated by feelings of victimization for their race as well which leads to even more defensiveness. In a world where cancellation culture is so prevalent, it might feel like walking on eggshells for a lot of men. But let’s imagine what it must feel like for those in marginalized communities and cultivate some empathy instead of recoiling in fear.
We need to create a shame-free/blame-free environment, where men can get vulnerable, share their feelings and frustrations and then recognize their privilege and power to be put to use in a positive manner – in a way that centers and supports others who don’t have the same privilege and power.
What is also critically important to understand is that, us white guys, have privileges that many others don’t have. These privileges, simply put, are advantages that we have and can choose to use for the betterment of all.
In a country where we see so much violence, grief, and lack of accountability, toxic masculinity is rampant. Now more than ever white men must use their privilege for the greater good. The question becomes how.
This is the intersection of my work. When men ask me “what do I do?” I always say that it is more about how you “show up” than what you “do.” I believe this starts with heart-based leadership. The best way I have found to connect with those who feel excluded and threatened is to tap into their hearts. The tenants of heart-based leadership, which include empathy and accountability, are what guide the Journey to Allyship.
The world today needs more allies and fewer adversaries. There has never been a better time for men to SHOW UP. If we are to see equity, equality, and racial justice in our lifetime, we must include and engage white men in our DEI efforts.
White Men Are Feeling Left Out Of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. Why Should We Care and What Should We Do?
- According to the White Men’s Leadership Study, a study of white men and DEI, nearly 70% report feeling “forgotten” by diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Feeling uncertain about whether DEI includes them is the main reason they say they either disengage or are not as committed to it like others in their organization.
- According to one study, 42% of white cis-gendered men believe that DEI is “extremely important”.
- It feels like a landmine. When people are looking for them (white men) to participate, they’re already feeling a bit on the defense before they even show up. Because they don’t want to feel accused or threatened or like a target.
- White men don’t like to attend DEI training because they feel like they’re implicitly or explicitly being blamed for the current state of affairs, or that they’re being shamed for having the privileges they have.
- Feeling disadvantaged is the thought of, “Well if you are giving more opportunities to women, people of color, etc, then that means you’re giving fewer opportunities to me”.
- I think this short-term loss that white men are feeling. What’s being looked at is, “I used to have this many opportunities, and now I have fewer opportunities”.
- They’re afraid of change anyway. They’re afraid of a loss of status, position, and way of life.
- I think it’s about just allowing people to be who they are, and then helping them understand where their shortcomings may be.
- Coaching, conversation, and heart-based experiences that create levels of empathy and compassion are the key to making progress.
- We can’t push, pull, force, or shame white men into the DEI conversation. We have to invite them in.
- They felt silenced until I called them out and said, “You’re a part of this conversation”.
- Investment in DEI: we can grow the business and the business can be successful, in large part through our investment in DEI, then eventually there should be more opportunities for everyone. The “pie” gets bigger.
- Inclusive leaders will do the work to go after that support because they know that DEI is an “all hands on deck” commitment.
- Because we (white men) do have power and privilege, we can’t advance this (DEI) unless we use that power and privilege to advance others and give power and privilege to others.
- We need to assure them that the childhood playground teams’ traumas aren’t at play today and rid them of zero-sum thinking.
- White men also need not exclude themselves, because they are a critical part of the mission to build a more fair and inclusive world.