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Male Allies are Key to Diversity and Inclusion Challenges

“DNC: White Men Shouldn’t Apply for Tech Jobs” – this was a recent headline in the news. A manager within the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sent out an email seeking diverse candidates for IT positions, but added: “I personally would prefer that you not forward to cisgender straight white males, as they are already in the majority.” This type of misguided remedy will fail because it supports the stereotype that women and minorities are not as qualified as their male-counterparts.

Think about the people in power in most technology companies. The majority are men – white men. Women hold just 11% of executive positions in Silicon Valley companies according to a report from law firm Fenwick & West LLP. So, to make any decisions that are of consequence to a company, we need these men as advocates and allies. They must be part of the diversity and inclusion discussion and not sidelined as irrelevant.

My job as a diversity and inclusion consultant is to help companies and institutions create an inclusive work environment where everyone can feel valued and bring their whole self to work. Everyone includes white males. Research shows that an inclusive work culture encourages innovation, creativity and that results in better financial results.

For a group, in this case the DNC with an ill-advised manager, to openly discriminate against one group to benefit others is not what diversity and inclusion are about. We cannot exclude 60 to 70% of the workforce in tech and expect to make any change in the makeup of the employee base. What do I mean by exclude? I mean to isolate them and shame them for their gender and race. Research has shown this does not work — white males shut down and in some cases rebel against the practices that discriminate against them.

A better solution is to change job descriptions and recruitment strategies to be more inviting to diverse pools of talents and building bridges into new communities is much more effective in creating inclusive teams.

In order to offset the years of bias felt by women and minorities, white males must be the target audience for change. Recruiting through affirmative action won’t work. The majority will continue to silence the minority if the workplace culture and leadership do not understand the business advantages of diverse inclusive teams.

Given the chance, people want to do the right thing and work in an innovative and diverse environment. But if cornered, the human tendency is to create an “us vs them” mentality. If fighting behavioral economics (the effects of psychological, social, cognitive, and emotional factors on the economic decisions of individuals) with logic, logic will lose most of the time.

Kim Stephens is co-founder of the Talent Strategy Institute, an organization that assists with diversity and inclusion assessments, engagement and recruitment strategies, training, workshops and coaching. Kim is an expert in diversity and inclusion strategies for the science, engineering, IT and high performance computing sectors. Contact the Talent Strategy Institute to learn more about how to create an inclusive culture, while not isolating majority constituencies.

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