Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Diverse White Men

Corporations are increasingly turning to White men to head up the diversity divisions of the company. Richard Bales seems skeptical, and it's possible that this is a case of White men colonizing one of the few top-level jobs dominated by women and minorities. But I hope not, and the corporations' reason for the trend is intriguing:
It's part of an effort to get diversity programs off the sidelines and into the mainstream of the business. Having a white man champion diversity efforts -- particularly one who works in operations rather than human resources -- can help bring other white males on board, the theory goes.

Too many diversity initiatives make white men feel defensive, says Frank McCloskey, a white male operations veteran named Georgia Power's first head of diversity in 2000 after the company was sued for allegedly discriminating against blacks in hiring and promotion. He believes firms must engage white men to change the company culture.

When Mr. McCloskey was appointed, 63% of Georgia Power's employees were white men. "How can we ever create sustainability if you don't have 63% of your work force feeling that there's something in it for them?" he asks.

Provisionally, I support this. A long standing theory and goal of mine is to try and enlist White men into the pro-diversity cause, and I think many of the lessons of Critical Race Theory and storytelling scholarship implies that having White voices dedicated to those goals will be critical for the success. I realize that there is a bit of counter-intuitiveness towards putting White men in charge of diversity divisions, and many of the employees are questioning their qualifications. That's their right, and I think the onus is on the White guys to show that they are truly committed to creating a diverse workforce--that their efforts to incorporate the White male employee population do not come at the expense of sacrificing the larger agenda. That's the provisional part--whether or not this will work is an empirical question, and while I think it's worth a shot, it's possible it will not be as effective as I hoped. In that case, like in all things, we'd need to re-evaluate.

1 comment:

PG said...

I heard a white male Jewish law partner reference this exact article to explain why he was involving himself with a law firm's diversity efforts (when it might initially seem odd for someone seemingly in good with the Establishment to do so). He also talked about how, when his father had graduated from law school in the 1950s, the only NYC firm that offered him a job was an all-black one, and said, "So we're all kind of in this together."