Diversity: Not a Zero Sum Game

There are many hurdles in the way of increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Some are based on historic inequalities in income, role models and education for minority groups. Some are cultural, involving overt and unconscious biases. And some are simply due to a lack of awareness.

But as covered by Grace Donnelly in an article for Fortune, a new survey from Ernst and Young and ORC International confirms a hurdle to diversity and inclusion that can be said to be driven by apprehension. As many diversity and inclusion professionals have often suspected — albeit without necessarily having concrete data to back up the suspicion — “White men feel left out of workplace inclusion efforts, and it has slowed down progress.”

While this assumption has been around for years, what’s new about this survey is that it lends actual data to the theory. As Donnelly writes, “More than one-third of survey participants felt that the increased focus on diversity in the workforce overlooks white men. Of those respondents, more than half believe white men are being overlooked for promotion and advancement, though the demographics of managers and higher level positions at Fortune 500 companies don’t support this at all.

While this data certainly highlights a challenge for proponents of diversity and inclusion, it also represents an opportunity to remove a major roadblock in their efforts. If we know that white men are afraid diversity efforts will negatively impact them, we can take measures to educate and reassure them this is not the case.

Reassuring white, especially white male, employees that diversity efforts are not a zero sum game can also turn them into advocates. And that’s borne out by the survey results as well, as Donnelly writes: “The good news: Even if a large portion of them feel excluded, three-quarters of all respondents support an increased focus on diversity and inclusion in today’s workplaces.”

Be inclusive — of everyone!

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