Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Does Diversity Have to Mean Fewer White Guys?

An interesting article hit my email today. I am sure others have seen it as well. It is entitled Are White Males Under Attack?  Written by Kellye Whitney for Diversity Executive it discusses the premise of Stephen DeFelice, author of  The Attack on the White Male — and the Weakening of America, that diversity programs have reduced the competitive spirit of business and government in America. According to the article DeFelice makes the following points:
  • The competitive spirit of America was that of the founding fathers, white males, and that is what made the country great.
  • The civil rights movement, feminism, and diversity quotas have become (and have been) an anti-white male movement.
  • Increasing legislation and its accompanying enforced diversity are detrimental.
  • Diversity is mostly about quotas, and these quotas often are filled in lieu of competence.
  • What is good for the individual or organization may not be good for the country as a whole.
  • Diversity is working against the safety of our country because diversity means the weakening of the male.
Pretty strong statements. Author Whiney did get a response from the diversity perspective. "Cedric D. Thurman, senior vice president and chief diversity officer for Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc., said DeFelice’s use of the historical success of our nation prior to the 1950s as a reference point doesn’t take into account that our world is not static." Whitney further quotes Thurman as saying “We live in a world with changing demographics, changing economics, ever-changing political views, as well as technological changes. All of these factors impact the health and strength of all nations. Since we cannot live in a bubble and we cannot freeze time, we have to think strategically about how to build a strong nation. Besides, not everyone believes that things were so great prior to the 1950s.

DeFelice says "This anti-white male mentality out there, we’ve got to get rid of it. I would tell the diversity guys [to] push for white male participation and more freedom of expression, get rid of ‘politically correct.' "

From my point of view diversity is just a fact of life. The changing world has dictated that we are not going back. However, diversity is more than just race and sex. I participated in a "diversity session" once where the leaders where both African-Americans. They presented it mostly as a race issue. Having come from a human resources background I made the point to them that they were being too narrow. I used myself and another group member as examples. Though both of us are white and both of us had been reared in military families we both had very different backgrounds. His father was an officer. My father was enlisted. We had different privileges, different stores, different clubs, different pools and different housing we had access to. Although we were ostenively the same on the surface, "white males", we were very different people.

As a white male, especially one in human resources, I will admit that there is somewhat of a siege mentality. It started with Bakke. (If you are in HR and that is not familiar then look it up. Is something you should know.) I remember when I turned 40 and thought "Finally, I reached a protected catagory!" But the seige mentality has continued.

I think the field of human resources should lead the way and show that diversity is ALL INCLUSIVE. Yet I get dismayed when I see all female, or all African-American HR organizations. The profession that should be the banner holders of diversity carry those banners of exclusivity. Yet how would the members feel if there was an organization of White Male HR Professionals? I believe there would be a major outcry to such an organization. AND FOR THE RECORD I AM NOT SUGGESTING ONE. I am just making a point. While I don't agree with DeFelice I do like that he is making a point that diversity needs to be more diverse. I also agree with him that diversity just for the sake of diversity is foolish. It does need competence added to it.
Diversity for the sake of diversity is much the same as consistency just for the sake of consistency. That doesn't work in HR either.


Greg said...

Relevant and thought provoking post Mike. As a white male currently corporately unattached, I have witnessed organizations that designate their top HR position as a "diversity" position. Makes me wonder about the leadership in a company that designates a position, specifically an HR position, instead of taking a broad view of the organization and hiring someone, white or not, male or female, who can help with a true diversity initiative.

Harris Silverman- Business Coach said...

A type of diversity to which insufficient attention is paid is diversity of thought. Companies focus on demographic diversity but often marginalize creative thinkers. It is diversity of thought that adds the greatest value to organizations.

Harris Silverman

Michael D. Haberman, SPHR said...

Greg, I too wonder about an organization that sees diversity as either race or sex. I like Harris' comment about diversity of thought. In today's HR arena diversity of thought should be a major factor.

Paul Smith said...

My comments can be found on my blog, Welcome To The Occupation. It's a post, I entitled "Diversity Has Many Avenues" http://bit.ly/cmqakY