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How ID&E Benefits White Men And Everyone Else Too

Jonathan Stutz, MA is the founder and president of Global Diversity Partners Inc. He has over 25 years’ experience working in leading-edge companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Zulily.

 
Executive Contributor Eddie Pate and Jonathan Stutz

In most Western countries, white men are the most privileged and have the most power and status of any group in society. According to the most recent data from Pew Research, white men in the US dominate leadership roles in the top U.S. political, business, and higher education positions. ¹


happy young man using his cellphone while relaxing on the couch at home

They are also the group most likely to push back on inclusion, diversity, and equity (ID&E) initiatives.


In the US, the unspoken fear of some white men is that ID&E will lead to their displacement by people from historically underrepresented groups. In the media, we hear this expressed as “replacement theory.” It’s the belief that if currently underrepresented groups like women, people of color, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQAI? community, benefit from ID&E initiatives, it’s at the cost of recruiting, hiring, promotions, and opportunities for white males. But ID&E is not a zero-sum game. Increasing diversity doesn’t mean that one group loses and another one wins. In fact, a rising tide of ID&E lifts all boats—the research is very clear on this.


In business, diversity work is about building the highest-performing teams. Studies going all the way back to the 1950s show that diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams. If you’re part of a diverse team, you win by benefiting from increased output, creativity, and ultimately, innovation. If you’re the (effective) leader of a diverse team, you win by getting recognized for your team’s success. In summary, diverse teams have the greatest potential to be high-performing and when high-performance teams win, so do their leaders. This simple business case for diversity has been proven, time and time again.


What has not been communicated well in the past, however, is the necessary role the most privileged groups, the ones that dominate the culture, play in advancing ID&E goals—and how they benefit.


The narrative of how ID&E benefits the dominant culture has been hijacked. The outcome of these false narratives, like replacement theory, is that ID&E programs are being defunded and jobs eliminated. So it’s time to take our story back, to set the record straight. It’s time to explain exactly how ID&E helps everyone, including the dominant culture!


The first false narrative ID&E professionals like myself need to debunk is that ID&E work excludes white men, or whoever comprises the dominant culture where you live and work. The real story: We need the diversity of thought and experience of white men too. The puzzle isn’t complete without them. We all share a desire to be seen, heard, valued, and understood. We all have an innate desire to be included and to feel we belong! As my co-author Eddie Pate and I wrote in our upcoming book, Daily Practices of Inclusive Leaders, building a culture of belonging creates an environment where everyone can feel safe to be their authentic selves, to feel connected to one another, and truly believe they belong—and that includes white men. The culture of belonging that ID&E aims to create intentionally includes white men and all the diversity they bring.


The second false narrative that we’re setting straight is that white men are a monolith. No. White men bring so much more to the table than their race and gender. Look at me. I’m a 64-year-old white male with an advanced university degree, Jewish, born in Toronto as the youngest of four children, and raised in the Deep South and east side of Seattle by a single mom. I’m married to a woman; we have two grown daughters. My race and gender are just two dimensions of my diversity. Take my religion and cultural background, for example. In the last six months, my lived experience has changed. The recent rise of antisemitism has put me and my people in the crosshairs of hate, discrimination, bias, and stereotyping in the US, now more than ever since the Holocaust. In the US, Canada, and other countries, we’re facing harassment, vandalism, assault, murder, and in Israel, you can add torture and rape to the list. Suddenly, for the first time in my own life, I have this lived experience and now even greater empathy for people from historically underestimated, oppressed, and marginalized communities.


I bring more to the table than my race and gender. I bring my values and ethics, my dual Canadian and US heritage, my religion, a long career in both small and large businesses, living and working domestically and internationally, knowledge and ability in cross-cultural communication, product localization, project management, corporate compliance and governance, operations, sales, human resources, wholesale distribution, the tech industry, all while raising two independent, strong, and successful women with my wife of nearly 42 years.


All white men are more than just their race and gender.


The beauty of ID&E is that it makes space for all the dimensions of my (and everybody else’s) diversity to be seen and embraced. The benefit of ID&E for white men is not talked about enough. Don’t we all want to be seen and valued for more than the aspects of ourselves that are most apparent to everyone else?


Yet I must also acknowledge that being white and male, as well as raised in an upper middle-class household, has afforded me unearned privilege, power, and status in our society. At my birth, I did nothing to earn the privilege, power, and status that comes with being a white male and that has given me a leg up in reaching my goals all throughout my life. And neither did my parents, or their parents. It was all luck of the draw.


So what’s my role in making inclusion, diversity, and equity a stronghold in the spaces I inhabit? It is to use my power, privilege, and status to create space for everyone to be seen, to be heard, to be valued, and to be understood. To influence my peers, and to help get everyone with all their different experiences and perspectives in the boat, and rowing in the same direction, to reach whatever ID&E goals we set. Because without people like me in the dominant culture on board and powering the boat, it’s not going to go anywhere. Sad, perhaps, but true.


We live in a time where the brutal attacks on ID&E are threatening to turn back years and even decades of work in attempting to create a more fair and just society for all. Add to that the dangerous rise in racism—against Blacks, Asians, Jews, and other people of color—as well as the degradation of women’s and LGBTQAI? rights. And we don’t even know yet what the full impact of the US Supreme Court’s 2023 decisions on Affirmative Action and Free Speech will be. Our workplaces are a microcosm of our society at large, which make it 100 percent certain that the fallout from all these societal trends makes creating systemic and cultural change within organizations exponentially harder—and more critical.


What does that mean for white men like me? It means that our voices and our power, privilege, and status are even more imperative to add to the fight for inclusion, diversity, and equity. For the most vulnerable in society and for ourselves to be seen and valued for all that we bring to the table.


 

Jonathan Stutz, Co-authors of Daily Practices of Inclusive Leaders

Co-authors of Daily Practices of Inclusive Leaders: A Guide to Building a Culture of Belonging.


Jonathan Stutz, MA is the founder and president of Global Diversity Partners Inc. He has over 25 years’ experience working in leading-edge companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Zulily. Jonathan led Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (ID&E) for four international businesses within Amazon’s Worldwide Operations group.

 

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