• Dr. Kim Stephens

Enough with the shaming: Why we need men in the discussion on diversity

men and women working together

Believe it or not, men are not signing up in droves for diversity training. The few that do attend voluntary are genuinely committed to learning about their own implicit biases and what they can do to help. However, the ones that are there because of a strong push from management to attend are not. And I know the difference in the first five minutes of the workshop – arms crossed defensively across their chests, I know I have a tough audience.

I completely understand why these men are reluctant. As the majority or “ingroup” there is little incentive to change the status quo because everything is perfectly fine. They don’t want to sit through a class where they think they will be shamed for being in the majority and blamed for all the world’s ails. This isn’t just conjecture. Both these points are backed by extensive research.

If we want to create a diverse and inclusive environment, we cannot exclude the majority. And in IT, men make up 60 to 70% of the workforce. We need them at the table for the conversation. So, what do we do? We show them the advantages of a diverse workplace, and we stop shaming them for their gender.

In my diversity workshops, I am deliberate in demonstrating how everyone has bias. This allows everyone in the room to take a breath, relax a little and fully engage. Blame leads to shame, which results in disengagement. Change can only come when everyone is engaged. Alienating the majority to benefit the minority is not the answer. Diversity training won’t work if you don’t have the majority of your workforce taking part. Inclusion means everyone participates and brings value.

The research is again extensive on the benefits of diversity in business. Harvard Business Review, Deloitte and McKinsey have all published research showing that diverse companies perform better financially. So, why isn’t everyone talking about this -- not just the Chief Diversity Officer, but the CMOs, CFOs, CTOs and especially the CEOs?

No one wants a finger pointed at them and to be told they are the problem. But most, when presented with the data, are willing allies and ambassadors for change because they understand the benefits and the positive role they can play in building inclusive teams rather than supporting an “us” and “them” mentality. So, let’s start changing the conversation on diversity.

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