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5 Reasons White Men Should Care About Diversity and Inclusion

Mary Mazzoni November 22, 2017

Most workplace diversity and inclusion efforts target women and minorities. Men continue to be either completely uninvited to diversity and inclusion efforts or are profoundly threatened by them as they watch women and minorities rise. What incentives could possibly exist for the average white guy to get on board in support of changing who is in the mix, especially in coveted senior positions?

Let’s look at the big five.

1. Men get to have a life

As every working C-Suite leader knows, the demands of a big corporate position can be deadly for the health of individuals and their families, and they usually require one spouse stay home if there are children. As a few women rise to the top, this trend takes the blinders off the tensions that senior (male) leaders in business have faced for generations, but which seemingly have not been problematic enough to force mindset changes of significance.

Historically, men worked long hours, travelled incessantly, and abdicated parenting, eldercare, volunteerism, and even holiday planning to their spouses as the grind of the job sucked them dry. Despite countless studies of people at the end of their lives saying they wished they worked less, the dirty little secret of corporate executive offices and managerial suites is that you are expected to work to the bone and never (ever) complain, blink, or falter.

If white men, who still dominate the C-suite echelon, get behind elevating and welcoming women and minorities to corporate executive roles, maybe together senior leaders can permanently shift to a mindset in which it is wiser to work to live than to live to work.

If white men, who still dominate the C-suite echelon, get behind elevating and welcoming women and minorities to corporate executive roles, maybe together senior leaders can permanently shift to a mindset in which it is wiser to work to live than to live to work.

For men, the benefits include actually knowing their children and providing for some of their day-to-day care. It will mean men can nurture hobbies from youth to maturity because they have the time. When they do retire, they will be at less risk for depression and suicide because their work identity is not their only identity. And as women and others make more money, and wages become more equal, men can genuinely explore who is best equipped to stay home with a sick child or an older parent based on economic realities rather than learned habits. And by the way, when men stay home more, their children learn that nurturing comes from both parents and that Dad loves them, too.

The seminal Harvard study on adult development revealed that it is “close relationships, more than money or fame,” that “keep people happy throughout their lives.” More tenable work and life integration means better relationships between men and their children, their partners, and their communities. As scholar and businesswoman Margaret Heffernan says: “The problem with money is that we live in societies in which mutual support and cooperation is essential, but money erodes the relationships we need to lead productive, fulfilling, and genuinely happy lives. When money becomes the dominant behavior, it doesn’t cooperate with, or amplify, our relationships; it disengages us from them.”

2. Men start living longer

There are many theories as to why women (still) live longer than men, but we do know that stress plays a huge role in the ways men die. Heart disease, cancer, and accidents take men down more often than women, resulting in shorter lifespans on average. As Bertrand Desjardins‘ studies of mortality revealed: “Excess male mortality in industrial countries is explained by the rise of so-called ‘man-made diseases,’ which are more typically male. These include exposure to the hazards of the workplace in an industrial context, alcoholism, smoking, and road accidents, which have indeed increased considerably throughout the 20th century.”

Embracing equity and diversity means men can offload some of their stress by being less heroic and more partnership-oriented. The white male trait of “going alone” as a rugged individualist will be replaced by true interdependence — allowing men to share the load both at home and at work. This allows men to get off the treadmill of their identity being overly correlated to work. As a result, they will become less overwhelmed, their adrenal systems will recover, and addiction rates may reduce.

We also cannot ignore the impact of suicide on lifespans for men: Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and men die by suicide 3.5 times more often than women — with white males accounting for 7 out of 10 suicides in 2015. More than half of all suicides involve a gun, and guns are mostly owned and purchased by men.

Imagine a world where men live longer (less addiction, gun-related deaths, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer) because the responsibility of earning money to support the family is shared with women and men are peer-pressured into having a life beyond work rather than just achieving job or performance success as a means to measure their manhood.

Leadership consultancy White Men as Diversity Partners are turning diversity and inclusion conversations upside down by starting with white men being included in the work, not relegated to sitting on the outside while women and people of color tackle the hard issues with each other. As WMFDP CEO Bill Proudman says, “The engagement of white men works from a zero-sum game that says that white men are as diverse as any other group and have as much to gain, if not more, from focusing on diversity and inclusion.”

3. Men feel more and numb less

“We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in US history,” says noted author and researcher Dr. Brené Brown.

Men are trained from a young age to avoid expressing feelings other than anger and to work out problems alone — which creates isolation, fear, and deep loneliness. As Daphne Rose Kimgma, author of “The Men We Never Knew,” puts it: “We’ve dismissed men as the feeling-less gender — we’ve given up on them. Because of the way boys are socialized, their ability to deal with emotions has been systematically undermined. Men are taught, point-by-point, not to feel, not to cry, and not to find words to express themselves.”

Despite the suppression of emotion in men societally, research from countless studies in the last 20 years points to the critical role of emotion at work. As Sigal Barsade and Olivia A. O’Neill reported in the Harvard Business Review, “Countless empirical studies show the significant impact of emotions on how people perform on tasks, how engaged and creative they are, how committed they are to their organizations, and how they make decisions.” And the feminine leadership traits of passion, empathy, nurturing, and intuition were shown by researchers John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio, in their book “The Athena Doctrine,” to strongly correlate to happiness, effectiveness, morality, and leadership.

The imperative for men to learn more about emotion and emotional expression at work is high. For the future, men need not be solely idea generators, fixers, and problem-solvers. Instead, they will be required to develop capacity to notice, express, and feel their own emotions — making them more vulnerable, more authentic, more trustworthy, and infinitely more interesting. And a beautiful, if unexpected, side benefit? Men have the time and energy to teach their daughters and sons what it means to be a man today, which is far more complex and nuanced than in the days of yore when male bravery was expressed through heroic action (think: fighting lions), only sissies cried, families could live on one income, and men were never allowed to be weak.

4. Complex problems are solved

More divergent ideas generate more powerful questions, which invite more innovation and creativity to solve more complex real-world problems. The data is definitive on this: Like minds think alike, and diversity brings different minds (and different life experiences) to familiar problems — resulting in new material solutions.

With a baseline of strong conflict-handling skills and the ability to walk through difficult conversations, men will find themselves discovering new solutions. Being part of powerful and effective idea incubators will leave men feeling internally rewarded and satisfied that their contributions had meaning and had a larger impact. Together, with diverse points of view, the biggest societal ills we face may be solvable: climate change, disease eradication, cancer cures, human genome applications, and many more.

Our ability to connect with each other, born from social sensitivity and capital, results in enormous gains in problem resolution. As Heffernan says, “At work, no less than in communities, social connectedness plays a critical role in making individuals and companies more resilient, better able to do conflict well.”

5. Men feel more love (and have more sex)

At the bottom of work results and life meaning is our very basic need for human connection. Psychologist Abraham Maslow got a lot right in his infamous hierarchy of needs, but it appears he had our need for connection in the wrong place. It is as important to human beings as food, water, safety, and security. And here’s a news flash: This is not just true for women.

Connection is as important to human beings as food, water, safety, and security. And here’s a news flash: This is not just true for women.

Men need to feel they matter to the people who love them, and that they are connected. When men begin to have more robust and feeling lives inside and outside of work, when they can celebrate their partner’s career success equally because she earns as much or more than him, and when he can come home rested and fit after a busy but not overwhelming day, he finds his family, neighbors, and friends more eager to play, relax together, and enjoy his company (with no late-night meetings and cell phones next to the bed). Oh, and speaking of bed: In the sanctity of interwoven interdependence, men and their partners have a little something left for more action, more often, in the bedroom.

The bottom line

When everyone benefits from diversity and inclusion — including white men — businesses and global economies will begin to materially change due to more creative and innovative ideas. Perhaps even more importantly, men themselves will thrive. They will live longer, die less often from disease, violence, and suicide, and have healthier, more vibrant relationships at home and at work. In more diverse and inclusive workplaces, men will have room to be more fully human, to be less heroic and more interdependent, and they will find significance not only due to rank and status but also due to their ability to connect with others.

Leaving men on the outside of workplace diversity and inclusion conversations and focusing only on the gains of giving minorities parity or equal playing fields erodes our collective capacity to pull together. Men have much to gain from the evolving inclusion efforts in organizations large and small. Let’s make them part of it.

Equity and Inclusion / Stakeholder Capitalism
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