Blog by Richard Chapman-Harris, Diveristy Advisor, Opportunity Now & Race for Opportunity
I have had new professional contacts walk right passed me. I have watched as they scan the room or reception looking for someone else. I have even had a contact approach someone sat beside me; reach out to shake their hand, assuming they were me. Why? Because I am a white man who works in diversity.
Now this is not something that immediately offends me but it does send a strong assumption about their unconscious - or rather overt and active - bias. In the mind of the contact, and indeed in the brains of many people, a white man does not work in diversity; and especially not with a focus on gender and race inclusion. But that is who I am and that is what I do. I realise that I am a minority however, and perhaps this fuels the bias. But what if the majority was as engaged in diversity as minorities are felt to be? What if all white men were confident to discuss diversity in a dynamic way without fear of offense?
If we stop and think about it, there are more women who vocally support gender equality and more ethnic minorities who campaign for racial inclusion – but they are not alone. Men too value gender parity; and the ethnic majority – in the UK this is White British – also benefits from embracing racial and cultural differences, and similarities. As a white man I perform better in an agile working environment where flexibility allows me to be productive when I can balance my work and personal life. Flexible working, often associated with maternity and caring responsibilities – works for everyone whether you like working later with a long lunch, break for the gym, or if you have an elderly neighbour who looks forward to your four o’clock visits. As a white man I perform better when I can see the diversity of talent around me, where I feel comfortable asking everyone their opinions and I know I will get honest and creativity feedback, unsullied by assumptions, bias or prejudice.
Inclusive Leadership research undertaken by Opportunity Now shows that 52% of female respondents reported that their great inclusive leader was male. In the same study 75% of BAME respondents reported that their inclusive leader was from a different ethnic background to themselves. Overall, 67% of minority candidates (across protected characteristics) have an inclusive leader who sits within a majority demographic. But we need more majority advocates, willing to throw their numbers behind minority groups who seek to march passed tolerance towards inclusion and celebration; not only for the benefit of minority groups but to improve the performance of the majority as well. A Greatheart Leader Lad study specifically on white, male leaders draws attention to an Effectiveness Gap which is seen to plague this majority demographic; men saw themselves as having a 45% positive effectiveness rating for how inclusive they are but ‘All Others’ (minority respondents) felt that only 21% of those leaders were actually inclusive.
That’s why we need you. Join our Majority Advocates for Diversity and Equality (MADE) network, part of Race for Opportunity and Opportunity Now, to explore and discuss how MADE could make a difference. For further information please read our Advocate Candidate Criteria and email Richard.Chapman-Harris@bitc.org.uk to express interest in supporting this unique initiative.
Advocate Candidate Criteria Document
View and book online:
Majority Advocates for Diversity and Equality (MADE) Roundtable