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Ian Dodds Consulting’s (IDC) Monthly Best Practice: Nov 2013

Begin with the senior white male managers to gain the big business benefits from building an inclusive culture, including increasing the proportion of underrepresented groups in management

A research literature review conducted by the North Carolina Office of State Personnel in 2007 discovered common themes for white men and their perceptions of diversity involving:

- A feeling that diversity programmes are not designed for their benefit;

- A perception that diversity initiatives discuss every cultural group except them;

- Participation is negligible, if at all, by them;

- Feelings of exclusion from diversity initiatives.

The research concluded that these factors combine to create resistance to diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives by white men.


This has been a key finding from D&I diagnostics that IDC has carried out for clients involving affinity focus groups, i.e. focus groups each separately comprised of women, minority ethnic employees, white men, etc. We have been told over and over again by the white men that they don’t matter any longer and it’s all about women, minority ethnic, LGBT and disabled people. As it’s white men that are usually the majority in senior management this feeling of exclusion by them cannot be helpful in driving D&I forward.


Findings from a Catalyst study released in July 2012 revealed “training can produce a measurable shift in workplace attitudes and behaviour – and begin to create an environment where women and minorities can advance.” However, the study’s positive results were not achieved by providing diversity and inclusion training for all employees. The results were achieved by focusing on one workplace group first – white male employees, which is “the group most likely to be resistant to diversity and inclusion training.” Putting all employees in a company through diversity and inclusion training can be costly and time consuming. To get the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time, and at the least expense, it is better for companies to first focus D&I training on white male managers and then expand the training outward within the organisation.


IDC has held this view for a long time, based on our affinity focus group experience, and has guided its clients to place the emphasis of their D&I initiatives not on diversity; but on building a culture of inclusion to obtain the considerable business growth benefits it offers: higher productivity; more creativity and excellence in problem solving; high performing teams; greater responsiveness to customers; improved Employer Brand; enhanced employee wellbeing. We encourage our clients to begin a D&I intervention by conducting a diagnostic to obtain stories and quotes of how exclusion and unconscious bias plays out for their women, minority ethnic and white male employees. These stories and quotes are important because senior white male managers experience little exclusion and unconscious bias themselves and believe this is so for others in their organisations. It is the exposure to the stories and quotes from their women and minority ethic employees demonstrating that these groups experience exclusion regularly that generates the emotional impact for the senior management to commit to putting effort into building an inclusive culture. This exposure is usually achieved through a ½ day senior manager workshop covering: what are diversity and inclusion; the concept of layers of diversity; the business case for D&I; the findings, including the stories and quotes, from the D&I diagnostic; best practices for moving forward with building a culture of inclusion.


The message in this blog is crucial in that if you want to increase the proportions of underrepresented diversity groups in management first involve and engage white male management and gain their commitment, including their emotional commitment, and then put in the strategic steps needed to create a culture of inclusion (these steps are described in IDC’s monthly best practice blog for Aug 2013). If you would like to discuss what you have read here further please do not hesitate to contact me.


Dr Ian Dodds,


IDC Academy Online: http://idcacademyonline.com/

29 Oct 2013



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