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Curbing Diversity Pushback Among Employees

May 6, 2016 4:12 pm

mad white maleEmployers who have a big-tent approach to promoting diversity can see less pushback from white males.

By Eve Tahmincioglu

The CEO of a major tech company recently admitted in public that his leadership team received threats from white male employees over the firm’s diversity efforts.

While many see diversity as supporting the advancement of underrepresented employees and boosting the bottom line, there can be pushback from others who see diversity as a threat to their careers.

Clearly, threatening leaders is an extreme — but how does an organization mitigate potential pushback and help everyone understand that diversity lifts all boats?

Erect a Diversity Big Tent

It’s all about being inclusive, maintained Cyndi DiCastelnuovo, vice president of diversity and inclusion at TD Bank, No. 39 on the 2016 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list. And that means not just being inclusive of women and minorities but of everyone, including white males.

“We run a lot of our programs specifically for diverse talent out of our business resource groups and those are open to everybody,” she explained. “Allies are able to join groups and participate in the programs.”

DiCastelnuovo sees it as a natural way to drive cross-cultural relationships and create allies in the bank’s resource groups.

“When using resource groups to make business decisions we have natural diversity at the table,” she shared. “Some of our most active resource group members don’t identify as a member of that particular community.”

Leaders Should Be Diversity Diehards

“Our business leaders and managers are out spreading the message,” DiCastelnuovo said.

TD Bank’s diversity team sends out mass communications about diversity programs in order to get everyone on board, and managers also engage in one-on-one conversations if needed.

Management throughout the organization has bought into diversity, she stressed, with “many of them using it to be successful in their roles.”

“For the most part,” she added, “our employees and especially our leaders understand the need for diversity.”

TD Bank’s best practices have created an environment where diversity is embraced, not feared.

Indeed, DiCastelnuovo said she has never heard of anyone threatening someone about diversity in her organization. But there are sometimes inquiries from employees about diversity initiatives, especially when they’re introduced.

“We get questions like, ‘What does this mean for me?’” she explained. “We try to make sure, when entering into a program, that all sides are educated on what they’re getting out of it.”

A question she gets often is about mentoring: “We did have somebody who said, ‘If I don’t identify as a minority, or a woman or a veteran, does that mean I don’t have the opportunity to be mentored or sponsored?’” The message back, she said, is always that all programs are open to everyone.

The best way to view diversity efforts, she noted, is that every employee can benefit.

“Even for white males,” she continued, “it opens up their perspective, helps them focus on their bias, and expands their network.”

Here are some additional resources to help you create a diversity big tent:

Meeting in a Box: White Men and Diversity.

Diversity Training: 8 Things to Avoid.

How to Get Buy-In From Middle Managers.

White Male Diversity Training: 5 Mistakes.

And don’t miss DiversityInc’s recent learning session — recorded at our Top 50 Companies for Diversity event — “Addressing Unconscious Bias” with guest speaker Lissiah Taylor-Hundley, diversity and inclusion strategist, Cox Enterprises.