Caden decided to check-in with his co-worker, Phil, who went to the same university and plays on the company indoor soccer team with Caden. Phil is also young, white, and male, so Caden knows he’ll be equally concerned with the new women’s groups. Caden called Phil on video.
“Hey Phil, it looks like we’re not going to get any promotions or great projects from now on! All these special support groups are going to push us out.”
Phil looks at Caden in surprise. “That is a bit of an extreme conclusion you’ve come to, Caden! What do you mean? These new resource groups are great!”
Caden is shocked. “How can you think these groups are great? We’re being pushed aside! I hate it when companies have to enact these affirmative action programs!”
Phil has been going through his own self-development journey. He has been talking to Pat a lot. Phil sets his mug down and takes a deep breath. “Caden, a few things. First, I think you might be misunderstanding what an affirmative action program is and where it applies. Affirmative action plans are driven by the government requirements of certain types of businesses to counter past discrimination. They are formal plans developed to promote equal opportunity and typically apply only to organizations with government contracts.💡 In contrast, our organization is under no requirement here. These resource groups aren’t being set up to minimize your contributions. They’re being set up to help others gain some opportunities you’ve already had. That doesn’t take away from your skills or detract from you. They’re helping to keep our company competitive.”
Caden shakes his head. “How can support groups for women keep us competitive? They’re just intended to help move women into a bunch of places where they have never been.”
Phil chuckles. “Yes, maybe they haven’t historically been invited to work on some projects or teams, and maybe we don’t yet have enough women on our leadership team. But that’s why we need these groups, so we can start improving and start thinking about our products with new perspectives.
There are benefits to improving workplace diversity, and I’ve seen a lot of studies💡 that prove the positive💡 impact that diversity has on company’s growth and success. Diversity can drive innovation💡 and in our business, it’s important to stay ahead of the competition. When we have a diverse group of people all focusing on the same goal—in this case, our products, and services—then it leads to continued innovation and better performance. I would honestly be worried if we weren’t doing enough to level the playing field to give others the opportunity to shine.”
Caden sighed. “But you just said, 'level the playing field’. If we are trying to get the playing field ‘level,’ then why don’t I get the same support groups that all these women are getting?”
Phil understood where Caden was coming from. Phil had to talk to Pat a few times before he understood why hiring from a particular university almost exclusively was not helpful to the organization.
“Yes, I did say ‘level the playing field.’ Making sure everyone💡 can ‘play’ doesn’t mean giving everyone the exact same treatment. Even in our soccer league, we don’t force everyone to play every position. Judy is the goalkeeper because she’s the best goalkeeper. We don’t make Alex the goalkeeper because he couldn’t catch a ball if it was thrown right at him. Something Pat mentioned stuck with me, Caden, ‘equity doesn’t mean providing someone with less.’ I’m learning that it means providing what people need when they need it. So right now, in our organization, women may not have the opportunity to show their skills or take on a new project because they don’t have a mentor speaking up for them.
The organization has some amazing women who are inspirational and willing to spend the time coaching and helping.”
Phil saw Caden was listening. “Caden, look at our executive board. It’s all men.”
Caden responded “Yeah, true. With a support group or a mentoring program, women get to have the same consideration for their skills that you already have. If we don’t do something like this, we’ll keep the same people working on projects, with the same ideas being thrown back and forth. With new perspectives, I can see that we’d get new ideas.”
Caden paused to think a bit more about this. “Ok, that makes sense. I don’t want us to stop innovating. And if one of these women with new ideas runs a project I’m on, I may learn something new.”
Phil smiled. “Exactly. And if you learn something from someone, then suddenly, you’re the one with a fresh perspective and possibly even new ideas!”
Caden nodded. “Thanks, Phil. That helps. I feel a lot better about these new groups. Maybe there will be a new support network that I can join to help me grow, too.”
Phil smiled. “Caden, I would be happy to help you find a networking group.”
As part of the planning process of implementing a DE&I initiative, consider providing leaders and employees with talk-tracks to respond to naysayers or employees who may not yet be fully on board with the initiative.
As discussed in other paths of this vignette, DE&I initiatives that promote equity can be perceived by some employees as unnecessary or unfair; providing continuous education and support through management and fully formed DE&I working groups is a great way to adapt to perceptions and concerns.
Would you like additional resources to learn more about support based on need?
⚙ Are you a TriNet customer? Learn about DE&I Training, click here
📖 Read more about employee resource groups from this Forbes article entitled How to Foster Workplace Belonging Through Successful Employee Resource Groups
📖 Read about myths and realities around affirmative action from these great webpages, Affirmative Action Myths and Realities from the University of Oregon and Affirmative Action Frequently Asked Questions from the U.S. Department of Labor
📖 Article from Harvard Business Review entitled “Why Some Men Pretend to Work 80-Hour Weeks
📖 Read more about allyship from this Forbes article entitled How Allyship Makes Workplaces More Inclusive
Listen to a podcast from the Harvard Business Review called Helping Men Help Us
Legal disclaimer: Resources provided in this story is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice. This story may contain hyperlinks to websites operated by parties other than TriNet. Such hyperlinks are provided for reference only. TriNet does not control such websites and is not responsible for their content. Inclusion of such hyperlinks on this site does not necessarily imply any endorsement of the material on such websites or association with their operators.
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