Three Things Men Can Do for Inclusion

A few weeks ago, The Impact Seat offered a webinar on Men’s Work – a discussion on the important and necessary work needed from powerful white men in business if we are to realize meaningful diversity and inclusion goals within companies. See highlights of the webinar here.

Your follow-up demonstrates a real interest in learning new practices to reach these goals. So, guys, here’s three to get you started that can be accomplished with a modicum of effort (and they may prove interesting and career valuable to boot).

1) Make It a Habit to Interact Regularly Outside Your Comfort Zone.

All of us tend to gravitate to comfort and that means we will, left to our own proclivities, gravitate to interact with people like ourselves around the social edges of the workplace – particularly if our jobs are demanding. This is a habit we need to break if we want to build an inclusive organization.

Think about the people in your organization. Make a commitment to engage for 15-30 minutes a week (each) with two people you don’t historically tend to connect with. Make it intentional and keep track for six weeks. Have a cup of coffee, ask for some advice, or solicit an opinion on a work project – in any case, make it real, make it short and make it meaningful (i.e., you engage a sincere interest in learning more about their point of view). Follow-through until you’ve added 12 people to your grid AND a new habit that will increase your network, your resource links and your knowledge of who works in your company and what interests them. And don’t just talk to peers – look up and down the hierarchy. Wouldn’t it be nice to talk to that woman from Australia who just joined the company? Or how about the support guy that you “talk to” but don’t ever “talk with”. Don’t forget “online coffees” with people in other geographies.

2) Find Out What Your Organization’s Commitments to Diversity and Inclusion Are.

Some companies have been working on diversity and inclusion efforts for over 20 years – others are just getting started. Where does your organization sit on the spectrum? Being a newcomer to this effort isn’t necessarily a handicap if the ball has started to roll – new companies with new ideas are seeding change throughout the economy while stalwarts have a track record to study. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Does your organization publish (at least) an annual public document that reports on your company’s demographic diversity profile?

  • How is responsibility for diversity and inclusion assigned? Is there a centralized office or is D&I work distributed to managers making decisions about hiring, promotion, etc.? Some of both?

  • What sorts of training and strategy work is now going on regarding D&I?

  • What metrics is the firm using for change?

  • D&I efforts come in many styles – common topics include: work/life policy issues, mentor/support networks for under-represented groups, company forums or discussion series, pay parity analyses, supplier and board diversity efforts, Employee Resource or Business Groups, etc. What coordination is there among available programs? Are top managers providing support and visibility? How can you plug in to what’s going on?

3) Decide and act to mentor AND support someone who may not have an inside track.

There is a strong research record to show that women, men of color, LGBT folks and the physically challenged, because they don’t fit the business norm, don’t as often, and to the same degree, get access to the information, welcome and boost up that helps people to get hired, successfully onboarded, networked in and promoted (on average, in general). So, find one person you’ve interacted with that you believe in and talk to them about their career aspirations, encourage them to apply for stretch positions and help them prepare for interviews and networking events. Speak up on their behalf – that’s the difference between mentoring and supporting. Working with others extends your network, too, and as you work with a wide range of people your rolodex expands and further prepares you for your promotion.

Teresa Nelson, PhD