WMFDP: Negative Approaches to Diversity Could Be Part of a $300 Billion Dollar Problem

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Multiple studies suggest that diversity efforts that accent the negative may be missing the point entirely, but exploring the positive aspects of diversity could bring unprecedented prosperity.

With tension and conflict prominent in the national consciousness, the subjects of bias and discrimination inevitably arise in the workplace. NFL players have chosen to make a statement in their place of work—the gridiron—and responses have ranged from empathetic to confusion to divisive. These and other recent events indicate that no endeavor is immune from the complex problems related to diversity and inclusion.(1)

In the corporate world, the question of economics is always at the forefront. One study by Intel and Dalberg Global Development Advisors found that the tech industry could generate an additional $300-$370 billion annually if the racial/ethnic diversity of tech companies’ workforces reflected that of the talent pool.

Blacks and Latinos earn nearly 18 percent of computer science degrees, but hold just 5 percent of tech jobs. People of color who enter the tech industry report isolation, discrimination and toxic work environments, and they leave the field at more than 3.5 times the rate of white men. Meanwhile, fewer than 1 percent of Silicon Valley executives and managers are black, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).(2)

The question that comes up repeatedly is exactly how to competently and thoughtfully deal with these problems for the benefit of the workforce and ultimately society as a whole.

“The all-too-typical approach is to pound the gavel and demand compliance to myriad rules,” says Michael Welp, author and co-founder of White Men As Full Diversity Partners (WMFDP), a firm known for its unorthodox methodology and whose clients include Alaska Airlines, Exxon Mobil, and NASA.(3) Welp goes on to describe the difference between denying and celebrating difference: “If we are to effectively address these issues at the grassroots level, we must understand that people are proud of their distinct identity and culture, whether racial, gender, religious or otherwise.”

WMFDP co-founders Welp and Bill Proudman (CEO) decided 20 years ago that to ignore white male leadership—the predominant group (at least in the U.S.)—was to court failure. The firm administers one- to –two day learning sessions and an intensive three and half day learning lab sessions which heighten awareness and empathy, recognize unconscious bias, build rapport, and create a space of cooperative endeavor.

A 2016 report from the EEOC and its Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace called upon leaders to “reboot” their workplace anti-harassment efforts. The report notes that almost one-third of the roughly 90,000 charges filed with EEOC for fiscal year 2015 included an allegation of harassment, and it goes on to say that methods of diversity training must change.(4)

An earlier report from Harvard Business School made a point that diversity training is commonly focused on the negative—what not to do in order to avoid trouble and potential lawsuits—rather than the myriad benefits of diversity in terms of innovation and economic growth.

One of the authors of the study, HBS Prof. David A. Thomas, described how focusing on the positive could yield new insight. “We wanted to understand, when people of color do break through to C-suite jobs what’s the path, what are the dynamics, what facilitates it.” The team examined General Electric and its sevenfold growth on the African continent in seven years, and the National Football League and its hiring of black executives.(5)

Welp’s book, Four Days to Change, delineates what he describes as a movement towards a paradigm shift in how diversity is leveraged and augmented.

“We’ve developed the eight critical leadership skills to bring about courageous action and build authentic relationships,” says Welp. “These skills are: (1) courage; (2) integrating head and heart; (3) listening; (4) balancing key paradoxes; (5) leveraging ambiguity and turbulence; (6) managing difficult conversations; (7) seeing and thinking systemically; and (8) being an agent of change. By working with leadership to develop these skills, we forge proactive partnerships for a chain reaction of innovation and prosperity.”(6)

About White Men As Full Diversity Partners (WMFDP):

White Men As Full Diversity Partners (WMFDP) is a diversity and leadership development firm founded in 1996 by Bill Proudman, Michael Welp, Ph.D., and Jo-Ann Morris in Portland, Oregon. WMFDP takes an unorthodox approach towards eradicating bias and discrimination in the workplace. Its client list includes Alaska Airlines, Dell, Lockheed Martin, Northwestern Mutual, Rockwell Automation, Chevron Drilling & Completions, The Nature Conservancy, Mass Mutual, and others.

The majority of C-level executives are white and male, and they are frequently omitted from a vital role in diversity and equality. Proudman and Welp observed that these critical subjects were not being taken to the doorstep of these leaders—all to the detriment of struggling minorities and the economy as a whole. With a background that includes extensive field work in post-apartheid South Africa in the early 1990s, Proudman and Welp have dedicated the last two decades to educating and engaging leaders of any race, color, gender or orientation. Welp is the author of the book, Four Days to Change. With an insightful foreword by Proudman, the book chronicles the journey from rural South Africa to the boardrooms of America—all to lay the groundwork of a global paradigm shift.

1. Mindock, Clark. “Taking a Knee: Why Are NFL Players Protesting and When Did They Start Kneeling?” The Independent, 26 Sept 2017.
2. Connor, Michael. “Tech Still Doesn’t Get Diversity. Here’s How to Fix It.” Wired, 3 June 2017.
3. wmfdp.com/clients/.
4. “Task Force Co-Chairs Call On Employers and Others to “Reboot” Harassment Prevention,” EEOC, 20 June 2016.
5. “Taking the Fear out of Diversity Policies.” HBS Working Knowledge, 31 Jan. 2011.
6. wmfdp.com/eight-critical-leadership-skills/.

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