Corporate diversity programs: No white men need apply?

Dear Annie: I work for a company that recently announced a big push to hire and promote more women and minorities (no, I don’t work at Intel). I think I have a few useful ideas about this, partly based on community volunteer work I’ve done, and also because I have two smart, talented daughters who I hope will have the same career opportunities as my son.

The thing is, the task force that’s been formed to come up with diversity proposals is made up entirely of women and people of color, and I’ve gotten no response to my requests to attend the meetings or contribute ideas. Given the 99%-white-male history of Corporate America in general, and this company in particular, I see the irony of griping about being excluded. But can you suggest any ways to get my suggestions heard? —Middle-Aged White Guy

Dear MAWG: Rest assured, you aren’t the only white guy who’s feeling left out. “Too often, companies think ‘diversity’ means ‘everybody except white men,’” notes Bill Proudman. “It’s part of the reason why we exist.” Proudman is head of an Oregon-based diversity consulting firm called White Men as Full Diversity Partners, which numbers Microsoft, American Express, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks among its clients.

You don’t mention whether you know, or could get to know, anyone on the task force, but if so, Proudman recommends telling him or her your thoughts. “If you can find a kindred spirit who will listen to you with an open mind, that person could help you get involved, or at least pass along your suggestions,” he says.

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