I am a middle-aged white man passionate and committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in my professional and personal life.
For many people, this will create a sense of cognitive dissonance. Some think that women and people of color best serve the DE&I space, leaving out those who look like me.
People who meet me and stereotype me based on how I present as a white man might miss out on the part of me that motivates my passion for DE&I. I came out as a gay man at my first corporate job in 1982, with every reason to believe that I would lose my job.
There was no such thing as DE&I in 1982 in that office in Sugar Land, Texas. I am grateful to the manager who chose not to terminate me solely because I came out as a gay man. She was my first ally, and she modeled for me how to advocate for others in the workplace.
After I came out in my first job, I stayed out for my entire career. While working for some of the most prominent Fortune 500 companies, I did not experience any overt homophobia. I did not encounter any bias, prejudice, or discrimination, which empowered me to participate in the DE&I space.
In the early 1990s, I was a part of the group that created the first GL Employee Resource Group at my first job. It has evolved over the years to now serving the LGBTQ and Allies community. I was a part of the LGBTQ ERGs at several more companies well into the 2000s.
While working with my business coaches, I had the opportunity to travel to places like Russia and China in the early 2000s. What I learned about DE&I from those trips was trusting and relying on my own beliefs about other people to make first-hand decisions about people versus relying on stereotypes.
Growing up with the news about these two countries could have left me with a negative perspective on the people. Instead of experiencing people in Russia and China based on the stereotypes, I chose to get to know them with an open mind. As a result of my trips to both countries, I have some very close friends who are only video chat or email away.
When I started my business nearly four years ago, I knew that a part of my strategic plan would include serving and supporting in the DE&I space. With that in mind, I expanded how I serve and support the DE&I space while serving on several non-profit boards committed to advocating for other people.
I am passionate about being involved and included in DE&I work locally, nationally, and globally. I recently experienced what I consider a significant shift in how other people see me in the DE&I space.
Within the last month, three black women who own their businesses have contacted me to start a conversation about how we might pursue partnering on some DE&I initiatives. Each of these conversations is beginning with the unique way in which we met. In all three scenarios, they could see beyond my being a white male to find the ways we can model what is we are all working so hard to promote.
The DE&I space will benefit from more diversity in its leaders, coaches, and mentors. The next iteration in updating the roster might very well be modeling the kinds of collaborations that include women and men, white people and people of color, and LGBTQ people and allies. The courage required to take the steps toward integrated DE&I work is accessible to all of us.
One of the best ways I know of when it comes to addressing my own biases, stereotypes, and prejudices is to ask questions. The more questions that I ask other people, the more I learn.
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