Diversity policies “Make White Men Feel Threatened” according to Harvard Business Review study and I’m okay with that.
Today in “you’ve got to be freak’n kidding me” news, the folks at one of America’s greatest learning institutions put their white privilege front in center in a new story and study.
The story isn’t all bad – in fact it points out some glaring faults often associated, but not mentioned, with diversity policies:
- a 2011 Supreme Court class action case, Walmart successfully used the mere presence of its anti-discrimination policy to defend itself against allegations of gender discrimination. And Walmart isn’t alone: the “diversity defense” often succeeds, making organizations less accountable for discriminatory practices.
- The most commonly used diversity programs do little to increase representation of minorities and women.
We put young white men through a hiring simulation for an entry-level job at a fictional technology firm. For half of the “applicants,” the firm’s recruitment materials briefly mentioned its pro-diversity values. For the other half, the materials did not mention diversity. In all other ways, the firm was described identically. All of the applicants then underwent a standardized job interview while we videotaped their performance and measured their cardiovascular stress responses.
Compared to white men interviewing at the company that did not mention diversity, white men interviewing for the pro-diversity company expected more unfair treatment and discrimination against whites. They also performed more poorly in the job interview, as judged by independent raters. And their cardiovascular responses during the interview revealed that they were more stressed.
I’m still stuck on the scientific accuracy of a fake job interview with a heart monitor strapped to your body, but the study’s name itself – ”Members of high-status groups are threatened by pro-diversity organizational messages” – is scary because it puts the burden of success ON minority groups against their white-male peers.
In all fairness, the study did run similar tests on minority applicants, giving them fake interviews with and without diversity messages, and the study found mentioning a diversity policy didn’t necessarily make the applicant feel any better about a company’s level of inclusion.
But going back to the tested, well-off white men who found pro-diversity messages left them “undervalued and discriminated against:” Get the hell over it.
I’m not sure if it’s scarier to imagine a world where we compare the needs of white men to the… rest of the world, but I’ll give HBR the benefit of the doubt here.
They do go on to suggest the flaws in diversity policies come from the messaging and how they are actually handled, but if the mere mention of a policy makes someone scared and more vulnerable, especially from a population who has been historically coddled, we need to take a look at how we’re raising our white male youth.
Tim is a writer, video game nerd, and music fan. You'll see him at shows, or you wont really see him at all.
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