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Are you a white, middle aged, heterosexual, middle-class man?

If so – how are you feeling about the way the society and businesses are changing with respect to inclusion of underrepresented groups? (Apologies in advance for generalizations I use and if I offend anyone in this blog – that is not my intent!) Not a simple/easy topic but I’ve done my best to simplify…

When I was 12, Daley Thompson was my hero – he was a superb athlete winning Olympic gold and was a showman, with his cheeky sense of fun/humour, not appearing to take himself too seriously. I don’t know of course, but I don’t believe I noticed/paid attention to the colour of his skin. Similarly, my wife’s sporting hero was Tessa Sanderson, the first black British woman to have won an Olympic gold medal.

Fast forward almost 40 years and most of my close friends are white, middle aged, heterosexual middle-class men. My work contacts/colleagues are significantly more diverse – often female and with more diverse backgrounds generally. My executive coaching clients are often, but not always, senior men in positions of formal power in organisations. Often they’re white, middle aged, heterosexual, middle-class, able bodied men.

People often like (& hire!) people like themselves….

This blog will explore the 3 mindsets of men, as I’ve experienced them, in my work/conversations, over the last 6 months: With respect to inclusion and promotion of underrepresented groups in organisations and society……white, middle aged, heterosexual middle-class, able bodied men are feeling one of three ways currently…

Group 1 Mindset:

“Bring it on, I’m also an ally and support this change in work/society”

How far has the pendulum swung?

How far has the pendulum swung?

In this group we generally believe that the progressive, inclusion (woke) agenda is starting to rebalance the 000s of years of disproportionate power of white, straight, middle class, able bodied, maleness. We believe that in order for a fair equilibrium to be reached positive discrimination might well be needed and useful to ensure that board rooms, organisations generally and teams reflect the society within which we exist. After all, we believe that the pendulum has been so far skewed to white, straight, able bodied, middle class men in order to get equilibrium it may need to swing back past the mid point! We may believe all this and have a positive, proactive mindset, seeing the potential gains for individuals, teams and society. Are this group supporting/challenging our peers in other groups 2 and 3 introduced below? One of the FIRST times I’ve noticed this was when lots of white men (and women for that matter) posted support and openly spoke out as anti-racists when three of our talented black/mixed race footballers missed crucial penalties in the Euros fooball.

Group 2 Mindset:

“I’m not sure”

In this group white straight, middle class, able bodied men may have a “not sure” mindset:
  1. I’m “not sure” what to think/what I think – as clearly there are strong opinions on this which are widely being debated in every sphere of the media, workplaces and sport. An example of this was Gareth Southgate’s recent letter to the nation.
  2. I’m “not sure” what I can say at the moment for fear of getting things “wrong”. A white male GB News presenter and white male teacher discuss this in GB news’s “Wokewatch”.
  3. I’m “not sure” I’m happy with what the people who look, sound and feel like me have said or done in the past. However, at the same time, I don’t like the idea that I be looked over for promotion as senior teams look to proactively hire people with more diverse backgrounds. (Many people I coach want the word “chief” in their job title and our identities seem intertwined with our job title and career progress – is this feeling threatened currently?)
  4. Is the UK Government “not sure” or in denial on racism in the UK?

I’m “not sure” I agree with or fully understand the lived experience of all marginalized group.

A question for you: Which of these marginalized groups are you not sure you know enough about yet? Which have you never walked in the shoes of/heard the lived experience of?

Are you uncertain as to how/why schools could consider removing the term headgirl?

Are you uncertain (as I am, if I’m 100% honest) as to why allies of the LGBT+ community are putting (he/his) next to their names on social media/in email signatures?….We don’t put white, middle aged, heterosexual, middle class, christian in brackets next to our names as labels/identifiers. Does (he/his) next to my name help the broader topic of a fair and inclusive society, does it help people be accepting and curious with empathy? This is an area I’d like understand more about… about you?

Group 3 Mindset:

“I’m ignoring or fighting the change”

This group are the most interesting in my view. I’m noting emotions of anger, frustration and a feeling of marginalization (ironic hey!)

With my coach hat on I’m curious – Where are these strong feelings coming from? How do those in group 3 see the past and future of society?

The anti-woke movement may be an example of another polarizing debate the media is feeling and fueling, following Brexit, Covid, The Climate Crisis etc. Of course, group 3’s mindset may be also reflecting a wider societal frustration with 18 months of the unhappiness “spillover” of covid restrictions, health and economic pain. I’m vice-chair of an Outstanding secondary Academy/State school in Maidenhead and I can tell you there have been more (often pointless) parent complaints in the last 9 months than there were in the first 3 years of me being a Governor.

I wonder if many in Group 3 are simply silent currently. Or perhaps quietly thinking that Darwinism has led to white, straight, able bodied, middle class supremacy. There are 3 women in Forbes list of the top 30 richest billionaires on the planet. The top 10 are all white, 9 of which are white men.

I also wonder whether if there were high profile people who changed their view from group 3 to group 1 – who speak out how many of their followers could follow. (For a comparable example think Jeremy Clarkson being a car fan & anti environmentalist who then became a farmer and is now speaking out for farmers and the farming community)

How can we create and sell a vision of the future of organisations and society which all 3 groups feel part of + proud of?

An inclusive vision of the future of organisations and society

An inclusive vision of the future of organisations and society

It is my belief that:

  • Another way to look at the 3 groups: I notice amongst my white, male peers is those who are early adopters, mass market and late adopters of general change in other contexts eg the move to electric/hybrid vehicles, the adaptation/adoption to covid rules, technology adoption etc. However, I’m usually a late adopter (just bought first Alexa for example) and I’d like to see myself in group 1 so I’m not sure this theory holds for me.
  • There are other categories of the intersectionality model above including mental health, armed services/profession, thinking type/style, body shape/size and more…..
  • A proportion of society have benefited (not necessarily individually but collectively we have) from having these male, white, able bodied characteristics, most of which are characteristics we have limited choice over.
  • Empathy is part of the answer to this clash of mindsets (+ many other issues the human race faces eg religious wars/climate agenda)
  • Energy is part of the answer – I know that I am a champion for equality Male=Female – I know that I have limited energy though. I can be an ally for LGBT+ colleagues, BLM and other minority groups. In some situations, I will, and can, carry my share of the load/responsibility, and in some I can’t wave that flag. It’s about us all carrying some of the responsibility and challenging the norms of society to make the world a better place.
  • Listening is more important than ever. I’ve been moved hearing colleagues lived experience stories. Some of the data is shocking. I feel horror, guilt and embarrassment to be part of the “in power” group. I believe in having a growth mindset, that we can all improve, learn and get better through effort and curiosity.

To be curious, what 3 questions can we ask ourselves as white, straight, middle aged, able bodied men from a middle class background?

  1. Which of the three groups mindsets do I mostly have? 1. “Bring it on, I’m an ally and support this change in work/society” OR 2. “I’m not sure” OR 3. “I’m ignoring or fighting the change” (Are you across multiple groups or in another group entirely?!)
  2. Which marginalized groups do you have energy to be an ally for?
  3. What can you do in the next 6 months with respect to your thinking on this topic that your mum, children, or loved ones would also be proud of?
If you’d like to DM me or comment below – either is great – I’d love to hear your thoughts – especially if you’re a bit like me – white, straight, able bodied, middle aged and middle class. Anyone up for a beer/curry and discussion about the type of world we want our grandkids to grow up in?

I blog for 2 reasons:

  1. To share my perspective and ask questions, contributing to our world
  2. As an extrovert, writing down/speaking helps me make sense of topics

+ it helps keep me connected to my network.