By Phil Yacuboski
Regardless of how we think we may have advanced as a nation, gender bias still exists in many workplaces. A recent study published in HR Dive, a human resources trade publication, found that when asked, 77 percent of men and 55 percent of women believe men would make better managers in high-stakes projects.
“If you think about gender as an issue and you think about gender as a topic, people almost always discuss women’s issues,” said Michael Welp, co-founder of ‘White Men as Full Diversity Partners,’ a diversity consulting firm for many Fortune 500 companies.
His clients include Lockheed Martin, Starbucks and Shell. He’s been working in the field for decades and has written several books on the topic. The training programs — where men learn how to push workplace diversity forward and learn about their own unconscious biases — have been used in boardrooms and offices around the country.
“There’s a mindset in the workforce that says this is a women’s issue and we need to focus on women. But then there’s the whole issue of what men need to do and how men need to respond to this,” he said.
Welp said he often works with white men for a four-day period and let them reflect on issues such as what it means to be white, what it means it means to be male, and for many, what it means to be heterosexual.
“The focus is to talk with them about what they don’t know (and in the case of women) how they are navigating issues that we don’t know they are navigating,” he said.
Welp said many men simply don’t understand women on many levels and often come into a situation with an inherent bias or preconceived notion. He said many male managers don’t understand how women often times don’t like to arrive at events late or after dark for fear of their safety. In addition, some women don’t like to stay on the first floor of a hotel for the same reasons.
“Those are some examples of what some women might experience that men may not understand or realize,” he said. “And we don’t realize, as men, that we are swimming in different waters than they are.”
He said in many cases, men want to make workplace diversity better, but are often puzzled as to how to proceed and in some cases can almost feel strange trying to get ahead.
Welp said even though women account for a little more than half the population, a small percentage are executives in Fortune 500 companies. Also in many cases, training — on women’s issues —must be done by men. However, he said working with the structure already in place is helpful and necessary.
A 2014 study by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that in the tech sector alone, men (white men more specifically) outnumber women almost 2-to-1 in the industry.
“It’s not like you can check the box on this issue and be done with it,” said Welp. “This is an ongoing journey and training must be long-term.”