ASK THE WHITE GUY BY LUKE VISCONTI
Oprah By Any
Other Name ...
Q: What impact does an “ethnically inspired” name have
on someone’s chances for employment (i.e.
Condoleezza, Oprah [obviously bad examples])?
A: There are surveys on this question and they have
somewhat contradictory results. In my opinion, that’s
because employers aren’t equal.
Progressive companies, such as those in The
DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity®, are
seeking people of diverse backgrounds because they
have found that a diverse market requires diverse people
to serve it—and since the talent pool has also become
very diverse, you need to manage diversity in order to
gain the maximum benefit from it.
An “ethnically inspired” name may actually be a plus
at those companies because it would indicate the potential of the applicant coming from a group that is less
common in the marketplace. Unfortunately, I estimate
80 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies have no meaningful diversity management. At those companies, an
“ethnically inspired” name could very well be a negative.
So the answer to your question is dependent on what
company you’re looking at.
Even white men with non-ethnically inspired names
are better off employed with progressive companies.
These are the companies positioned for growth.
Q: Have you found it difficult to communicate the business case for diversity in non-traditional industries like
healthcare where the customer’s choice is directed by
an insurance agency versus his/her preference? And,
does it make sense to look at the business case from a
cost-savings perspective versus profit?
In what has become the most popular area of DiversityInc.com,
Luke Visconti offers readers the opportunity to confidentially ask
questions regarding diversity. You can find all questions and
answers at www.DiversityInc.com/ATWG. Luke is one of two
business partners who own and run DiversityInc. He directs all
editorial and circulation functions.
A: Healthcare is “traditional” for people who are sick.
What differs is our perception of healthcare by race and
gender. We have vastly different trust levels, which greatly contribute to the multi-billion-dollar gap between
healthcare white people and people of color receive.
I recently had a meeting with a hospital association
CFO. He dressed me down (yelled, actually) about
diversity being irrelevant to his industry. I asserted that
trust levels were very different, and the lack of trust that
some groups have leads to things like a person not
going to a doctor until the cancer metastasizes or their
vascular system is damaged by hypertension. This
increases costs, making diversity a direct business case
for his industry. He (screamed) that he didn’t think that
there was a trust gap. I challenged him to a bet: We
would survey 1,000 of his association’s latest patients
and tabulate the results by race and gender. If there was
no gap, I would pay his favorite charity $5,000. If there
was a gap, he would pay the DiversityInc Foundation
$5,000. I never heard from him again.
Q: Please elaborate on how slavery DIRECTLY benefits
me today. This line of reasoning does not appear to be
logically sound without further explanation.
A: The legacy of slavery has benefited every white person in this country—directly and personally. In a very
gross analogy, if you run a series of foot races over 300
years but prevent 13 percent of the participants from
learning how to run for 180 years and then give them
concrete sneakers for another 80 years—but allow them
full access for 40 years—it will take the 13 percent quite
a few races to be competitive because the other 87 percent advanced their skills by practice and repetition.
Life is not a foot race. It is a fact that the average white
person would not economically benefit from switching
places with an average black person (black households
average one-tenth the household wealth of white households). If you believe all people are created equal, there
has to be a reason for this—and there is: racism.
The good news is that many white people remembered and unremembered have done their duty and
fought for freedom. Our country may be imperfect, but
our human rights are still the guiding beacon of opportunity for most of the rest of the planet. DI