After having interviewed about 20 or 25 amazing people on my podcast, I realized that for a show about diversity and inclusion, I had only had a couple male guests. No sooner had that thought entered my head when someone reached out and made me aware of Bill Proudman, co-founder of White Men as Full Diversity Partners.
I was really interested to learn about the work that Bill is doing with his organization, particularly his belief that the responsibility of engaging diversity discussions in the workplace falls upon those in leadership roles – and not just those who are directly affected by this lack of diversity, such as women and minorities.
I’m really excited to share this conversation we had around diversity that focuses on a different POV – that of a white man. That’s not to take away any importance or attention from the wide variety of truly inspiring women on this show, but I do think it’s crucial to A) hear as many points of views, experiences and opinions as possible, and B) not get lured into an “us versus them” trap. The issue of diversity, not just in the workplace, but everywhere, affects us ALL, whether we’re aware of it or not.
In this conversation, Bill talks about white and male privilege – which is not necessarily the idea that this demographic was handed everything (which is why defensiveness comes up); it means that they haven’t had to navigate and negotiate and speak for their entire gender.
For example, when something like the Las Vegas tragedy happens, white men never worry that if the suspect turns out to be white, that crime will be projected onto him as an individual (from store security following him around to police officers pulling him over for no reason, and worse). After Tim McVeigh, a white American man, blew up the federal building with a bomb hidden in a rental truck, when Bill went to rent a truck the next day, not one single person saw him as a potential terrorist. That's white privilege.
As you’ll discover yourself, Bill is a friendly, intelligent, thoughtful man who has the rare capacity to discuss serious issues in an open, optimistic way in which he neither blames nor deflects blame.
He shares about how reconnecting with a black, female high school classmate made him understand that they had been walking in two distinctly different worlds within the same school, his realization that he learns the most about himself when he is out of his comfort zone, why white, male leaders almost always turn over the issue of equality and diversity to anyone on the team who don't look like them (women, people of color, gay people), and he gives an example of how bringing up the name White Men as Full Diversity Partners ends the conversation 80% of the time.
As Bill says, the conversation about how you create inclusive culture is not simply a laundry list of items you gotta do to fix the problem. It’s about being able to stand in the fire without shrinking back and ask questions and be curious and notice things with grace and dignity.
I hope you enjoy this Diverse IT episode!
Want to read what we talked about? Download the PDF transcript of this podcast here.
About Our Guest
Starting in the 1990s, Bill Proudman began pioneering white-men-only diversity learning labs after noticing white male executives were not actively engaged in their organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
Bill’s innovative work led to co-founding White Men As Full Diversity Partners, and the development of WMFDP’s provocative approach to engaging white male business leaders in inclusion efforts. For over 35 years, he has served as a leadership development consultant, coach and facilitator to countless organizations and executives around the globe on issues of team effectiveness, cultural competency, and inclusion. He is a sought-after speaker, writer, and thought leader at the intersection of diversity & inclusion and leadership. In 2015, Bill presented The Kurt Hahn Address, an honor awarded by Association for Experiential Education, to the person who has contributed to the development and advancement of experiential education with tenacity and conviction.
Bill is the founder and first board chair of the Experiential Training and Development Alliance and was twice president of the Association for Experiential Education. He is co-author of a three-volume field guide on white men leadership and diversity partnerships.
Bill’s roots started in outdoor adventure working for Outward Bound. He remains an avid off road adventure traveler preferring the path less traveled in the remote corners of the developing world as a way to find deepened personal meaning and heartfelt human connection. He believes in the power of infinite possibility.