A new survey from Ernst and Young and ORC International confirms and quantifies what many corporate diversity professionals already know or have always suspected: White men feel left out of workplace inclusion efforts and it has slowed down progress.
More than one-third of survey participants felt that the increased focused on diversity in the workforce overlooks white men. Of those respondents, more than half believe white men are being overlooked for promotion and advancement, though the demographics of managers and higher level positions at Fortune 500 companies don’t support this at all.
“The reality is that men may perceive — either rightly or wrongly — some D/I backlash,” EY’s global diversity and inclusiveness officer Karyn Twaronite said.
More broadly, one third of men and more than 40% of women who took the survey said they have felt personally excluded in the workplace.
The survey responses, collected from more than 1,000 Americans workers, ages 18 and up, show that 36% of participants still feel personally excluded at work. Women were more likely to report exclusion based on gender, while men more often reported feeling excluded based on ethnicity.
There’s an interesting corresponding statistic in a 2015 report by Mercer: Only 38% of companies say their male employees are engaged in diversity and inclusion initiatives.
“[Companies] have created great programs, but have excluded majority groups from the conversation,” said Jorg Schmitz, a business anthropologist and diversity and inclusiveness consultant at ThomasLeland.
He told Fortune that in his work he often encounters white men who back away from discussing gender and race in the workplace.
“That’s for me a real dilemma,” he said, noting that the shame for majority groups in these conversations has to be normalized in order to improve the diversity of corporate America.
The good news: Even if a large portion of them feel excluded, three-quarters of all respondents support an increased focus on diversity and inclusion in today’s workplaces.
Schmitz emphasized honesty and transparency within organization as key to starting genuine conversations about diversity that help people from majority groups feel comfortable taking on roles as allies.
Twaronite pointed to sponsorship as a way to build authentic and mutually beneficial relationships that further the success and understanding of employees from different levels and backgrounds.
This is not a zero sum game, she said. “For companies that want to grow this is about expanding the pie.”