|White Men as Full Diversity Partners|
Some organizations prioritize diversity
and inclusion as a vital business concern. While others consider it a
critical workplace equity issue, it is actually a mix of both.
|Submitted By: Nikki Nissen, RN, MSN|
Novant Health recognized that the bottom line is the
commitment must come from the top. And in more than 90 percent of Fortune 500
companies, the top spot is occupied by white men.
With that in mind, Tanya Blackmon, executive vice president
and chief diversity and inclusion officer, invited Carl Armato, CEO and
president of Novant Health, to attend the White Men’s Caucus. This caucus is
organized by White Men as Full Diversity Partners, an Oregon-based diversity
The company’s name is intended to spark conversation, and it
gets to the heart of the organization’s mission: to prompt business leaders to
make their workplaces more inclusive and diverse. The firm does this through
active workshops and other programs and has worked with more than 100 Fortune
500 companies worldwide.
Carl invited 16 Novant Health white male executives to
participate. One of those leaders, was John Phipps, MD, executive vice
president and president of the Novant Health Medical Group. Dr. Phipps was
excited to share his experience with us:
· At Novant Health, a demonstration of strong leadership is integral to
embedding diversity and inclusion across our organization. Is that why
you, the executive vice president and president of the Novant Health Medical
Group, agreed to participate in the white men caucus?
agreed to participate because I believe in the need for real change as it
relates to diversity and inclusion and I trust those leading the effort,
specifically Tanya Blackmon and Carl Armato. Put another way, I agreed to
participate because Carl and Tanya asked me to.
[Denise] I was asked to participate in the White Men and Allies Caucus in
October 2017. I heard about Carl’s White Men’s Caucus and was intrigued
and curious. I was kind of offended that I was not asked to participate in the
original caucus. I felt excluded and did not think that an all-white-men’s
caucus was very inclusive! What I later
learned was that there were two different types of labs – White Men’s Caucus
and the White Men and Allies Caucus. I was happy to learn there was a
lab that included women and people of color. I believe we all must be more
aware and more intentional when it comes to diversity and inclusion. It will
not happen on its own without the intervention and purposeful acts of competent
and sensitive leaders.
did you learn about white male privilege?
[John] White male privilege acknowledges the obvious truth that as a white man
I have experienced life differently and in many ways easier than women and
those of other races. There are favorable assumptions made about me based on my
status as a white male. I think this is true walking down the street, socially,
in the practice of medicine and in business.
[Denise] I learned a lot about white male privilege, something I had not given
much thought to before. I now understand the privilege is often invisible to
the white male and it is deeply rooted in our cultures. I learned there are
also white women privileges as well, for example, our access and ability to
influence white men. I believe it is a social phenomenon which keeps
perpetuating itself and requires me to raise my own consciousness and awareness
about how I think, my assumptions and biases, and how I respond and act.
was your biggest aha moment from this experience?
biggest aha moment was embracing the idea that I am not at fault but I am still
accountable. In other words, I did not create white male privilege but I am
accountable for how I engage with others and for promoting diversity and
inclusion in all areas of my life.
[Denise] My biggest aha moment was realizing I am privileged as a white woman,
purely by association. I recognized that in my career, I have had advantages
just because I am a white woman and was allowed to be “at the table.” My people-of-color counterparts were not even
invited to the room. I now feel it is my responsibility to increase awareness
and invite, make room for, open the door, or in some cases kick in the door so
all women and people of color have a seat at the table.
impact do you think that white male privilege has on the delivery of inclusive
and equitable healthcare?
is still true that most physicians are white males and likely feel somewhat
more comfortable with patients that look like them. In order to provide better
care for all patients, there is a need to learn, communicate, understand and
empathize with patients from diverse backgrounds so that the care can be most
[Denise] I think our society, our medical
education programs, and our healthcare facilities have been greatly influenced
by white male privilege. Our healthcare providers and leaders often do not
reflect the tapestry of the communities we serve. We have a large
white-employee pool even though our communities are rapidly shifting to
minorities becoming the majority. I am not saying that a white male doctor
cannot effectively care for a nonwhite patient. I am saying that we need to
work together to intentionally attract diverse team members, to broaden our
knowledge base, to help us learn new ways of understanding our patients and to teach each other how to
best heal our diverse populations (and each other). Building awareness within
our organization is part of the journey to deliver inclusive and equitable
healthcare. We do that through venues such as White Men’s Caucus and White Men
and Allies Caucus Labs, our diversity and inclusion classes, the 12-month
community program called Leadership Development Initiative.
It is human to have bias. But we must be more aware about biases
and how they impact our actions. What biases did you become more aware of?
[John] I am
increasingly aware that I bring bias everywhere, mostly unconscious. I make
assumptions that have nothing to do with being perceptive or picking up on
nonverbal clues, but instead reflect biases I have based on everything from
height to weight to clothes to gender to race and on and on.
[Denise] I never really thought about white male privilege. I did not know that I
was privileged as a white woman. Not knowing cannot be an excuse. My bias was
ignorance, not seeing or realizing the inequities and the pain my peers and
friends of color have experienced. To hear the words of my greatly respected
colleagues, explain the difficult conversations they have had with their
children, the fears they have for their children’s safety and most impactful,
their anger. I am no longer ignorant, nor silent.
do you think the Novant Health Medical Group will need to do to continue to
address systemic racism?
think the most important thing to do is acknowledge that it is real and to
communicate with one another.
[Denise] I think the most important thing for Novant Health to do to address
systemic racism, sexism, etc. is to continue to raise awareness, heighten our
sensitivity as leaders and strengthen our cultural competencies. And most
importantly, continue the efforts to intentionally diversify our workforce with
women, people of color and LGBTQ and people representing other dimensions of
To learn more about how Novant Health’s journey of embedding
diversity and inclusion, please contact Nikki Nissen at email@example.com. To learn more about how your organization could
participate in the White Men as Diversity Partners Labs, go to www.wmfdp.com