A recent study says some white men feel excluded at work

Why some white men feel excluded in the workplace, according to an EY study
Why some white men feel excluded in the workplace, according to an EY study

When companies discuss diversity and inclusion, the focus is generally on underrepresented racial groups, women and LGBTQ employees. With today's political and economic environment as the backdrop, professional services firm Ernst & Young set out to see how majority groups, particularly men, feel at work.

"Men have been somewhat left out of the conversation," Ernst & Young's global diversity and inclusiveness officer Karyn Twaronite tells CNBC Make It. "When you feel excluded, you feel unheard."

The study, which included a sample size of more than 1,000 Americans who are employed full-time, found that nearly one-third of all men have felt personally excluded at work. Additionally, over one-third of those surveyed believe the increased focus on diversity in the workplace has overlooked white men.

Out of the respondents who think the focus on diversity in the workplace has overlooked white men, 43 percent are men compared to 26 percent women.

The top five reasons cited for white men being overlooked, according to the study, include:

  1. The majority (62 percent) feel they are being overlooked for promotion and advancement opportunities
  2. Almost half (49 percent) believe they are being excluded from diversity programs and initiatives
  3. Over one-quarter (26 percent) say white men are not included in mentorship or training programs
  4. Another 26 percent say they do not feel comfortable using benefits, i.e. paternity leave
  5. And 20 percent say they do not trust management

The first reason cited may come as a surprise for many, considering that white men have long held most senior positions at companies. Twaronite says that it may be that these men feel some animosity toward diversity and inclusion efforts at the office.

"Work isn't always a walk in the park for men," she says. The diversity and inclusion officer explains that when a population is accustomed to getting 80 percent of promotions and is now getting about 70 percent, they may feel that they're at a disadvantage or being pushed aside.

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The study also found that more than half of women (55 percent) don't feel personally excluded in the workplace. Yet over one-third of all respondents, both men and women, continue to feel personally excluded at work, with women feeling more excluded than men.

Broken down by gender, 41 percent of women have felt personally excluded at work compared to 32 percent of men.

Out of all respondents who said they have felt personally excluded at the office, the majority cited gender and ethnicity as the main reason. In fact, 38 percent say gender and another 38 percent say ethnicity, followed by education (17 percent), religion (11 percent), marital status (10 percent), sexual orientation (9 percent) and other factors (19 percent).

The research notes that men are more likely to feel excluded because of their ethnicity (48 percent of men compared to 29 percent of women) and women are more likely to feel excluded because of their gender (45 percent of women compared to 31 percent of men).

The study also found that nearly three-quarters of all respondents support an increased focus on diversity and inclusion in today's workplaces, and 72 percent think that society's focus on diversity and inclusion can help companies build a better working world.

A little over one-third of respondents (39 percent) think that the relationship between their job satisfaction and their company's focus on diversity and inclusion is significant.

Twaronite suggests that companies seat men at the table when discussing diversity and inclusion initiatives in order to create an open dialogue. "Only 38 percent of males are engaged in company diversity," she says. But Twaronite adds that many initiatives that fall under diversity and inclusion affect men.

She points to issues like work-life flexibility and paid parental leave, which are generally perceived as benefits exclusively for working women, but which also affect men.

"[Paid parental leave] is critically important for men as well," says Twaronite. "The ability to work and have a full personal life affects both."

She adds that bringing men into the ongoing dialogue doesn't push women or ethnic groups out of the picture. "It's not mutually exclusive," says Twaronite.

She notes that, especially in the last two years, men are more frequently becoming advocates for diversity and inclusion. Twaronite says men increasingly view these efforts as valuable to the company and an "asset to their portfolio."

"[Diversity and inclusion] is not just a social justice issue," says Twaronite. "This is linked to business performance."

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