‘Discentrating’ remains a challenge for white male leaders
As a child, I remember shouting to my siblings, cousins, and myself “Look at me! Look at me!” When we tried to do whatever recreational activity, it sought eye and attention. The stakes, and the screams, each time someone else got the praise and confirmation we wanted for ourselves as well.
Now as an adult, “Look at me!” Chant the mantra. There seems to be a lot of emphasis in wealth management, with white men to remain the center of attention and opportunity – while underrepresented leaders and talent respond with “Enough is enough!”
Having all eyes and energy directed towards you can be a very tempting thing. You often get more credit with higher expectations for success and effective leadership. High visibility and majority position come with privileges and pressures.
Yet the fascinating aspect of this human tendency to seek attention is wreaking havoc in money management. White men, who represent the majority in the C-suite and middle management, enjoy yet fail to realize their perceived “preferred position”, while quickly denouncing any claim that privilege is theirs. stems from gender and caste.
It is easy for a money management leader to overestimate the damage caused by unreasonable and unjust actions. After all we are human.
Yet, things go awry when leaders display limited awareness of their privilege and interact with others based on their personal experiences alone.
In a recent Twitter feed, a well-known, white female entrepreneur in financial services shared her experience and challenges of launching and funding startups.
A well-known, white male serial entrepreneur in financial services responded in a tone-deaf way, saying that he too experienced the same pushback and scrutiny when he launched each of his ventures.
She focused her response on her journey, with no critical acknowledgment of her lived experience and poignant comments as a woman entrepreneur who was being scrutinized by for-profit male investors. To make up for his loss, he severely discounted the uneven playing field and sparked fury among many fintwit followers.
I immediately said “Look at me!” When I read the long thread of his tweets; So did other female financial advisors who shared their distance to the largely white male centralization. Focusing on relating your experience can be a difficult habit, especially when you label the majority.
The decentralization process requires an openness to other perspectives for effective communication and engagement. The best way to speed up the process is to engage in conversations outside your comfort zone with the intention of listening and learning. Dive yourself into research, books, and other relevant material to learn about the history, cultural nuances, opportunities, and challenges faced by coworkers with materially different experiences. Start with colleagues in your immediate circle who understand your intent and who can join you on your journey to deepen diversity, inclusion, equality, and belonging. And, as often as you can, admit that you don’t know what you don’t know and be open to discovery and improvement.
Another important step is to acknowledge the potential destruction caused by FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to seeking attention, status, and relevance in an increasingly diverse environment. A Finserve colleague recognized the damage that can happen if the focus of the conversation is on a specific affected group, but the majority demands attention; She wrote in a Twitter thread that it was as if “Black Lives Matter was co-opted as the opposition to All Lives Matter.”
Non-majority wealth management leaders make a perfect plea for white men in wealth management to share the spotlight, listen with intent, and respond in a space-sharing spirit. apologies, such as “I didn’t know” and “I didn’t mean to [fill-in-the-blank]”Given the multitude of data and conversations about inclusive leadership, there is no longer the same grace. We are committed to #DoingTheWork for the profession we love and the customers we serve so that talent and customers alike Say politely, “Look at us!”
Lazetta Rainey Braxton is the co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners, the founder of Lazetta & Associates.