- Burnett School College of Medicine
Chuck Shelton found his motivation to get white men engaged in diversity and inclusion at a young age. At age 13, days after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Shelton heard the message of an African-American pastor at a town hall meeting in his native Seattle. “He told me: You need to take responsibility for being white, so you become part of the solution, and not part of my problem” Shelton recalled. “It really was a vocational moment for me, and a calling on my life.”
Today, as founder and CEO of Greatheart Consulting, Shelton travels the country speaking about how white men must be involved in diversity and inclusion efforts. He also works with Fortune 500 companies to make inspire efforts from the top down. During a September 22 College of Medicine Council for Diversity and Inclusion Lunch & Learn, Shelton encouraged white males to take an interest in diversity efforts. “Some of us may feel like diversity is about other people, not about me,” he said. “But when we start getting invited into conversations that are truly inclusive, all that starts to change.”
Shelton detailed some of his research into companies across the United States, and the staggering disparity between how leaders perceive diversity of their workplaces and the actual inclusion at their companies. In one study, 69 percent of supervisors polled said that they include diverse voices in their company’s decision making. But only 29% of employees agreed that was actually the case.
“The invitation that I’ve come to see is to take responsibility for who I am,” Shelton said, noting that being part of the so-called “dominant” group can cause white males to be oblivious to the advantages they hold and the responsibility they must take to make corporations more diverse and inclusive. “It’s about not expecting women to bear the burden of gender, not expecting people of color to bear the burden of race, not expecting people who are gay to bear the burden of sexual orientation,” He said
Shelton also encouraged women and minorities in the audience to engage white males in the diversity discussion. “To use the word inclusion with integrity means that we actually building relationships that invite everyone into the conversation,” he said.
The College of Medicine has held nearly a dozen Diversity Lunch & Learn sessions over the past two years on topics ranging from intergenerational communication to gender identity. The goal of the seminars is to help colleagues at the medical school engage and communicate in an ever-changing, diverse world, says Dr. Lisa Barkley, the UCF College of Medicine’s assistant dean of diversity and inclusion, assistant professor of medicine and UCF Health physician specializing in family, sports and adolescent medicine.
Shelton said including white males in diversity efforts is the true spirit of inclusion. “My experience is that there is a widely unexpected number of white men out there who want to be a part of the conversation,” he said. “It’s about finding them, equipping them to have conversations and holding them accountable to earn your trust. That’s inclusion.”