Paul Butler: Exclusive inclusion

Paul Butler
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I am rarely the smartest guy in the room, but I understand what the word “inclusive” means. I remember one school teacher who taught the way to understand some words is to recognize what they’re not.

Surely, “inclusive” means “exclusive of none.” In fact, the dictionary defines “inclusive” as being “not excluding any section of society.”

I am noticing there is an increasing exclusivity to the word “inclusion” within the workplace, and it deeply troubles me. Organizations seem to be trumpeting and applauding certain sections of their workforce: based on race, sexual orientation and gender at the exclusion of others.

How can that be inclusive?

We were having dinner with some friends this past weekend, and the wife of the couple works as a senior leader within a very large banking corporation. Recently, the bank was championing the LGBTQ community within their workforce.

For those unfamiliar with the term “LGBTQ,” this is the initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or those who are questioning their sexuality. My friend, as a happily married, heterosexual woman, said she felt very uncomfortable during all of the various corporate activities that celebrated a lifestyle she didn’t agree with.

She had to deal with it and be silent. It was exclusive inclusion.

In another instance, I was walking the campus of a large public educational institution recently. The president had recently left, and they have a new interim president who is a Caucasian male of about 50 years of age. I asked the human resources person if the staff and faculty were optimistic about the potential of the interim being confirmed as the new president.

I was aghast when she replied: “I am, but a lot of people rolled their eyes when they saw he was an old white male.” As an old-ish white male, I found that comment offensive, even though she had no hesitation in what she said. It was exclusive inclusion.

I also notice this dichotomy when we apply for some government contracts as a potential vendor. Did you know there are some contracting opportunities where, if you check the box to affirm you are of Hispanic, African-American, Pacific Islander origin, a member of the LGBTQ community or a women-owned business, you have an advantage within the vendor evaluation criteria?

Shouldn’t it just be a matter of the best vendor with the best price, best product and best service who wins the contract? What does my race, gender or sexual orientation have to do with handling a government contract? It is exclusive inclusion.

I am starting to see an increasing trend, which seems to suggest you’re at a working disadvantage if you’re a white, heterosexual male above the age of 40. This cohort of the population seems to have been demonized by the media and, hence, the working world.

It’s almost as if the system is trying to correct a wrong — the only problem is, I haven’t personally seen where a wrong has been committed that needs righting.

I can honestly say, as an employee for nearly 20 years and a business owner for the past 13 years, I have never participated in, overheard or had it reported to me, of a bunch of old, heterosexual, white males conniving on how to keep the best jobs for themselves or award contracts to people just like them. Like never.

It greatly troubles me to observe that a cohort of people seem to be gradually being silenced and marginalized in today’s workforce. To silence such people is not very inclusive — is it just me, or do you also see the lack of inclusivity?

See, if a person believes there are only two genders and that we were created male and female — such a worldview is not tolerated in today’s working world. See, if a person believes that regardless of how man-made laws have changed, that marriage is only between one man and one woman — such a worldview is considered intolerable. See, if a person believes the substance of one’s character and competence should be the singular factor in getting the promotion or winning the contract — that’s deemed to be inequitable.

So, what do we do? I encourage employees who don’t agree with the agenda of exclusive inclusion to politely but firmly speak up. Likewise, for business owners who also don’t agree with the agenda, and they apply for contracts in an inherently biased system, to also politely but firmly speak up.

I may not be the smartest guy in the room, but I am pretty sure the word “inclusive” means: “exclusive of none.”

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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